The success of any business relies heavily on the quality of its staff and, as the industry becomes increasingly competitive and customers more demanding, this is more relevant for brokers and insu …

The success of any business relies heavily on the quality of its staff and, as the industry becomes increasingly competitive and customers more demanding, this is more relevant for brokers and insurers than ever before. Highway runs an extensive support programme for its brokers – from working with them on an individual basis to running group training programmes. We have just announced that for one employee from each of our 80 broker club members, we will meet the cost of the course and examination fees for the Chartered Insurance Institute's (CII) Insurance Foundation Certificate (IFC) or other relevant qualification. The CII certificate provides an excellent and wide-ranging introduction into insurance matters, including areas as diverse as legal, customer care and IT. If this initiative leads to demand for further qualifications, we will consider sponsoring broker staff for more advanced qualifications, such as the Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII) examinations.

This is an example of where we are really trying to help our brokers expand their businesses. As we generate all of our work through brokers this will, we hope, impact favourably on our growth. Contrary to the views of some people in our industry, we believe that brokers have a bright future and for this reason we are comfortable in the knowledge that our future success depends upon theirs.

Limited support for brokers

However, it is clear to us that those insurers that truly support the broker channel are becoming fewer in number. As insurers look to cut costs, they increasingly deal direct with the customer, cutting out the broker. In many cases this means that the level of service provided, such as impartially ensuring customers have the right type and level of cover, falls. No doubt many of our competitors who have a direct arm, but who also deal with brokers, would disagree with this view. However, brokers should ask the question: what are the insurers they work with really doing to help them grow their businesses? They need much more than corporate hospitality, golf balls and other gifts.

All insurers offer financial incentives to place business with them but how many, for example, hold regular forums with brokers to openly discuss ways to improve their working relationship, or negotiate discounts with suppliers on their behalf?

Our training sponsorship scheme has proved very popular with our broker club members, and we are now sponsoring 15 of their staff for professional qualifications. We will take a keen interest in their development and will make an effort to meet the majority of them in person. In addition, we have assigned a Highway CII qualified employee who will mentor them and be available to answer questions.

Training really can have a tremendous impact on the efficiency and growth of a business. At Highway, we have always seen this as a priority and the benefits have far outweighed the cost.

It pays off

We believe that our staff training programme is one of the best in the industry and it was a key factor in helping us to win our Investors in People award. In terms of our operation, it was a key factor in ensuring that in 2000, we had error rates of under 5% in all eight of our branches and the number of complaints fell for the second consecutive year. The benefits of staff motivation and reduced employee sickness absence should also not be overlooked; nor the fact that with quality staff becoming harder to find, a strong training programme can have a positive impact on recruitment.

As a supporter of brokers we are proud to be helping brokers train their staff, not only by using our own in-house training facilities but also with the sponsorship of external qualifications. It is in our and our suppliers' best interests and we hope other insurers will do likewise.

As we look to provide further help in this area to our brokers, we hope that they will soon see the benefits we have enjoyed from a motivated and well trained workforce.