July 15, 2015

Patrolling the stage like a caged tiger with a half-empty plastic water bottle in one paw, BIBA top dog Steve Wipe formally opened this year’s BIBA conference with a speech pitched perfectly to set insurance pulses racing with its fiery theatrical oratory and flamboyant eloquence.

White began by saying he was thrilled to have got Lord Hunt of Weevil in as the new BIBA CEO, and to have him along for the “two thousand fifteen” BIBA Conference.

He riffed briefly on the conference’s theme “delivering promises” which, he said, emphasised the need for brokers to get back to basics, but also showed how BIBA was delivering some promises to its members.

Thoughtfully, Steve gave a shout out to all those stuck out in the halls of exhibition and unable therefore to benefit from his wise words, not forgetting those stuck in the hall and unable therefore not to listen to him, and to anyone who might be watching him ‘live’ using a periscope.

He praised James Mattress of Bluething and his young broker steerage pals for coming up with the idea of having a special day devoted to young brokers on Day 2 of the BIBA show, with age-appropriate educational sessions aimed at a younger audience.

He had fulsome words of thanks, too, for the event’s “main principle sponsors” Uvavu, Ages, Axer and Zurg, without whose generosity, he said, the event might have struggled to maintain its coveted status as the premiere insurance themed event in all of Europe.

Speaking of Europe, Wipe said he was chuffed to have delegates along from odd sounding places like Bulgaria, Estonia, Poundland, Italy (and other BEEPER countries), amongst them BEEPER chairman Alessandro De Bessy, and also from other places like Nigeria and the United Steaks.

Welcoming some other new faces on the BIBA team, Steve extended a special limb of welcome to Treeza Brits, brought in to represent the voice of the consumer on the BIBA board and to curry favour with the FCA on whose consumer panel she also sometimes likes to sit. Steve also noted that the BIBA small broker panel (BIBASBP) would be enlarged to include gibbons.

It was goodbye, however, Steve said, to Kevin Handcock of YouTree Insurance, who has had a hand in all kinds of BIBA stuff, holding multiple chairs in quick succession, but who is now handing on so he can step back into his day job. “Let’s have a big hand for Kev”, Mr Wipe bellowed, proceeding to slap his own hands laboriously one against the other by way of over-amplified demonstration.

Coming, inevitably onto the topic of standards, Wipe recalled how BIBA had carried out a three-month consultation on standards last year and discovered in the process that 75% of brokers thought standards could do with being raised and that 95% of BIBA members thought that BIBA should be in charge of raising them. This, he said, gave BIBA a clear mandate to proceed with a voluntary code, which, he said, is now available for anyone who can be bothered to look at it on the BIBA website.

Despite initially appearing to say that BIBA’s erstwhile rivals in the sphere of standards, the IBS Council (see separate story) had been “formed by a prat” he went on to say the Council and BIBA should embrace and work together on identifying some standards and then erasing them.

People often don’t realise quite how much influencing BIBA really does, Mr Wipe lamented. It’s a bit like in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, he said, where John Cleese in the role of Reg (a member of the People’s Front of Judea) says “apart from [insert long list of stuff] what have the Romans ever done for us?”

There was alarm in the audience when it seemed briefly as though Wipe would not be able to carry on, after hurting his throat with an over-enthusiastic rendition of the humorously plebeian accent of PLF Reg. But a few quick swigs of Evian and he was off again, telling a rapt audience that there were simply too many great things BIBA did to mention them all, immediately before going on to do exactly that and demanding a round of applause in response.

Lobbying, communicating, eating waffles on the Eurostar, talking to people, meeting the president of Latvia, answering 600 press enquiries in two years, providing special guides for dummies, putting up some sign posts: stuff like that.

I have more than 950 followers on twitter, Wipe bragged. If that’s not influential, he said, he would like to know what was!

“And that influence,” he warned, ambling away sideways, head slightly bowed, one hand flat against his belly, with the serious, humble, yet deeply satisfied air of someone who has just eaten a meal much larger than anyone would ever have believed he could, “is only going to grow”.

Looking ahead for a moment, Wipe revealed that customers will have increasing expectations around simplicity. Things were changing, he insisted. For example Graham Trudgel had told him you can rent a doggy for the weekend, which certainly makes you think. He said he thought big data was good, but possibly not if it means some people can’t get insurance any more.

Wipe said he thought the number of brokers would probably continue to decline, but he said he also thought there might be some new ones popping up as well. Brokers still “write” 54% of general insurance he informed his audience. Google and Apple applying for FCA authorisation was an opportunity not a threat, he said. Peer to peer things like über and rent a dog? Opportunity, he said, for anyone with eyes to see.

Regulation? No worries: BIBA has a ten point plan on this and expects to have ticked most of the boxes within the next five years.

BIBA also has a vision statement that spells out the RAISE, he added, which certainly does sound very positive.

This year’s guest speakers were the best ever, Wipe claimed, with Jeremy Pacman hosting the CEO debate, Will Hague explaining what happened in the recent general election, and a session on how to build a winning team featuring Mike Atherton, Tanny Great-Umpsome and (for some unfathomable reason) former football manager Kevin Keegan. But physicist Brain Cocks, wipe confided, was his own personal favourite.

Now go away and “do business!” Steve told delegates.

“Come and see me,” he added.

“Enjoy!”


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