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Why sustaining business and service levels is essential for brokers

Jo Watson, Commercial Account Executive for the Thomas Carroll Group, has eight years broking experience in both private clients and commercial insurance.

We talk to her about the many different insurance needs she provides and her thoughts on the state of the industry at the moment.

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

A: I work with a lot with SMEs across all sectors and am always keen to provide support and guidance to new start-ups. My specialism lies within the support, service and care I give to all of my clients and prospects, from a one-man band through to a large corporate company.

I feel opportunities will continue to arise from the continuing growth and development of strategic relationships with other professionals alongside keeping abreast of what is happening within the insurance and industry market.

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

A: Not particularly, although I think as brokers we need to make sure our accessibility falls in line with the customers’ needs and requirements. This seems to be more prevalent in respect of personal insurances, such as car and house insurance.

From a commercial perspective, I think businesses are becoming more astute and aware of how valuable brokers’ services can be.

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.

We are noticing an increasing return of customers coming back to brokers. They are realising that a few pounds saved on a policy cannot compensate for the high quality, independent and professional advice received from a broker.

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

A: Yes, I’m personally on Twitter as @lincschick1977 (I’m originally from Lincolnshire hence the name!) and so is the company as @thomascarrollgp. I am also on LinkedIn.

Q: What industry changes keep you up at night?

A: I work too hard during the day for anything to keep me up at night!

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

A: The general consensus at the moment is that cyber liability is the biggest emerging risk to customers. Anyone processing and handling data is potentially at risk and brokers need to educate clients on these.

That said, I believe as an industry by trying to stay ahead of our competitors on emerging risks, we can become complacent and not pay enough attention to risks that potentially face every business.

The statistics surrounding the underinsurance of both property and machinery must remain at the forefront of brokers’ minds when dealing with existing and new clients, along with a proper understanding of business interruption insurance, and the associated risks to a business without having adequate cover in place.

Q: Is the market hardening?

A: It’s dependent on the risk presented, the claims history and if the insurer deems it to be a core business for them. Insurers are still very keen to write and win good, clean business, so in this respect the market isn’t hardening.

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

A: Developing and sustaining a profitable book of business, whilst not compromising service levels. Fortunately at Thomas Carroll we have fantastic support networks in place and work together to provide the client with the best service possible.

We are seeing a rise in the number of other brokers whom, either due to the remuneration deals they have from insurers, or just to get the business on the books, are writing business at little or no income value to them. The sustainability of these books of business has to be questioned.

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

A: As a whole I still don’t think the public realise what a broker does and the value we can add to their business. They seem to implicitly trust their bank manager, accountant or solicitor, but insurance is still deemed to be a necessary evil.

I think it’s all about managing a client’s expectations, explaining how and what we do, when we will do it, how we will do it and delivering on the promises we make.

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

A: An MBE medal, which is quite topical, given our Group Chairman, John Moore, has been awarded an MBE this year for his services to the financial sector and to charity.

[Customers] are realising that a few pounds saved on a policy cannot compensate for the high quality, independent and professional advice received from a broker.

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

A: Both, but golf is far better than both!

Q: Fees or commissions?

A: I think both have their place and it depends on the size of the client and the relative premium payable for the policy. Certainly commissions for the smaller SME end, but it should be decided on a case-by-case basis for the larger corporate clients.

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

A: Investigate companies who allegedly provide ‘non advised sales’, to make sure they fully comply with regulation.

Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?

A: It’s okay to say no!

Q: Newspaper or iPad?

A: iPad, you can scour all the news from all the papers in one easy hit.

Q: What is your favourite word, and why?

A: Trust, without trust what is there?

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

A: Nice wine, nice food (generally cooked by myself!) family, golf and some trashy TV.

Image © Getty

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