Do we really need ACIIs in the Middle East?


Guilty as charged; I spend too much time on Linked-In. The above question was actually coined by a member of the CII Middle East Group on Linked-In. Having been a CII member for over 20 years (a Fellow for over 15 years) and having spent almost 15 years working in the Middle East, I couldn’t help but immerse myself in the discussion.

The objectives of the discussion was to establish whether professional qualifications were ‘nice to have’ or ‘need to have’ and if the industry needed such qualifications which best fit the bill and why.

Personal Experience

My personal experience is that my FCII was my passport to come to the Middle East. Although it served its purpose as a ‘door opener’, beyond that my 14 year progression in MENA region has been built on hard work, respect and trust. It is fair to say that we are the sum total of people we meet and experiences we go through but a solid grounding by way of an academic and /or professional qualification certainly provides a solid start to one’s career.

It is probably not the only door opener. I note that industry peers have FIII, ACPCU, the ANZIIF or Canadian professional qualifications as well as academic degrees with majors in insurance or risk management. I would not hazard to comment on equivalencies in terms of competence because, at the end of the day it is not the qualification one has that really matters but how well one applies the knowledge he / she has learnt and how committed one is to continued professional learning / development. Qualifications aside, I have met many practitioners who claim they have, say, 20 years experience when in reality they would have 1 year experience repeated twenty times over!

The main challenge to any professional and/or academic qualification is achieving industry relevance. One of my ACII tutors, and a practitioner in the Saudi market for many years, used to say the ability to successfully sit for a set of FCII exams (it was by examination then!) on a particular day did not provide him with a seal of competence in his day to day work.  Continuously and professionally applying oneself does. There is a lot that the CII and similar institutions can and should be learning directly from their members outside the UK by interacting directly with them to make qualifications and continuous professional education more relevant.


How relevant is the Chartered Insurance Institute to the region?

In attempting to answer this question I would divide it into two questions, i.e. how relevant are its insurance qualifications and CPD (including ethics) regime to the insurance industry and how relevant do I, as an overseas member, perceive CII to be. A reply to both questions would succinctly capture what the CII means to me.

CII qualifications proved to be a passport both for career advancement and also for international employment. A CII qualification is a form of ‘hard currency’ in insurance internationally. However, for career advancement a qualification has little meaning unless supplemented with market practice and/or relevance. The two go hand in hand. Therefore it is encouraging to note that in certain instances, such as in Takaful Insurance, training material is becoming less U.K.-centric. Almost a decade ago there was also a common attempt by the Institute for Global Insurance Education (of which all the major professional insurance institutes are members) to achieve commonality at least at entry-level. The success of this seems to have been limited. More still needs to be achieved. For example, English Law is of little relevance to the Middle East market which has a different system of law and also has sufficient insurance case law that actually supports the same fundamental principles of insurance. More research and development and ‘localised’ academic (as opposed to commercial) partnerships are required in this respect to make CII qualifications more internationally relevant. The CII needs to be engaging its members directly and meaningfully within the regions. The (UK) Institute of Risk Management is doing this with a certain degree of success through its regional groups. All members within the regional groups participate on a pro-bona basis.

Whereas the CII qualification is largely perceived as an internationally respected insurance qualification, the CII itself, as an institute, regrettably may not always share the same level of respect overseas. Although overseas members account for over 15% of the whole CII membership which exceeds 100,000 members and overseas members serve on sub-servant committees, a glass ceiling in the form of CII rules precludes overseas members from holding higher office in the CII echelons such as the CII Council. A vacancy notice on the CII website for a CII council position clearly states that, “candidates must be based in the UK.” This perhaps serves to perpetuate a less cooperative approach to international development in the eyes of overseas members.

The Aldermanbury Declaration, although well-meaning, is another example of U.K-centricity in its requirements. These and other similar examples do not help the CII’s quest to become an internationally relevant professional institution in the eyes of overseas members. This is not to say that the CII is not attracting international members. But, more can be achieved with a different tone from the top.

Therefore, wrapping the above two issues into the original question, the CII has a lot to offer in terms of qualifications and professional development but a radical change is required in its constitution and/or institutional format to be perceived as more internationally relevant.

Do we really need ACIIs in the region? Or, are their qualifications only, “nice to have”? I firmly believe in the old adage, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” and would have to firmly say, “Aye, as a minimum, we need more ACIIs and similarly qualified practitioners in the Middle East.”


About insuranceguild

Sharing Knowledge for the Common Good: Many associate guilds with British pre-industrial era. However, predecessors of guilds are found as far back as the 3rd century BC in the Roman Empire. They were also present in various civilizations including Ptolemaic Egypt, India, Iran, China, African dynasties as well as various European countries such as medieval Germany and Italy. A guild is typically an association of practitioners from the same trade. In addition to protecting and developing crafts, trades and business, guilds also helped foster a learning environment among members. Through this platform I wish to share articles of an insurance / risk management nature and hopefully generate comments from readers that would help to enrich my knowledge as well as the knowledge of other insurance and/or risk management practitioners. About the Author: A Chartered Insurance Practitioner by profession, James Portelli is also a Fellow of the UK Chartered Insurance Institute and of the UK Institute of Risk Management and holds an MSc in Risk Management from Glasgow Caledonian University, U.K. James has been active in insurance and risk management since 1990 and in training since 1987. He started his insurance career in general insurance underwriting and agency/broker management with Middlesea Insurance plc (also forming part of the company's Risk Management Implementation Committee and assisting in captive insurance development). He first moved to the Middle East in 1998 occupying senior training, technical, consulting, business development, risk management and strategic development roles. James is also a 2008 CII (UK) Morgan Owen Prize Winner and the 2011 IRM (UK) Steve Butterworth Award Holder.
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