Chief executive Gary Duggan said network has ‘biggest investment in a long time’

Gary Duggan

Broker Network chief executive Gary Duggan has said the network will launch 25 new products in the next five months as part of “the biggest investment the network has seen in a long time”.

The Towergate-owned network will also make the Towergate Underwriting managing general agent (MGA) more accessible to members, and is launching an e-academy.

New structure

Broker Network unveiled its streamlined membership options last week. They now comprise Premier, Advantage and Countrywide.

Duggan, who joined in February, said the previous seven tiers of membership looked “overly complex” to potential members and insurers.

Premier is pitched as a “virtual head office” with central support on compliance, HR and handling client money, as well as exclusive products and enhanced commissions. Advantage is a “mid-tier” offer with slim-lined advice on compliance, while Countrywide is only available to Open GI users, charges a nominal membership fee, and offers members exclusive Countrywide products and enhanced commissions but no compliance support.

There are more than 600 members across the three levels of membership and Broker Network does not disclose how many members are in each tier.

Underwriting access

The network is also hiring seven new business development managers. The enlarged team of 20 would let the network develop a “forensic” understanding of members’ businesses and long-term goals, said sales and marketing director Richard Pitt, and direct them to relevant services in the network.

Broker Network also hired a regional development underwriter in Scotland last month and is recruiting two more in a bid to make Towergate’s underwriting arm more accessible to network members.

“If there’s a swell or demand for a specific product or market, we have the opportunity to create something like that for the members,” Duggan said.

Direct contact

And Duggan is setting up a chief executive membership office to make it easier for members to contact him directly. “I want to understand what they’re happy and not happy with, completely outside of any other function,” he told Insurance Times.

“For example, if somebody’s unhappy with marketing and they complain to the marketing director, there’s a conflict.

“The members will have a helpline number to ring up to say ‘I need to speak to Gary about this’ so I can get the direct feedback and respond in the moment rather than three months later.”

E-academy launch

In January Duggan will launch Broker Network e-academy with more than 100 online courses spanning technical training and soft skills, developed with the Chartered Insurance Institute.

“This is the start of what we’re going to do. We’re going to continue to invest in this. We’ll trial a load of stuff. Some of it will work, some of it won’t, but let’s learn from that and enhance the proposition to being even more compelling,” said Pitt.

Towergate’s network division’s operating earnings fell 42% to £3.1m in the six months to June (H1 2012: £5.3m), while its income fell 27% to £6.4m (H1 2012: £8.8m) after Aviva pulled out of the network.

Duggan said RSA and Allianz had renewed their contract this year.

“Members have told us they’ve moved business from Aviva because they’ve seen a better proposition somewhere else,” Duggan said.

“The other insurers clearly want to work with us as a network and their accounts have grown”.