Willis Towers Watson Networks' Sara Fardon on protecting the value of brokers' local expertise

protecting-smes

  • Regional brokers are an essential part of the insurance industry
  • Mergers and acquisitions, changing regulations and new technologies make for a challenging environment
  • As brokers are increasingly providing advisory services, networks can support them in this new role

Independent brokers face ever-evolving challenges, which networks can help them take up, argues Sara Fardon, managing director of Willis Towers Watson Networks.

As risk continues to evolve, so the role of the broker is also evolving. We have heard much about the demise of the regional broker either through marketplace consolidations or due to a challenging regulatory environment. However, I firmly believe today’s regional broker is an essential component part of the insurance industry.

The advent of new technology, data-based decision-making, increasing use of analytics and the new and emerging risks such as cyber that are related to these, are all of increasing concern to clients. And the additional burden of regulatory rules creates yet more challenge. The introduction for brokers of the Senior Managers Regime expected early next year is a prime example of understanding the regulatory requirements of a senior management function.

All of these changes create an additional burden on the local broker and their clients. Navigating through this new world can be cumbersome on the small business leader and yet regional brokers and their clients form the backbone of the UK economy. Small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2017.

Given all these challenges, you could argue it is surprising that regional brokers still exist. But they are an essential tool to help local businesses to grow and expand their network while being part of a wider community.

The role of the independent UK broker is changing rapidly. Increasingly, brokers are moving into being risk consultants and management specialists – often advising on everything from products, to emerging risks in a consultative and advisory manner. This is where a network can add value in helping UK brokers develop.

Networks act as extensions of the independent brokers’ own team, offering support wherever the broker feels they may need it at a particular time. This could be in areas ranging from comprehensive market access (including London market and overseas) and very strong marketing support, through to business growth and development engagement, and access to experts in specialist areas to help with placement and programme design. One hidden benefit of networks is the ability to bring independent brokers together (creating a business family) to network and trade with likeminded people, providing members with a proposition that reflects the very individual and independent needs of each of them.

Willis Towers Watson Networks was the first network to be awarded Chartered Status. As one of the longest serving networks in the industry, now approaching our 20th anniversary, we believe in equipping our network members with tools to take advantage of the future opportunities that will arise in the brave new world we are all entering.

At a time when risks are constantly evolving, so both client needs and broker requirements are changing. Working alongside network members to navigate through these changes is critical to the ongoing development of the insurance industry and engagement with the UK SME sector.

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