I was hugely honoured to be elected as the 109th president of the CII in June 2019, after having also served as Personal Finance Society (PFS) president between 2016 and 2017. The list of CII past presidents is long and distinguished and, as I received the President’s Jewel during the ceremonial transfer of office, it was a chance to reflect on the accomplishments of the Institute.
I am not typical, however, of previous Presidents, as my early career, from 1985 to 2009, was in financial services and only since then have I worked in general insurance, initially with AXA, and latterly, with NFU Mutual, at a composite insurer across financial services and general insurance. This background, I believe, gives me a unique perspective on the needs and aspirations of the whole spectrum of members. For my presidential theme I therefore sought to find something that would unite both sections of the membership and it was in the strapline of the CII that I found the answer. It reads to me as an equation “Standards + Professionalism = Trust” and is a reminder that it is not just the actions of insurance and personal finance companies that influence consumer trust, but also those of individuals.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, we have seen a number of moves by the regulator to build consumer trust in the financial services profession. The Financial Conduct Authority’s business plan includes some excellent examples of how focus has been applied to building consumer trust, whether that is the Insurance Distribution Directive, fair treatment of customers or the review of fair general insurance pricing. While the regulator will continue to progress its business plan, my view and my focus for the year has been on what we can do on an individual level.
Insurance only worked because people honoured their commitments in a way that people who paid the premiums understood and expected
If you go back to founding times in Lloyd’s Coffee House and the way insurance paid out, it only worked because people honoured their commitments in a way that people who paid the premiums understood and expected. I believe that there are four constituent parts to trust: benevolence, competence, integrity and predictability, and if all those four elements are present then consumers can trust. How often do we challenge ourselves after an interaction with a customer on whether we met the pillars of trust test? Many in our profession fully recognise that our key ‘product’ is often not a tangible item, it is a promise we make. Therefore, the importance of being trusted and trustworthy plays a huge part in whether consumers engage in products and services in the right way and to their maximum advantage. Many of the consumer challenges we face, where we as a profession have tripped up, are usually down to a breach of one or more of the four pillars of trust.
There is so much we do brilliantly across our profession and I am immensely proud of the positive difference we make to people’s lives and businesses, however, there is still work to be done. During my presidential year, I have sought to increase understanding and awareness of how individual actions build or destroy trust and impact the perception consumers have of insurance. If everyone, every day, consciously prioritised building trust in every interaction with consumers then just imagine the difference we could make.
I have enjoyed learning from our members and working with CEO, Sian Fisher and the team. We are making real progress in developing the CII and leading the profession into the future.