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Why SMEs still value brokers

At a glance

  • Falkirk-based broker Chris Knight of The Insurance Knight Consultancy says SMEs actually want a more personal service when it comes to their insurance needs
  • For brokers, the challenge is to find these SMEs who need this personal service
  • Knight says SMEs have also not yet woken up to the growing cyber threat

SMEs do need a personal service when sourcing their insurance needs and they feel brokers – rather than the internet – are best placed to do this.

That is the message from Falkirk-based broker Chris Knight, Managing Director of The Insurance Knight Consultancy, who believes that his profession can still provide real value to SMEs over their insurance requirements. And with over 25 years’ industry experience, he is well qualified to judge the market.

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.

He spoke to Zurich Insider about the latest challenges facing brokers, as well as the emerging insurance risks for SMEs and his love of Brighton & Hove Albion.

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

A: I specialise in SME in commercial, household and travel insurance. I deal with a lot of start-ups, smaller businesses and consultants.

At the moment, there aren’t many brokers providing a personal service to these kinds of businesses. Businesses are reluctant to use internet sites as they don’t know or understand their own insurance requirements. They also don’t always want to visit a ‘man in a suit in his office’ either.
For brokers, the challenge is finding these types of businesses. I successfully use networking events, receive referrals from various sources and also enquiries on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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

A: Yes. I use Twitter at @InsuranceKnight and I am on LinkedIn.

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

A: No. Although they are trying to move into SME commercial insurance. I think business owners are worried about self-serving on the web, as they just don’t have the knowledge or time. I believe they want a more personal service.

I am also seeing this more and more in respect of household insurance, as clients are worried about not having the appropriate level of cover in place when it comes to a particular claim.

Q: What industry changes keep you up at night?

A: A lack of real service from some insurers and managing general agents (MGAs), though not all of them. Clients want immediate responses to queries – both underwriting and claims – and although we, as brokers, can service this, it is often the providers that are the hold up.

It isn’t helped that we keep seeing job reductions at insurers, but are told it is supposed to improve the customer experience.

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

A: Cyber risks for SMEs. The SME market really hasn’t woken up to this yet. Many rely on small IT firms to service their IT website hosting and online functionality as they move to cloud-based products and solutions.

Insurers and MGAs have some great products for the larger clients, and I can see cover for this becoming an option on packaged policies.

Although everyone wants the cheapest premium, there are the clients who value the service of advice and assistance with claims – and are prepared to pay for better products, cover and providers.

Q: Is the market hardening?

A: Yes, especially where a risk is a little unusual. If it doesn’t tick the standard boxes, I find it hard to get competitive quotations or quotations at all. If it is standard stuff, in my opinion the market hasn’t hardened at all.

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

A: I am really seeing a divide here. Although everyone wants the cheapest premium, there are the clients who value the service of advice and assistance with claims – and are prepared to pay for better products, cover and providers. But others just want to be covered for the basics at the lowest premium.

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

A: Football. I have supported Brighton & Hove Albion since 1975 – through promotions, the FA Cup Final in 1983 and the club being homeless and playing at Gillingham – to the present day, where we now play in the wonderful state-of-the-art Amex Stadium.

I also run the Scottish Seagulls (@ScottishSeagull), a Twitter group for all Brighton fans north of the border.

Q: Fees or commissions?

A: Commissions for now, but I expect the market will be made to move to fees. It wouldn’t be a bad thing and would be more transparent.

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

A: Review the level of contribution that general insurance brokers are being made to make to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?

A: ‘I’ve Not Done That Yet’, because that is what my wife thinks I always answer her with.

Q: Newspaper or iPad?

A: Newspaper. I don’t own a tablet.

Q: What is your favourite word, and why?

A: ‘Rezillos’ – my favourite punk band from the 70s.

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

A: A fry-up breakfast.

Image © Getty

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