• Commercial Lines Broking Initiative of the Year - SME/Mid-Corporate
• Personal Lines Broking Initiative of the Year
• Insurance Broker of the Year - Regional
• Insurance Broker of the Year - Large Corporate, International & London Market
• Insurance Broker of the Year - UK
In this age of broking in which specialist knowledge and professionalism are held up as shields against the expansion of online trading, finding a niche and becoming the best at it is perhaps the holy grail for the smallest to the largest brokerage.
Success in this area depends on developing the personnel with the knowledge and expertise as well as the relationships to get there; in other words, the people. Not shying away from a challenge and understanding how to overcome it can differentiate the truly dedicated specialists from the rest.
Care homes are bywords for difficult risks; the growing private social care sector is haunted by tragic stories of abuse and negligence involving society’s most vulnerable people.
Intoxicated by allegations and actual cases of abuse in a few institutions, on the whole, the insurance industry has become reluctant to provide liability cover in areas of the care sector. Insurers and brokers, too, have been retreating from this market, preferring to leave it to a handful of experts as well as those perhaps considered foolhardy at best. Therefore, the availability of good insurance cover, particularly for children’s homes, is extremely limited.
As local authorities continue to outsource social care services, more start-up companies seeking specialist cover and advice have entered the space, and in particular, the areas of day centres and residential homes for vulnerable adults and children’s residential care homes.
For the winner of the Commercial Lines Broking Initiative of the Year – SME/
Mid-Corporate, Wilby, this changing landscape presented an opportunity. In the last few years it has successfully turned this tricky corner of the market into one of its flagship areas of expertise. By building up knowledge among its highly trained staff, providing customers with exceptional service and using technology to reach a hard-to-target market, Wilby has earned profitable growth year on year.
More than many sectors, the old adage that no two risks are the same is particularly true for care homes. Yet Wilby was able to demonstrate to care sector clients that it properly understands the sector and the risks associated with it.
This year presents a double win for Wilby, as the Yorkshire-based broker also scooped the award for Insurance Broker of the Year – Regional. Wilby’s consistently strong performance over several years was noted by the judges but its constant drive for improvement made it a worthy winner against considerable competition.
While achieving profitable growth in the last 12-month period, the firm has been investing in its personnel and compounding its commitment to greater professionalism within its ranks. The firm is confident it will achieve its target for gross written premium by September 2016 and has identified three key strategies to achieve its goal. These are to be different to the competition, to focus on specialisation and to be a people-led business.
It has gone to great lengths to improve professionalism and now offers full funding to all of its staff for both membership of the Chartered Insurance Institute and the training for them to achieve the required CII qualification.
The firm also became an accredited CII exam centre, making it easier staff to sit exams; it produced and delivered a programme of in-house tutorials and support three times a week for everyone pursuing a qualification. Nine out of 10 Wilby staff now hold at least Cert CII level qualification while many employees are pursuing more advanced qualifications.
The broker boosted its specialism credentials by continuing to invest in new and existing schemes business and it was rewarded with growth across the board. For example, the Bike Dealer and Park Protect schemes surpassed the milestones of 100 and 150 clients respectively, while its Care scheme has reached a milestone for GWP. The pipeline looks set to flourish as each individual account executive has been tasked with developing a niche area. It has also continued to generously donate to local charities and contributed £25,000 in its last full financial year. With revenue increasing 8% and GWP by 10% in the last full financial year, the broker has much to celebrate.
For classic car specialist Lancaster Insurance Services, winner of the Personal Lines Broking Initiative of the Year, the past 12 months have been about winning back the hearts and minds of customers and employees, who the firm admits were a little neglected in recent times. Under new management since being acquired by Markerstudy in November 2013, Lancaster set out to find out from the mouths of their partners including insurers and car clubs how it could build stronger relationships and turn around its fortunes.
So, having decided to take stock and look for ways to improve the business, the management discovered a lack of focus and a tendency towards missed opportunities.
The solution it decided to pursue was to understand the potential for growth within its classic car niche and push the boundaries of what that definition could mean in terms of new customers and opportunities without losing its specialist reputation.
Lancaster measured the success of its initiative in several ways. The switch from loss to profit within 12 months showed in black and white what a difference this sort of analysis had made to its performance. Modernising its approach to customer service was at the heart of its initiative. The broker has found success by operating tactically; accessing untapped sources, rejecting unprofitable business, maximising spend on targeted marketing and taking a new route to sustainable growth.
At the other end of the scale, this year’s worthy winner of Insurance Broker of the Year - Large Corporate, International & London Market was Howden Broking Group. This multiple award-winning group has rapidly grown into a serious contender on the world stage and – as a result of its acquisition of RK Harrison at the end of 2014 – can claim to have become the largest employee-owned insurance group.
In a year of great change at the Hyperion- owned broker, Howden continued its acquisition trail across Europe, Latin America and Asia, thus increasing ‘overseas’ earnings by 13% in its last financial year. Under CEO Adrian Colosso, the firm can be seen to have made considerable strategic, operational and financial progress.
Its three objectives were to leverage its pool of data to improve client service through optimal distribution; diversify its revenue base by introducing new specialist teams and products while maintaining is strong performances in existing specialisms; and find like-minded, skilled people to drive forward the firm’s much coveted entrepreneurial culture while protecting clients’ access to senior management.
To achieve these goals, it launched a new business intelligence and data warehouse system in order to use data to identify ways to best serve clients. Alongside this initiative Howden has strengthened strategic relationships with its insurers by appointing a specialist market relationships team to ensure efficient and effective delivery.
Second, it recruited several new teams and launched new product lines. In the UK it set up a specialist care division with a new team of specialists and in the rest of Europe it acquired Donoria in Poland and SSI in Germany. It also acquired Wacolda, Proseguros and NMB in Colombia and Harmonia in Brazil and made siginificant strides in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. A new dedicated political and credit risk, and intellectual property teams joined the international financial lines division to further cater for the increasingly complex needs of the investment community.
And finally, Howden has focused on consolidating the group’s operations to ensure long-term, sustainable profitability. Furthermore it has increased overseas operations earnings by 13%, increased group revenue by 14% and made advances across all continents in which it operates.
Despite stiff competition for the crown of Insurance Broker of the Year –
UK, Jelf Insurance Brokers was the firm that most impressed BIA judges through a combination of genuine commitment to training and professional standards as well as customer service.
In a year in which Jelf, previously an acquisition-hungry consolidator, made two significant acquisitions – The Insurance Partnership and Beaumonts Group – the Bristol-based firm also demonstrated significant organic growth and strengthened its focus on client service and professionalism.
At the start of 2011, and having previously enjoyed a successful decade of organic growth and acquisition, Jelf decided the time was right to properly integrate its UK broking operations and update the business in order to keep pace with a new and challenging regulatory and economic environment.
Checking under the carpet of the business, management found an inconsistent placement strategy, which it believed was potentially detrimental to its client offering and relationships with insurers, while adding unnecessary risk to the operation. And, critically, it realised there was a need to improve its margins and returns for its shareholders and investors.
Jelf set its broking business four goals: to deliver excellence in client service; to build on its professional competence, by earning chartered status and investing more in its client-facing staff; to achieve organic growth through improved business rates; and to achieve a sustainable 30% margin in its core commercial lines business.
By the end of 2014, this winning firm had met its strategic objectives. It retained a 3* exceptional service Investors in Customers award for service in 2013, 2014 and 215 and improved its overall score each year - outperforming its competitors, ensuring its client satisfaction and retention were strengthened.
Having attained chartered insurance broker status in 2011, a year later 132 employees held the Cert CII and through training, this number had increased to 279 by 2014. During the same period the number of Dip CII qualified staff increased by 10% and those achieving ACII increased by 30%.
The firm comfortably achieved its target to increase its margin to 30% as well as increasing revenue by 3% to 4% per year. In the words of the judging panel, Jelf has been “strong in every facet”, displaying “quality in all major aspects” of the business, making it this years broker champion.
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