There is never an end to change in a dynamic sector like ours, but it is important to take stock and hit deliverables.
In 2016, the Chartered Insurance Institute’s strategic manifesto saw us commit to making ourselves more relevant, modern and diverse and to deliver relevant learning, engaged membership and insightful leadership to our united profession. This is all to empower “more member professionals to serve the public” and through this build public trust. In this update, I will reflect on our journey as an organisation during the last four years and outline the progress we have made in 2019.
In 2016, our primary focus was to increase our relevance by convincing our stakeholders that we had an important role to play in the future direction of the profession, not simply in providing qualifications. By placing our Royal Charter of “securing and justifying the confidence of the public in insurance and related financial services” at the core of all our activity, in the face of some testing times for the profession, I believe we have focussed on the right elements to drive meaningful outputs.
Relevance, by its nature, is a moving target driven by events. This has been particularly the case in the last four years, with major political, social, environmental and cultural shifts during the period. We are in the midst of a major example of this currently, with the coronavirus pandemic resulting in widespread socio-economic disruption. Part of our challenge as the professional body, is to have a clear role at the core of the debate, not pontificating from the side lines. To be “in the room” you have to be an influential voice with a real constituency. This is you, our members. We are the professional body for a diverse sector, crucial for consumers and society through all areas of insurance and personal finance. This is a challenge to relevance, which can only be tackled through your knowledge, professionalism and engagement with us.
Therefore, in 2019 we launched two new Societies – the Society of Claims Professionals and the Society of Underwriting Professionals – taking the total number of our Societies to five. The launch of our Societies is an acknowledgement that individual segments within our membership have specific needs and interests. The Personal Finance Society has proved very effective for both relevance and influence and we want to build on this across insurance.
This is in addition to the vital local, social and continuing learning role played by our wonderful volunteer local institutes and regions. We are incredibly grateful to the support from our Institutes all over the UK in achieving our new National Forum and their positive approach to the other governance changes passed at the AGM in 2019. Relevance is just as much locality- specific as function-specific, so the combination of our Local Institutes and our Societies brings together two crucial components.
We have a third group of vital stakeholders for membership and influence and we must be relevant for them too – our corporates and employers – especially those holding our Corporate Chartered designation. Our Charter marks are our most prized award as they allow firms and individuals to make a public declaration of commitment to technical competence and professional standards. During 2019 we have implemented the results of our Corporate Chartered consultation, including the refresh of the “Chartered Ethos.” This work has been very well received. We will be running a similar review of individual member Chartered status in the coming year.
Professional bodies are coming back into their own amid a sea change in the culture of the profession to a more ethical, customer-centric approach to business.. The Financial Conduct Authority in particular is talking more than ever about culture purpose and the need for “professionals” and “professionalism”.
We have also clearly seen this shift in the diversity arena, with movements such as #MeToo exposing cultures driven by bad behaviour and arrogance. In my experience, the vast majority of people were already behaving ethically, it was just that their voices had been pushed to the background. However, if we are going to lead the debate we also have to get our own house in order from a diversity viewpoint, and I was very fortunate to inherit an organisation with a proactive attitude to improving internal culture.
Our work in promoting diversity internally has continued. We are signatories of the Women in Finance charter, we are assessed by the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, and we are Investors in People. We improved the gender pay gap across the organisation, with a 1.9 percentage point reduction in the mean pay gap in the year, and an over 13 percentage point reduction in the last two years. We will maintain this focus going forward as well as looking at our black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and international representation. This is visibly absent from our Board, Committees and senior management level, albeit, good at the heart of the organisation.
So, circling back to public trust, we recognised from the beginning that you will not improve trust by talking about it, you have to make change. This is the purpose of our Insuring Futures programme, focussed on building access and relevance for underserved sections of society. Through our Insuring Women’s Futures taskforce, we identified the perils, pitfalls and moments that matter in the life journey of women. The output from this work in the year are two pledges, that look at promoting financial resilience and inclusion for employees and externally for customers. To date, we have 20 of the top names in our profession committed to these pledges.
We have a significant opportunity to build public trust internationally, particularly given the interconnected nature of the world we live in. Outlined in this report are examples of the excellent work that is already taking place with regulators and affiliated institutes overseas.
We believed we had the right internal ingredients to capture the prevailing zeitgeist and so we launched the Consumer Insurance Public Trust Index in 2018, which we have refreshed this year with far more granular detail for our members to understand and to help them interpret their customers’ views.
We feel we have achieved improved relevance and engagement since 2016, but there is still much to do. However, with a culturally and operationally sound internal infrastructure and a supportive profession we have the right building blocks in place to continue our work through our members to drive change and improve public trust.