How much do insurers really love you?

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Insurers often make a big deal about referring to the brokers they work with as partners. Some insurers like to give the impression that brokers are so crucial to the whole process and are so valued that they are willing to bend over backwards to accommodate them.

Insurers don't just lavish attention on brokers and sing their praises in public as some sort of ploy to curry favour and secure access to markets. That would be pretty cynical wouldn't it?

In most business partnerships, one tends not to issue contractual threats to the other. It's just not how partners treat each other so it's surprising to see insurers carrying on in such a way.

What threats I hear you ask? Well there has been a recent flurry of changes to insurers' terms of business agreements (Tobas) as they attempt to get a hold of claims at an early stage. The first wave of changes came from, in no particular order, Zurich, Ageas and Aviva.

Although they all denied that the changes were solely designed to stop the use of referral fees, the changes were undoubtedly restrictive requiring brokers to either pledge to not use referral fees or to report claims directly to the insurer rather than any kind of accident management company unless otherwise agreed.

And it appears that the herd mentality that unfortunately afflicts the insurance market has kicked in again with a couple of other insurers getting in on the Toba act. But, curiously, they seem to be getting more and more restrictive time-wise as they go along.

Markerstudy has amended its Toba to require brokers to report claims directly to them within an hour. Not to be outdone, Groupama made its own changes but requires brokers to report fault claims immediately. We can only assume that the next insurer to make changes will expect the broker to report the claims before it actually happens.

There's an important point to be made here though. Insurers are not practicing what they preach. The public face of the insurer side of the industry claims to value and respect the broking market but these aggressive and high-handed demands made in the Tobas tell a completely different story. I might even push it to say that the details of these new Tobas reveal insurers' true sentiments and lay bare just how much respect they really have for brokers.

I fear, and whisper this bit quietly, that perhaps part of the problem has been in the past brokers have signed the odd Toba without reading all the wording. Perhaps this time as the deadlines really start to squeeze, brokers will start to push back.

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