Brokers unite to challenge regulation
THE two bodies that represent financial brokers have voted to merge - with the new organisation set to challenge the Central Bank over what brokers regard as heavy-handed regulation.
The move comes after both the Irish Brokers Association (IBA) and PIBA (the Professional Insurance Brokers Association) voted at separate annual general meetings to combine.
The tie-up was backed by a large majority.
The new body will be called Brokers Ireland and will have 1,300 members.
It comes after two previous aborted attempts to merge, the first of which goes back 10 years.
PIBA chief executive Diarmuid Kelly is to head up the new body, with the IBA CEO Ciaran Phelan set to be the deputy chief executive of Brokers Ireland.
Former IBA deputy president Cathal Lowe is to be president of the new body.
Mr Kelly said the enlarged organisation would bring a single focus that will better serve brokers, consumers and businesses.
Speaking after PIBA's AGM, Mr Kelly said the merger was approved by upwards of 98pc of the membership of each organisation.
He said the creation of one representative body would strengthen the broker market and mean more choice and competition for consumers.
"The coming together of the two bodies is good for choice, good for competition. Consumers will benefit from lower charges and better product innovation," said Mr Kelly.
Broker bodies are known to strike deals with insurers based outside this country, that often offer better value than players based here.
He said the past two attempts to agree a merger were hindered by personality clashes and a focus on minor issues.
The 10 PIBA staff will move into the IBA's offices in Dublin's Merrion Square, to take the total headcount to 17.
Mr Kelly revealed that the two bodies have already been co-operating in their dealings with the Central Bank and the Department of Finance under the Brokers Ireland umbrella.
"The merger will mean upping the ante with the Central Bank," he said.
Brokers feel they are very heavily regulated, compared with banks and insurers.
Mr Kelly said the application form for intermediaries was so large that it was like applying for a banking licence.
Plans for a merger in 2011 were abandoned amid rancour over who would run the merged group and how much they would be paid.
Preparatory work to effect the now agreed merger has been going on for while.
Brokers Ireland will be officially launched in the autumn.