Insurance News Magazine – October/November 2023

From the Publisher

The issue of professionalism has been hanging around insurance for many years, but the achievement of recognised professional standing for the industry’s practitioners has long been an elusive target.

Underwriters, brokers and the host of other specialists in this industry can call themselves “professional”, but sitting alongside lawyers, accountants and actuaries requires career-long commitment to learning and an inbuilt understanding that the interests of the customer are always paramount.

Our article in this edition of Insurance News magazine notes the departure in December of Prue Willsford, the Chief Executive of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance. ANZIIF has always been crucial to the growth of a more professional insurance industry in the local region, and Ms Willsford’s focus on growing professionalism has been a big step in the right direction. Hopefully her successor will bring the same drive to the issue.

Ms Willsford defines professionalism in terms that insurance practitioners aspiring to achieve such status must understand. Being “professional” carries a lot of baggage and challenge with it.

Being professional, Ms Willsford says, requires certification to a body of knowledge, commitment to ethics and a commitment to lifelong learning.

ANZIIF has always aimed at establishing professional practice in insurance, but there’s still some distance to go. While an education in insurance and its specialties is vital, the second of Ms Willsford’s measures – a commitment to ethics – is worthy of note.

In recent years the insurance industry has had to face up to a series of regulatory punishments, mostly involving products and procedures that should never have found their way into reputable insurers’ business operations.

The huge imposts imposed on some insurers since the Hayne royal commission indicate that ethics – what it means and how it is practised – needs to be restored as a central part of what insurance is all about.

Insurance is often regarded as old and fusty – more Charles Dickens than Wolf of Wall Street – but its traditions are rooted deeply in ethical behaviour. That means always acting in the best interests of the customer. Selling them products they don’t need, or which are stacked against the customer ever making a claim, isn’t ethical.

When ethics is re-established at the centre of the vast and complex insurance industry, we will be a lot further along the road to building and polishing practitioners’ aspiration to be truly “professional”.

Terry McMullan