Commercial Lines Broker of the Year

This category is designed to recognise the UK brokerage setting the standard for others to follow in the commercial lines market.

This is for commercial lines brokers that can show a positive innovation for their SME/Mid-market customers and/or business partners. Innovations that have improved staff welfare and performance will also have been considered. Judges were looking for entries that could show positive improvements in financial performance such as brokerage, profit/earnings.

All the finalists are listed below. Use the links to find out more from the entrants who have answered our series of Q&As.

GOLD: Darwin Clayton (UK)
SILVER: McCarron Coates
BRONZE: Erskine Murray
Ascend Broking Group
Brightside Insurance Services
Clear Insurance Management
Towergate Insurance Brokers


Brightside

What key achievement did your entry highlight?

Our true understanding of the niche sector of the industry, building an operation designed to truly understand the demands and needs of our partners and clients. We believe we offer a unique solution in an ever more saturated market and are incredibly proud of the business we've created.

Can you share data or testimonials to back up your bid to win?

Beyond core KPI's and income performance (both of which we can demonstrate positive performance) our customer experience is our true measure of success. In 2018 91% of customers rated us 'excellent' or 'great', providing feedback such as: "Professional, competent company who were a joy to speak and deal with. They have 100% your interests at heart and I will be recommending them in the future."

Paul Arnold, Brightside

What sets your firm apart from the other shortlisted contenders?

We are a volume centre that applies a risk value approach. Our commitment to sourcing appropriate cover for the wide variety of risks received, and our determination to ensure a positive customer experience and outcome is central to our beliefs and our goals.

How will you celebrate if you are the victor?

Our customer feedback is the true validation of our business, so our energies and drive will continue to be focused on continued excellence and the desire to help our customers. Winning the category, however, would provide fantastic affirmation for the talented and dedicated staff of Brightside Commercial and therefore we would celebrate collectively.


Clear Insurance Management

What key achievement did your entry highlight?

Completing on 25 successful acquisitions since Clear began in 2001, with more to follow. We now handle over £135m in premiums and have a staff headcount of 260. Meanwhile we continue to pursue suitable candidates for purchase. The company also continues to defy prevailing market conditions with sustained organic growth. Building on our proven track record of successful acquisitions remains central to CLEAR'S growth strategy. Completing a successful acquisition, however, isn't just about finding the best fit for our ambitions and securing that business. It's also about the sympathetic and effective onboarding of its incoming staff.

Howard Lickens, Clear Insurance Management

Can you share data or testimonials to back up your bid to win?

The business put in a strong performance against budget last year, outpacing expectations with income growth reaching 24% – up 8% against an income target of 16%. Profit growth also exceeded forecast, closing at 38% against a budget target of 31%. In addition, we achieved another strong annual renewal rate, reaching 93% overall by year-end. This stands as a testament to our staff's focus on providing first-class customer care and their commitment to the business. This commitment is reflected in the five-star reviews we frequently receive through Trustpilot, and why 98% of Trustpilot respondents describe our service as 'great' or 'excellent'.

What sets your firm apart from the other shortlisted contenders?

From our modest beginnings in a small office in south west London, CLEAR now operates from six regional branches, specialising in insurance for a wide range of businesses, large and small. We are a leading member of Brokerbility and hold Chartered Insurance Broker status. Our M&A strategy is designed to be different – we offer a long term succession plan to brokers who care about their clients and their staff. Making sure we ''do the right thing'' is about living our values and treating everyone with respect. That permeates how we deal with our staff and our insurers.

How will you celebrate if you are the victor?

Our success is built upon relationships, and focus on providing first-class customer care, the dedication of our staff, their engagement, job satisfaction and morale are the necessary ingredients to accelerate our plan for growth. If we are chosen to be an award winner, we will share our success with all our staff, no doubt this will involve a glass or two of bubbly – but at the awards ceremony we'll party long into the night.


BRONZE: Erskine Murray

What key achievement did your entry highlight?

Our story is one of the total business transformation to the benefit of our clients, staff and insurer partners. And we did this while retaining our independence, improving our profitability, growing, acquiring, launching a new risk management division and improving our professionalism through chartered status. These are just some of the milestones during what has been an amazing year for us.

Tom Bartleet, Erskine Murray

What sets your firm apart from the other shortlisted contenders?

Our commitment to our clients and colleagues while driving through transformational change. This period has seen us fully regionalise our business, gain chartered status, grow our top and bottom line and deliver a business fit for the future. As an independent broker we have repositioned ourselves in the UK market, but keeping our clients and colleagues at the heart of everything we do. We achieved all this without private equity backing.

How will you celebrate if you are the victor?

Our first thoughts (and thanks) will turn to our colleagues and clients for their unflinching support for our business.


SILVER: McCarron Coates

What key achievement did your entry highlight?

It highlighted the lengths we go to, to understand our 'end user' customers, by firstly commissioning our own consumer research, to assess public attitudes towards, and perception of, white van drivers. This is of huge importance to our client the FTA. We had to then find a way to engineer 'Wise Van Man' from 'White Van Man'. This same dedication to knowing customers inside-out was evidenced in our creation of coach driver avatars, which communicate the importance of speedy claims reporting and attitudinal obstacles to that. We are going above and beyond, to deliver exceptional value, through unique insights and unswerving customer commitment.

Can you share data or testimonials to back up your bid to win?

"What stands out is how proactive McCarron Coates are. With a £1m claim against us, they took control, instructing solicitors and interviewing drivers to build a case, which resulted in the claim being transferred back to the negligent party. I particularly like their deep understanding of our drivers' issues." Lee Johnson, Johnson Bros Tours.

Paul Coates and Ian McCarron, McCarron Coates

"McCarron Coates brokered us into a new market, completely changing our view of insurance. They provided a more comprehensive package than our previous provider, we feel much more protected, they are on-hand 24/7 and the after-care is fantastic too." Rebecca Hall, JM Hall Couriers.

What sets your firm apart from the other shortlisted contenders?

We believe we understand our clients' businesses, scenarios, on-the-road experiences and pitfalls much better than other brokers and that we tackle the problem, rather than just the symptoms of the claims disease that can spread through an organisation and cause so many issues. Rather than just providing telematics, or apps, or reviews, we look at the psyches of claimants, their behaviours and attitudes and then, above all, talk their language when addressing these. We also make observations visual and memorable – as evidenced in our dynamic claims' avatars and Wise Van Man cartoon.

How will you celebrate if you are the victor?

We will do something unique - creating life-size versions of some of our avatars and taking them out to bus and coach clients, where we know the lessons behind them would apply. We will take celebratory pictures in each scenario and post them on social media, to spread the claims messages that underpinned our award entry further. For every like/share, we will donate £1 to a children's cause this Christmas, to a maximum of £250.