Spare a thought, Dear Reader, for insurance-broker-focused news organ Insurance Times, which this week found itself obliged to devote a good few column inches to the contemplation of its own demise. In an article entitled Insurance Brokers are a Dwindling Breed, the paper found itself reporting on the disappearing market for its product.

Insurance Broker numbers, the paper reveals have fallen by almost 50% over the past decade.

The uncertain future facing Insurance Tides has unmistakeable echoes of that eventually encountered by that formerly prolific arachnid parasite the Common Bison Tick, a specialist grassland-dwelling species of the order Parasitiformes, now believed to be at or very close to extinction due to the catastrophic decline over recent centuries in the once-abundant populations of its favoured host species, the Buffalo or, more properly, Bison of the North American Great Plains.

According to figures slung together by consultants Hi-Mass, the number of FCA-registered brokers had fallen to around 3,500 by Christmas last year, down from around 7,500 registered with the FSA in 2005.

Where once smaller free-ranging family groups of brokers grazed happily on the insurance purchasing requirements of clients up and down the land, today most of those who remain have been corralled together into highly efficient factory farms by a new breed of aggressive broker barons know as “consolidators”.

Is it all the regulators’ fault?, Insurance Tights wonders. Partly, it concludes. Back in the 70s and 80s, the papers recalls nostalgically, individual brokers would break off larger herds to create their own ‘pods’ or ‘herdlets’. But by the time regulators began interfering over the past few decades, many of the leaders of these breakaway populations had grown old and weary and lacked the vigour or the will to jump through regulatory hoops.

According to Ian Clarp of Mighty Quim Consulting, “a lot of them just turned out the lights” (shortly after cancelling their subscription to Insurance Types, presumably). Yeah, agrees, Ian Studs of exclusive broker group Brokerbilly, the “wealth of regulation” plus the fact that owners were “of an age” have propelled many smaller herds to extinction.

What are the chances of a fresh wave of start-ups starting up, Insurance Ties wonders wistfully. Slight to non-existent, Studs and the rest conclude. Too much trouble.

So, alas, it seems the writing’s on the wall for broker-focused media titles, and that RSA’s Stephen Hustler may not have too much trouble achieving his recently stated aim of freeing the insurance world of pesky intermediation once and for all.

Shame though really.



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