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The need to educate the broker-facing public

At a glance

  • Kent-based broker Karen Thomas of Breathe Insurance Brokers outlines her thoughts on the insurance industry
  • Why brokers need to combine traditional ways of working to ensure customer satisfaction in the modern age
  • How climate change and cyber are the biggest emerging risks

Whether it is providing protection for exotic animals or day-to-day business equipment, old-fashioned personal service always makes good business sense.

Karen Thomas, a Director at Kent-based Breathe Insurance Brokers, spoke to Zurich Insider about the challenges she faces, the new online ways of working and why trust is key in gaining and maintaining clients.

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: As an independent commercial insurance broker, we specialise in helping small- to medium-sized businesses in Kent, and throughout the UK.

Q: Are you on social media? What’s your Twitter handle?

A: Yes, I am. Twitter at @BreathInsure and I have personal and professional accounts on LinkedIn.

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

A: Yes and no. Yes, because as a client said to me recently, ‘Google is my dad!’, and aggregators tend to be at the top of the search results for package business insurance.

No, because when it comes to business insurance, people don’t usually understand it and so prefer to deal with someone they trust. Someone who will make sure they have the right cover and be there to help if they need to make a claim.

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

A: Climate change, as it means more properties are likely to be damaged as a result of storms, floods and subsidence. Also, cyber crime as more businesses are going online and storing data in the cloud.

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

A: I think it’s working out how to combine good old-fashioned personal service and detailed checking of policy wordings with the new online way of doing business, where people expect instant results.

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

A: No. I would say that, in general, people don’t know what an insurance broker does and don’t understand the difference between a broker and an insurance company. This is something that we need to change.

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

A: A laboratory full of tarantulas and other poisonous spiders.

Q: Rugby or football? And what team do you support?

A: I have only been to one professional football match in my life and that was to watch Lincoln many years ago. I remember getting very wet in the rain. I once went to Twickenham, and while it was good fun, I can’t remember who was playing.

I would say that, in general, people don’t know what an insurance broker does and don’t understand the difference between a broker and an insurance company

Q: Fees or commissions?

A: Commissions.

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

A: I would make it easier for people to tell the difference between an independent insurance broker and a company who appears to be a broker, but in reality only offers products from one or more insurance companies.

Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?

A: Finding The Now, because if we can remember how to do that, then we’ll have the best sort of insurance and it will be free.

Q: Newspaper or iPad?

A: I would have to say the iPad. When I was young, I used to do the cryptic crossword in the Daily Telegraph with my dad. Later, I’d make The Guardian on a Saturday last the whole week, but now everything is done on my iPad.

Q: What is your favourite word, and why?

A: Unravel. No particular reason, it just is!

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

A: Fresh air and exercise.

Image © Getty

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