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The need for both a professional and personal touch

At a glance

  • Pyke Smith & Cutler’s Philippa Cutler believes it is imperative that brokers really understand each customer and offer a highly personalised service
  • Cutler discusses the latest industry challenges and emerging risks
  • Much also still needs to be done to educate the public about the real value a broker provides

While the insurance industry is ever changing, one thing that customers always appreciate is the personal touch.

Philippa Cutler, a Director at Pyke Smith & Cutler, sat down with Zurich Insider to explain why it is essential that brokers take the time to build up a personal understanding of their customers’ businesses.

Broker Voice gives UK brokers the opportunity to voice their opinion on the state of the insurance industry, outline what makes their own personal style of business different from their competitors, and what personal interests enhance their professional life.

Q: What lines of business do you specialise in, and what are the opportunities and challenges you see there?

A: We specialise in all classes of general insurance, both personal and commercial, with an emphasis on offering a complete professional, and personalised, service to every client.

This provides us with the opportunity to really understand each client, understand what’s important to them and, in the case of commercial insurance, how their businesses work.

The challenges are to go to an ever-changing market and source the best product from a particular insurer while building a loyalty with those insurers for the client. This can be a delicate balancing act.

Q: Does the rise of the aggregator model worry you?

A: No, I think there is a need and a place for the aggregator, definitely for certain sectors of the market. There will always be a customer who wants to use the aggregator model, and we provide a very different personalised service to this, which sets us apart. For example, when young drivers need cover on cars, we often have to suggest the aggregator model to help our clients, such is the difficulty of that particular market.

Q: What industry changes keep you up at night?

A: No changes keep me up a night! I like to recognise change as usually positive, and that it will hopefully provide an opportunity to review and move our business forward.

Q: What do you think are the biggest emerging risks, and why?

A: Cyber liability seems to be the hot topic at the moment, with some incidents receiving wide media coverage. This is a new and emerging risk that we are watching with interest.

Also, directors and officers and entity defence are much more emergent risks than, say, five years ago, as the responsibility for business owners becomes ever more onerous.

Q: Is the market hardening?

A: I don’t feel the market is hardening, and don’t foresee this happening for a while. Sometimes when quoting, especially on the larger commercial risks, we seem to still be in an aggressively competitive market with the insurers, which sometimes has little to do with actual underwriting.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for brokers these days?

A: I think that it is to maintain a professional and personalised service, while being compliant and still make a profit.

Q: Do you think brokers are recognised enough by the public for the value that they add?

A: I think the perception of brokers by the public is very unrecognised. I have devoted a lot of time trying to raise the profile of the professional insurance broker and educate my local business community of what we actually do. There are a surprising number of people who do not actually understand the difference between an insurer and an insurance broker.

We need to change this and become recognised as the dynamic professional industry we are, in our own right.

I think the perception of brokers by the public is very unrecognised. I have devoted a lot of time trying to raise the profile of the professional insurance broker and educate my local business community of what we actually do.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to get cover for?

A: Probably a portable Dalek from Doctor Who, which was taken to fairs and demonstrations. Or there was the time we provided cover for a seafood festival which was as far from the sea as you can more or less get in the UK – Northampton! It’s the diversity every day that I love.

Q: Fees or commissions?

A: Commissions – the old fashioned way, but I still think it’s the best way for the client.

Q: If you were the head of the Financial Conduct Authority, what would be the first thing you would do?

A: Make life easier for the general insurance broker. Be more clear with aims and objectives, and simplify compliance in a much more user friendly way. We are buried under compliance paperwork.

Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?

A: Taking a risk: The story of a born and bred insurance broker.

Q: Newspaper or iPad?

A: iPad every time. I’d be lost without it.

Q: What is your favourite word, and why?

Certainly. I always go the extra mile to say, “Certainly, I can help you.”

Q: Can’t get through the weekend without…?

A: Shopping! With two teenage daughters, it always has to happen!

Image © Getty

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