August 17, 2016

Imagine, if you will, being gently woken by something that sounds a bit like Mystic Nose-Flutes of Katmandu Vol 4 – only a thousand times more lovely and ethereal. Imagine coming slowly to your senses enshrouded by swirling fragrant mists, your supine body cushioned on an aromatic sward of fleece-moss and dander-grass. You yawn and stretch, and wonder if this is still a dream. But, no: this is something far more vivid, far more real. More real than anything you’ve ever known before. You sense at once that you must rise and pad bare-foot across the verdant pasture that surrounds the tranquil glade in which you’ve woken. Passing between twin curtains of bamboo and tall exotic grasses, you reach a further clearing. Here, you somehow know, you’ll find the most sagacious ancient sage of all the ages, a master who’ll reveal the very essence of enlightenment. There, cross legged upon a smoothly rounded slab of rock, sits the sage himself. His eyes rise slowly to meet yours. A beatific smile flickers upon his luminous countenance. Then he begins to speak. You hang on every syllable as, one by one, he strips away the layers of unreality and delusion that held you back from true perception.

Now you’ll have some idea of how Bankstone News felt when stumbling, in the pages of well-known insurance-focused news publication Insurance Types, upon the revelatory utterances of Kevin “Master Kev” Hamcock of broking firm YouTree. Now admittedly, it wasn’t exactly the secret of life, the universe and everything that we learned from Master Kev. But, near enough, it was the key to understanding something we’ve been almost equally puzzled by of late: the dreaded Insurance Act. If you’re wondering what an insurance act is and how one performs one, you’re clearly even more confused than we were. You see, it isn’t the kind of act you can commit. No, it’s some kind of law or something that’s just come in, which means that everything we thought we understood about how insurance contracts get contracted may very well not be as we thought it was. It’s all terribly complicated and has forced legal types to speculate at endless length about what it might actually mean in practice. The short answer seems to be that we won’t really know until people start suing each other. Or at least it would be, if there was a short answer. But – not least because legally trained people have a vested interest in keeping things complicated – there is, of course, no short answer.

Or so we thought – until we heard the words of Master Kev. Then, quite suddenly, everything fell into place. All the fear and uncertainty of Ins Act 2015 instantly fell away and we saw with perfect clarity exactly what the whole thing really means. Believe us, it was beautiful! We mean, really beautiful. It was extreme beauty! E_X_T_R_E_M_E beauty! Yes, yes, alright, but what did Master Kev say, you’re probably demanding to know by now. Settle yourselves down, Folks. Bankstone News was just about to tell you.

Like that gang of keep-fit pensioners who were on the telly news carrying-on with their ambitiously vigorous outdoor workout, utterly oblivious to the detonation, just few hundred yards upwind, of the derelict Lardhouse Stacks back in ’97, brokers, Master Kev reveals, will feel both “pain and gain” from the Insurance Act “as the dust settles”. The pain – as we understand it – will take the form of some initial “upheaval” (presumably a polite and sagely way of alluding to chundering, up-chucking, or whatever) and then maybe some dental discomfort owing to “teething troubles”. There will then ensue an era of “legal battles” in which the forces of good and evil contest the right to decide what the Insurance Act means. Followed by a blissful era of certainty and common understanding, where legal weapons are set aside and we all bask in the serenity of mutual consent and understanding.

The big issue for brokers, Master Kev distills from all the lawyer-generated noise and confusion, is that you will have to know something about your clients. This is because of something called the duty of fair presentation in the Insurance Act which means people applying for insurance (and their advisors) have to give insurers the sort of information they need to work out whether insuring the person(s) or thing(s) they are insuring is likely to be a tolerably safe and/or sane thing to do. This means brokers will in future need to have a rough idea of who their clients are and what they’re up to in order comply with their new FPDs (fair presentation duties). And that’s basically it: the Insurance Act in a nutshell. So really not all that confusing after all!

“We all now have clarity,” pronounced a rival sage Richie McKenzie of Rymans Direct Group, perhaps just a tad prematurely. All it really is, he warned, is that “the onus is now on the insurer and the broker to ensure that all questions are asked, and all answers are satisfactory.”

There you are, you see: it’s nothing more complex than that.

Maybe we won’t even need those legal battles!

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