The HI Profile: Wayne Pontin

Health Insurance editor David Sawers asks the questions

The trade association for specialist brokers is at a crossroads, according to its new chairman. He tells Health Insurance editor David Sawers where he thinks it should head

‘Closed shop’. ‘Talking shop’. ‘Commission club’. ‘Small fry’. The Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII) has fielded its fair share of knocks through the years.

However, aside from the Health Insurance Focus Group at the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA), AMII has been the sole voice – aside from this magazine of course – championing the cause of specialist private medical insurance (PMI)intermediaries over recent times.

But, says its new chairman, the trade association which was founded in 1998 has “lost its way”. He’s going even further than that. It needs, in his opinion, to become a different entity entirely.

Wayne Pontin – who assumed the role of chairman this year and is currently sales development director of national intermediary powerhouse Jelf Employee Benefits – thinks that AMII needs to become “truly representative” of all sectors of the health insurance industry which, he points out, encompasses not only PMI but, dental, cash plans, group risk and other related benefits. It also means the association needs to open its doors to tied advisers, direct salesforces and insurers themselves.

BIG CHANGES AHEAD?

It’s a bold move, I suggest as I meet him the day prior to the 2012 AMII Annual Private Healthcare Conference, and one that is sure to prove controversial. After all, a trade association formed to represent the interest of brokers...inviting insurers to join?

Pontin is pragmatic. Like any trade organisation, AMII needs funds to be able to make its – or rather its members’ – voice heard. And that means broadening the membership base.

“I have actually put to the members that we’ve got to have a total cross-section of membership,” he says. “To be self-sufficient we need to consider the providers – and that’s not just PMI providers, that could encompass all the cash plan providers, it could encompass some of the group risk providers.”

So how did AMII find itself in this situation? Pontin says that while previous AMII chairmen have all made positive contributions in their own way, the industry’s goalposts have, to some extent, changed.

He’s got a point. There’s no escaping the fact that the UK’s PMI industry is not in as rude health as it once was. Just days after I interview Pontin, Health Insurance revealed exclusively that Bupa is to stop selling PMI through intermediaries.

Laing & Buisson and Datamonitor stats don’t make for happy reading. PMI subscriber numbers – both individual and corporate – have been heading south for some time. Providers – Groupama for example – have pulled out of the market while others – National Friendly springs to mind – have struggled. It’s time, Pontin says, for every stakeholder in the health insurance industry to come together.

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