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An introduction to the Public Trust Index


Insurance is a promise of help when things go wrong. Without trust, this promise is meaningless and insurance markets cannot function. This is the insight that led to the creation of the CII, and the instruction in its charter to 'secure and justify the confidence of the public'.

However, without clear thinking about what trust is and where it comes from, building trust becomes a shot in the dark. That is why the CII has conducted a major research project to define trust and confidence, find a meaningful way of measuring trust in the insurance profession, and create a tool that will allow it to take practical steps towards building trust.

In doing this, it’s vital that we don’t simply have technical experts talking to technical experts. This is a conversation that everyone must be involved in. That’s why we have asked Liz Barclay, broadcaster, author, former member of the FCA Consumer Panel and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Money Advice Liaison Group, to study the work the CII has done over the last year and to set out the challenge for the profession. Her challenge is:

‘Competence and willingness to take responsibility and put customers’ interests first equals trustworthiness. If you’re trustworthy and understand my needs, we can build a working relationship and I won’t leave you if you don’t punish my loyalty. It’s not a lot to ask. Is It?’

Underpinning this call to action are two detailed pieces of work. The first is an analysis of the language and meaning of trust by Dr Katherine Hawley of St Andrews University, which sets out the ideas that stand behind our sense of trust.

The second is a tool designed to capture the current state of trust in insurance. Crucially, this is done using the language that the public uses about insurance, not the language lawyers, claims managers, underwriters, regulators and, worst of all, professional bodies use about insurance. 

The research – through an exhaustive process of interviews, video diaries and other qualitative techniques, found that trust in insurance is made up of nine key ideas about ‘what good looks like’ – both in terms of competent service and ethical standards.

The researchers then conducted a survey of 2000 customers and 1000 small businesses to see how important each of these nine building blocks were to the UK public, and how insurers were performing against each of them.

This survey pointed the researchers to the areas where insurers can do most to build trust. Put simply, the biggest opportunities lie were the public thinks an issue is important and that the profession is not performing. The research not only identifies exactly where these opportunities lie, but also provides a rigorous system for prioritising them.

We will open up the data in this research to professionals across the sector, and we will also develop tools to allow professionals to see where opportunities to improve trust lie. This will help them identify what kind of services, communications and policies are needed to secure an increase in trust.

In 2019, we will run the trust research project again, not only to gauge progress but also to find new opportunities to strengthen the credibility of the promises that the insurance profession gives to the public. 

Sian Fisher, CEO, Chartered Insurance Institute

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