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Hannah Gurga's Annual Dinner Speech

Hannah Gurga - Profile Shot  (1).jpgGood evening, everyone.

Welcome to the ABI’s annual dinner.

I’d like to thank our speakers Sam Woods and Tim Shipman. I’d also like to thank our sponsors, KPMG, and the ABI team for putting on such an outstanding event.

To begin, let’s welcome a few new faces.

Convex and its founder Stephen Catlin need little introduction. Stephen was already a member of the Insurance Hall of Fame when he set about founding a new business in 2019, which last year wrote more than 2bn in Gross Premiums. It is wonderful to have Convex join the ABI and I am delighted that Stephen is here tonight. 

Convex is not the only new member with us this evening. We are also joined by Lemonade, Extracover, Arch and HSB Engineering. Please could you join me in welcoming our new members.

This industry and your ambassadors, the ABI, have had an exceptional year. I am going to take a brief look back at some of what we achieved and then talk about raising the bar in the year ahead.

I want this industry to be proud of its achievements and its power to be a transformational force for good.

The incredible companies in this room steward more than £1.7 trillion in invested assets, managing the pensions of more than 18 million people.

Ten years ago, when Automatic Enrolment was introduced, fewer than half of us had a pension. Today, nearly eight in ten of us do. But Britons are still far from retirement ready. Since 2018, the value of forgotten pension pots has risen to more than £26 billion pounds. That’s why last year the ABI, together with the PLSA, launched our first ever joint campaign – Pay your Pension Some Attention. I believe the secret sauce of this campaign was recruiting the grime artist Big Zuu to get the message across. His cut through was astonishing. One fifth of the UK working population recalled the campaign, and of them over 90% went on to do something with their pension because of it.

A secure retirement should not be the preserve of the wealthy or those in traditional jobs. We need to make it easier for everyone to save. By lowering the age threshold for auto-enrolment, making it simpler for the self-employed to contribute to their pensions and closing the advice and guidance gap, so people know how to get the most out of their retirement and understand how their investment choices can help transform society.

For any business, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that your risks are hedged. And nothing more comforting to consumers than knowing that their financial future is secure. Homeowners and motorists know they will be covered if disaster strikes with insurers paying them £38 million pounds in claims each day.

This time last year, our industry responded to Storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin by paying out nearly £500 million in claims, and arranging temporary homes for those worst affected.

Friday marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. I am proud of our industry’s response. We’ve supported humanitarian efforts – helping our customers who wanted to deliver aid or provide accommodation through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

And our support for customers continues closer to home as well. We’ve made huge progress to support leaseholders living in buildings affected by fire safety issues. I am deeply grateful to those members who have worked with us to explore ways to reduce the insurance costs for leaseholders.

I am delighted that we have identified a model that will help drive down the costs of the insurance premiums. While more work needs to be done - our ambition is to launch by the summer.

Last year, I announced our industry’s commitment to double the number of apprenticeships by 2025. But, as an industry, we want to be bolder. To become the most diverse, equitable and inclusive sector of the UK economy. As an industry, we have some way to go to achieve that ambition. That is why the ABI launched our DEI Blueprint. The first of its kind in the UK financial sector. A three-year plan that sets out the steps we can take to drive change across our industry and build a workforce that reflects the diverse society we serve.

Now let’s look ahead.

Mia Hamm is an inspirational American Soccer player, and as she puts it…

“Celebrate what you’ve accomplished but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed.”

Our success over the past 12 months sets a high bar. Our new 3-year strategy for the ABI raises that bar higher.

Working with our members, we will unlock the full potential of our sector:

- By improving customer trust.

- By working with Government to meet the challenges of climate change and other systemic risks…  

- And by delivering on the expectations of Solvency II reform.

On customer trust.

We will continue working with the members of our Consumer Committee and Consumer Advisory Group to improve financial inclusion, reduce complexity and deliver good customer outcomes. Tomorrow, we launch a toolkit to help our members provide clear and simple communications to customers. I’d like to thank James Daley and his team at Fairer Finance for partnering with us on this.

The investment power of our industry is already a cornerstone of the infrastructure across our country. We finance the regeneration of brownfield sites, we build affordable housing, and we are already helping drive the transition to Net Zero.

Our investments create thousands of jobs and enhance the lives of thousands of families. And we’re only just getting started.

The new Solvency UK regime could, over the next 10 years, unlock over £100 billion of investment from our sector. Enabling us to finance more projects that deliver an outsize return to society while maintaining the high levels of protection that policyholders – rightly - expect.

I’d like to thank the Government, and in particular HM Treasury and Sam Woods and his team at the PRA, for their constructive engagement on these reforms. Their efforts and our investment will help transform our nation.

And it is by working together that we can drive the security, stability and growth that we need in this country.

In that spirit, we want to work together to create the legal, regulatory and tax framework that unlocks the full potential of our sector. We need a tax regime that is fairer and internationally competitive. A legislative framework that supports growth and a building safety and planning regime that ensures the resilience of our communities.

Many of the future challenges we face demand closer collaboration between public and private sectors. Healthcare, financial resilience, climate change and cyber security. These are all areas where our sector has much more to offer. As an industry, we are ready to forge a new era of partnership. A trailblazing new alliance in the national interest, to build our resilience to the risks of tomorrow. 

When I was appointed to this role, I said that my mission was to help the industry to do everything it could to make people’s lives better. I have been privileged this year to spend time with the Chief Executives of our Members. Every single one of them shares this mission.

Last week I listened to a call centre operator handle a critical illness claim. The level of care and empathy the operator showed, during a moment of terrible pain for this family, reinforced my belief that this industry is a force for good.

We are not a fair-weather friend.

We take care of those struck by disaster.

We take care of those who lose their jobs.

We take care of those who have fallen ill.

And we help people take care of themselves when they retire.

This industry, all of you in this room tonight, does more than any other to make our society more resilient, more secure and more compassionate.

This is our purpose.

Thank you.

Notes to editors:

The ABI’s purpose and strategy is available here.

Last updated 10/10/2023