I firstly want to wish you all a healthy and Happy New Year - rarely has this phrase been so meaningful! 2020 was a truly testing year for everyone but it was also a year in which loss adjusters even more so demonstrated their resilience, innovation and value to the insurance sector. There is much to feel optimistic about as we leave 2020 behind and embark on 2021.
Our members have done an incredible job in the pandemic, visiting locations despite the risks, uncertainty and restrictions of lockdown. Our firms have transitioned to almost complete remote working and continued to service our clients. We have encouraged the insurance industry to adopt new technology, from video collaboration tools to online platforms and 3D loss assessment apps. Most importantly, we have continued to help customers get their lives, homes and businesses back on track when they needed us most, especially when the pandemic may have magnified the difficulties that a claim event can bring. Loss adjusters have risen to the challenges of the pandemic and will continue to do so in the year ahead.
CILA has also pivoted several of its own activities. Attendance at 2020's virtual CILA Conference matched that of the physical conference, only this time with a worldwide reach, with presenters from the Caribbean and attendees from as far afield as Australia. We also took our exams virtual with great success, seeing over 80 passes and the e-mentoring programme created by our Future Focus group enabled experienced adjusters to continue to pass on crucial skills and guidance to the next generation.
2021 will bring its own set of challenges as we continue to deal with the pandemic in addition to Brexit. Over the past year, the Business Interruption Special Interest Group (BI SIG) has supported the membership with technical guidance around COVID-19 and also work undertaken with BIBA and the ABI. Meanwhile, CILA continues to provide guidance to assist the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in understanding the importance of mutual recognition of qualifications. This kind of collaboration remains essential as we continue to tackle these issues in the year ahead.
Crucially, these challenges have not distracted us from important ongoing initiatives such as improving diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) in our profession. In 2020 we have built on our prior successes with 50% of the people who gained CILA qualifications being women and around 35% of new associates being women - compared with a historic rate of just 5% - which is so hugely encouraging. We now have three women on the Executive Committee and have expanded the geographical reach of the Council and Executive Committee with members from Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles and Republic of Ireland.
There is, of course, much work still to do. D&I is about making improvements across the whole spectrum of diversity, and we will continue to promote CILA to a far more diverse group and do what we can to support members and the firms around their D & I initiatives to attract diverse talent into the profession. Our profession will be all the better for the work that we do.
I am delighted that our Deputy President, Helena Evans, is chairing a D&I Task Force whose initial objectives are to develop a holistic strategic approach as we strive to broaden our agenda. We are also updating our Charter to make our membership more inclusive, without lowering the bar to entry or qualification. COVID-19 has delayed these changes in terms of ratification by the Privy Council, but once formalised they will support our D&I agenda, for example by giving adjusters qualifying overseas or in non-chartered firms the opportunity to gain chartered loss adjuster status rather than being limited to certified status. Closing our doors to talented potential members is neither wise nor inclusive and we look forward to changing that.
As CILA President I want to push home our value proposition that I see as having two key elements. Firstly, our knowledge and experience are pivotal, largely evidenced by our qualifications. I have said we have made our qualifications more accessible in terms of where they can be taken that adds to the available frequency of what used to be called ‘sittings’. That makes them more inclusive.
The second element is the professional and ethical standards of our members. As my firm’s Chief Ethics Officer, promoting and helping our members is something that I am passionate about and a theme of my year as President. Earlier in the year, we also modernized our Guide to Professional Standards that sets the bar that our members must meet and now we have a simplified more succinct modern document that is easy to follow.
Your Council and Executive Committee know that we must also strive to attract and nurture talent. We will continue to engage more with the next generation of professionals through our Future Focus Group, chaired by Ehsan Shaeri, which gives younger adjusters a voice on Council to ensure that their views and needs are considered, as well as producing educational materials through the year designed to help younger adjusters learn, progress and develop their careers.
CILA turns 60 in December 2021. As our technology, skills, workforce and standards continue to evolve, we should celebrate not just our longevity but also how far we have come and how much further we have to go in this dynamic world.
I should never miss an opportunity to thank our small but so perfectly formed Secretariat that always do so much to maintain and advance the Institute and never more so than in the last year.
I started by wishing you a Happy New Year and would reiterate that. I would add that you have my very best wishes as you celebrate the Christmas period.
Shaun Kelly, President, Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters