The garden looks lovely, but who’s minding the shop?

A London market broker made a very interesting point to me the other day.

His class of business is one of those has a particularly tight labour market at the moment. Heads of line are spinning around the revolving doors of EC3 like pirouetting ballerinas as they job-swap their way to better rewards and career paths.

And who can blame them? It’s a free market and they should make the most of their marketability. After all, such ripe conditions won’t last forever.

The problem is that at any given time, half of this in-demand market is on gardening leave. As a consequence, my broker friend is finding it hard to access the underwriting talent that his clients need.

Vanilla renewals are okay and can be serviced by juniors, but there is a definite shortage of quoting ability and lead authority to be able to make the sort of non-standard decisions that solve client problems and win global business.

Surely there is a better way of doing this? 

For one, it is ridiculously inefficient to pay highly remunerated executives to do nothing.

Moreover, at a time when carriers are feeling the strain of high expense ratios, it is doubly foolish to do so. And it serves no one to leave customers without service and new business opportunities unpursued.

At the current rate, top talent might now expect to spend a significant proportion of its time waiting out restrictive covenant periods in well-paid idleness.

When I asked how a market contact had enjoyed a recent period of time amongst the herbaceous borders, they responded that they had eschewed plant and pond but had instead overseen the construction of a rear extension, a loft conversion and the testing and commissioning of no less than three new bathrooms!

Carriers only have themselves to blame. 

But if this is a market problem, should it not be remedied by a market solution?

We already have the means. The London and international insurance market is used to setting aside individual concerns and coming together in collaboration when the common good is at stake.

Acord data standards, settlement bureaux, market byelaws, codes of conduct, numerous joint declarations, LMA clauses, joint committees and the LMG slip are but a few shining examples.

Perhaps a contract of employment with common standards on restrictive covenants could be another area of market collaboration?

Such an agreement would avoid costly and reputation-damaging poaching disputes as well as saving an awful lot of time.

Employers and staff would know exactly where they stood and expensive legal consultations would also be avoided. Recent progressive advancements on expected levels of behaviour could also be written into the collective master agreement.

I’m sure there are a thousand legal reasons why this might not work.

But if US professional sports league franchises can enforce strict wage caps and transfer rules, then surely all hope of common insurance employment standards cannot be lost? The collective benefits would be huge.

We have a franchise of our own – perhaps we can devote more time tending to this rather than mowing the lawns and weeding the beds of so many suburban gardens?