For years the public have been told that brokers are merely a middle man that adds cost to the insurance process and customers would do well to 'cut them out'. That message has been coming from direct writers for many years, and more recently insurers that also use brokers, and that kind of reputation can stick.
I think it's a reputation that is thoroughly undeserved and that a good, responsible, professional broker does way more than simply find a client a cheap policy. The good broker advises his client of what his risks are from fire and theft to liability and business interruption and will help the client mitigate these risks both through implementing a suitable insurance programme and also by conducting a risk management programme.
The role of the broker is to help his client protect himself. It's that simple.
Which is why the broker response to Sean Quinn's rumoured return to the market is all the more shocking to me. It was reported in the Irish press and repeated by the UK trade press, that Sean Quinn had secured a licence in Malta to trade once again under the title of Q2.
We checked this out with the Maltese regulator categorically stated that Mr Quinn had no such licence and as such there was no prospect of him doing so. "You cannot buy a licence in Malta," the chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority stated firmly.
But we thought it would be interesting to play a 'what if' game with broker users of insuranceage.co.uk and we asked them if Sean Quinn set up another insurance vehicle, whether or not they would use it to place business.
We assumed that, following the near-collapse of Quinn not so long ago, that most would go for the 'are you mad?' option. To my astonishment, at the time of writing this, 57% of broker visitors to the site would use a Sean Quinn vehicle again with only 41% declining the offer. The remainder would be willing to wait to see the details.
So what does this say about brokers? Does it show that they are a forgiving bunch and are willing to give people a second chance? Or does it show that they will place business wherever they can at the cheapest price in order to get a client on board regardless of the patent risks both to the client and the broker's reputation if things went wrong again.
The naive side of me would go for the former but, as a journalist and a Scot, cynicism is hard wired in to me and I think, unfortunately, the results of our poll speak for themselves. Brokers that would use Quinn again are like moths - repeatedly battering themselves against the light no matter how many times they get burned.
Sometimes I despair of this market.
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