Crescens George, CEO of Wiser Academy, the insurance sector’s leading training and development business, discusses the priorities for the Chartered Institute of Insurance as new CEO, Alan Vallance, prepares to take up his role in August 2022.
“A warm welcome to Alan and congratulations on becoming the next CEO of the Chartered Institute of Insurance (CII). His appointment comes against a backdrop of change: our industry is battling a recruitment crisis, dealing with the aftermath of COVID, and wondering how to capture the imagination of Gen Z and encourage the best talent into our industry for the 2020s.”
What are Alan’s top priorities when he gets behind his new desk in August?
At the heart of the CII’s rationale as an organisation is education and driving professionalism within the sector.
I think Alan should increase the CII’s focus on reforming those core objectives before engaging in any public trust and/or reputational campaigns.
The average person on the street is unaware of the CII, so they won’t relate to public trust initiatives from the organisation. Of course, trust in insurance has declined, but restoring trust should be driven by businesses that directly interact with the general public.
Where the CII can help, though indirectly, is to get more people qualified. If consumers feel their needs are being looked after by competent, qualified, engaged people, trust will automatically improve as a result of the quality of people’s actions.
Secondly, it’s essential that CII qualifications are cost-effective. Attracting more people to the sector and encouraging them to be qualified requires a proposition that is affordable and accessible. Premium rates are currently too rich for individuals and smaller businesses (especially brokers), so they have become a barrier to opportunity for progression and development. High costs lead to exclusion. At present, qualifications are fine for cash-rich companies and individuals. Still, we don’t want to become like the legal profession, where the costs of qualifying are prohibitive and have created barriers to entry for most young people.
Turning to the courses, I’d like to see the CII overhaul the existing qualification structure to make it more relevant for the times we live and work in. I’m out talking to companies all the time, and invariably they tell me they would invest in getting their people qualified if the courses modernised, for example, to drive skills and behaviours. Teaching the history of insurance is one thing, but more relevant and forward-looking courses should be added to the mainstream pathway and curriculum.
What is your advice to Alan in terms of his engagement with the training sector?
Partnership and cooperation with Wiser Academy and other providers is key.
We have just received an outstanding grade from our Ofsted inspection, and we have ambitious plans to significantly increase the number of courses we offer and the flow of talent through the Academy.
We’d like to work with Alan and his team to build out the importance of getting qualified, to refresh the courses on offer and to make sure that quality standards across the whole of the training sector can measure up against those in other industry sectors.
What is the CII’s role in the 2020s?
This is the right time for the CII to build an even greater influence in helping to transform the insurance profession. The CII can really make a difference by helping businesses to fuel their own growth by making qualifications affordable and accessible.
We’d like the CII to push for compulsory membership and, as an incentive, to offer free membership for at least the first year of anyone starting in insurance. Welcoming people into the profession means being able to add value to up-and-coming talent and the businesses that have hired them.
Create a robust schools, colleges, universities and parental outreach programme to build much broader awareness of the immense opportunities and rewards that can be achieved from building a successful career in insurance.
Finally, I urge a new focus on developing the right behaviours and skills of the people within the sector. Qualifications must be fit for purpose in the 2020s. Right now, they are not, and I find that businesses open to training and development through the CII are not impressed with the narrow curriculum offered.