In 1977, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) was created to represent registered insurance brokers. Eleven years later, with the introduction of the Financial Services Act, it extended its remit to include IFAs, calling itself the British Insurance and Investment Brokers’ Association (BIIBA). Another 11 years, and it is returning to its original name, although membership is no longer restricted to registered insurance brokers.
BIBA’s new identity is largely a result of changes to the regulation in insurance. The General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) is poised to introduce a new system of self-regulation in January 2000. This will replace the current system that is split between intermediaries who follow the ABI’s code of practice; Lloyd’s regulation of its brokers; and brokers registered under the Insurance Brokers Registration Council (IBRC) code.
With this wider system in place, BIBA has recognised that it must also represent a wider spread of insurance broker. Paul Garland, membership manager at BIBA, is keen to extend membership beyond the registered brokers, and become “as broad a church as possible”. With this in mind, he has already approached intermediaries which fall outside of BIBA’s old remit, including the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII).
Despite this change in its focus, BIBA members can still benefit from the wide range of services and products it offers. One of the chief advantages is having the higher level representation that BIBA can offer. With more than 2000 members, which makes it the largest trade organisation within the insurance market, it guarantees that broker views are represented. For example, when the government was planning to introduce insurance premium tax, BIBA ensured that this was phased in rather than being introduced in one hit.
And, with its well-known and respected name, BIBA can find itself involved in dispute resolution between its members and insurance companies.
Its size, experience, and the fact that it is a not for profit organisation, also mean it can pass on bulk buying discounts to its members. And by utilising this, it has compiled a range of BIBA-branded insurance products, from award winning travel insurance to indemnity and liability cover, which members can sell to their clients.
Discounts also come into play with its broker training programme. With two dedicated training managers it has put together a comprehensive package for its members. Courses range from National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), aimed at people under the age of 26, to personal development and technical training.
The statistics surrounding these technical courses are impressive. Last year it covered more than 30 subjects in some 130 locations for more than 1,400 people. Although private medical insurance training is not yet available, if there is sufficient demand from members, Garland says, courses will be designed.
There is a charge for the training but because BIBA is not looking to generate profit, members only pay the costs of the venue hire and the speaker’s fee.
Training is likely to become more important with the advent of the GISC. IFAs regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) already have to produce evidence of the amount of training and professional development they undertake. Garland believes that the GISC will adopt a similar system.
And if training doesn’t supply the solution, BIBA gives members access to extensive back office support.
A team of support staff, under technical services manager Paul Staddon, is ready to tackle any question members pose. Garland comments: “If we don’t know the answer we will always find someone who does.”
For example, if a member has a query about employment law that can’t be answered by one of the BIBA team, it would be passed on to the human resources department of one of the large member companies of BIBA.
Additionally, when a topic warrants coverage, BIBA will publish a technical bulletin to keep members informed on issues that will affect them. Recent topics that have been covered include the Woolf reforms, the Millennium Bug and the Euro.
The public also uses BIBA’s support services, with approximately 400 calls received each week. Consumer queries vary from finding a broker in their area to finding a broker who can handle their requirements. And, with a database of members to hand, brokers can also benefit from being passed some hot leads.