This is a conference I have been attending for many years, and invariably an enjoyable and insightful few days. This year proved no exception, and both the seminar programme and exhibition were delivered excellently (obligatory stash of goodies to be delivered to my daughter asap!). What stood out this year were the efforts of AIRMIC to ease the delegates in to the emerging technologies that will play a huge role in the future of the insurance sector, particularly as regards to risk management. Spoiler alert!! Next year there will be an even greater focus on tech and its applications (whilst I cannot reveal my sources, I have been assured of some exciting content at next year's event). But let us not get ahead of ourselves... what were the key takeaways from this year's event?
Uncertainty - there is no doubt that we are experiencing an extended period of political instability. This was a key discussion point for both the Risk & Insurance Managers that were attending the conference, and the many Brokers and Risk Carriers that were exhibiting and presenting. The excellent Andrew Marr closed the event by offering some insights in to the maelstrom of British and European politics, with the subject of Brexit dominating his monologue much as it had the previous 48 hours. Despite tightening Data Protection regulations, a lack of clarity on passporting, and a fear of 'hard Brexit', Mr Marr left me with a feeling of optimism that we at least have the capability to negotiate something that will work for many parties within industry and commerce, as well as the insurance sector. Perhaps we can expect a couple of years of stability, at least in the UK, whilst we negotiate our departure from the EU. What happens after then however...
Image - After what feels like years of bemoaning the poor efforts of the insurance sector to address it's public profile, it is refreshing that this is increasingly now a topic that is raised for discussion by those that can do something about it. The AIRMIC conference is a great demonstration of the diverse engagement and relevance of the insurance sector in every aspect of life, and is also a great advert for the fantastic relationships that exist both within the market, and with educated insurance buyers from within industry. Many people in attendance have known each other for decades, and the feeling of camaraderie is infectious. What was most satisfying though was panel members during the leadership debate beginning to talk about what they were doing to actively enhance the profile of the sector. We are still a long way from being the first choice industry for future school and university leavers, but some efforts at least are being made to highlight the good work the sector does.
Education - There are positives and negatives here. Within the risk managed market both Insurers and Brokers do a reasonable job of educating Insureds on their potential exposure and what is available to help them address that risk, but what was reinforced at this event is that it's only really around those things they believe they can offer a product for. Whilst a few risk carriers seek partnership and hence try to offer a comprehensive solution to manage risk, rather than simply transfer it, for the most part they advise on what risk they see and then offer a product they have developed to the affected party. Cyber cover is a prime example where product uptake is low due to the offering not really being fit for purpose. Whilst education on exposure is excellent, the responses available are somewhat lacking.
Talent - A topic of particular interest to me (hopefully for obvious reasons), and one which is highlighted regularly at industry gatherings. Again, some good and bad here. Sadly the AIRMIC conference was a further demonstration of the lack of diversity in the sector, and this is one of the major challenges that needs to be addressed to make the industry more attractive to an ever-more cosmopolitan society (in the UK at least). The risk managed market is one that requires a great deal of technical insight to add value, and attracting raw grads is not going to address this skills gap. This is a part of the market where engineers can really benefit both insurer and insured, but given in the UK we are running at a shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates every year (demand far outstripping supply), it is fair to assume that we are unlikely as a sector to find the necessary volume of talent from that part of industry - given that those experienced professionals will be ruthlessly retained in more recognisable engineering careers. Much more needs to be done to focus on bringing a mix of experience and perspective in to the market, and one would suggest that looking to traditional alternatives such as banking and engineering is short-sighted, and realistically those are over-fished waters.
Connections - I've alluded to the feeling of community that is evident at the AIRMIC conference, and would highlight also that this is a great place to make new and relevant connections. This is a relative niche in the grand scheme of (re)insurance, but if you have any insight around risk management it is a fantastic event to forge new relationships. If my own experiences from previous events are anything to go by, those relationships will be long-lasting and meaningful.
Congratulations to all that were responsible for putting this event together, certainly one of the high points of my conferencing calendar. Looking forward to Liverpool in 2018...