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Analysing the risks with construction

At a glance

  • Bristol broker Marcus Saunders of Lucas Fettes gives his views on modern methods of construction
  • Saunders, who specialises in construction, works closely with the Structural Timber Association, a trade body
  • Insurers point to fire risks both during and after construction when using some modern methods of construction

The construction industry is always looking to innovate in terms of the methods and materials it uses.

Timber frame is one such popular construction solution, which Marcus Saunders, a Senior Account Executive at Lucas Fettes, has developed a specialism in – and one in which he advises commercial customers on understanding the risks around modern construction methods. Insurers point to fire risks both during and after construction when using timber frames.

Saunders, who is based out of the Bristol office of Lucas Fettes, which employs 200 staff nationwide, sat down with Zurich Insider to air his views, as well as the challenges of insuring a fully functioning coal mine.

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: I am a general commercial account executive but I found it beneficial to specialise in certain sectors. One of my key sectors is construction and, in particular, the timber frame sector. We have been working with the Structural Timber Association (STA) for more than three years and are now their preferred broker.

Construction risks are perceived by the majority of underwriters as very heavy risks, particularly timber frame. Specialising in this area and working closely with the STA, has given me a good understanding of the risks and how companies go about managing those risks.

As a consequence, I feel able to demonstrate to underwriters that some of the risks are not as great as they fear and can explain what risk management initiatives are being implemented to reduce risk further.

There are benefits to all in this partnership approach; customers get better terms; underwriters get better quality risks; I get more clients! With the government pushing ‘green’ issues and sustainability, the opportunities are huge in the timber frame construction sector.

Q: Are you on social media? If so, what’s your Twitter handle?

A: As a company, we haven’t really entered into the whole social media thing – until now. I am really glad as I have been pushing it myself for a while, with both LinkedIn and Twitter profiles @marcussaunders

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

A: It doesn’t worry me, but it should worry customers. There should be room in the marketplace for everybody – we are happy to provide an independent alternative; we are client-focused providers of good, old-fashioned bespoke broking solutions delivered by professional people with the client’s interest first and foremost. Some people still want that.

Q: What industry changes keep you up at night?

A: The growth of compliance is good for customers but places a strain on the administrative side of things. However, if you do your job properly you should be fine.

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

A: There are many but in the sectors I deal with corporate manslaughter and cyber liability are becoming more prominent issues.

Q: Is the market hardening?

A: There are noises coming from certain insurers, but they seem half-hearted. There is still a lot of capacity and we are even involved in helping insurers enter new markets.

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

A: Dealing with insurers who are doing more and more of their underwriting by rating manuals or computer programs. The skill of actually underwriting a risk is diminishing, which is a shame.

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

A: I do not think that we do a great job of necessarily communicating what we do to clients, so it is undervalued. There are certain clients and sectors where price is the main measure of value. However, there are others where what we do, and the broader services we provide, are held in higher regard.

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

A: A functioning coal mine, where the work was still done manually. And no, I am not that old!

Q: Rugby or football? And the team you support?

A: I am a Bristol City football fan and go as often as my family let me.

Q: Fees or commissions?

A: Fees. Greater transparency for clients.

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

A: Try to create a greater equality between broker and insurer services, or at least some way for clients to better understand the quality and value of services they are purchasing at the point of sale.

Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?

A: Family, football, insurance…the Good Life

Q: Newspaper or iPad?

A: iPad.

Q: What is your favourite word, and why?

A: Timber – multiple meanings.

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

A: My family.

Image © Getty

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