The Hong Kong Confederation of Insurance Brokers (CIB) is to press the industry regulator to further relax the burden of professional training legislation heaped on both agents and brokers, despite a recent reduction in statutory obligations. Eric Lee, CIB secretary-general, says the federation's membership has been growing increasingly concerned by the rising cost of "continuing professional development" regulations (CPD), which require both insurance agents and brokers to undertake at least 15 hours of accredited training a year in order to maintain their licenses.

Achieving these hours, depending on the course chosen, can cost anywhere up to HK$10,000 ($1,285) per person, which for some of the larger organisations can mean annual bills of at least HK$100,000. But the cost is not the main concern.

Lee explains that the vast majority of CIB's members are in favour of professional development, but many of them would like "far more trust and flexibility" in the areas of training recognized by the regulator.

"We urgently need the scope of study redefined," he says. "What is actually included as accredited training is still far too narrow. If Hong Kong's insurance industry is to grow into the self-regulated and mature profession it is supposed to become, we have to be given the ability to develop. At the end of the day it's all about trust.

"For example if our members are specialising in engineering insurance, they should be able to attend that course. At the moment only a strict range of general courses are actually accredited, meaning many brokers end up wasting valuable resources. What we need is a more practical definition of the scope of studies."

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, which acts as industry regulator, is aiming to foster a laissez-faire approach to regulation in the insurance industry, and has already cut the number of CPD hours from about 30 in 2002 to 10 this year. The CIB represents 244 of Hong Kong's total 450 registered brokers, with the remaining 206 represented by the Professional Insurance Brokers' Association.