The second instalment from Peter Smits of Hertfordshire broker Ashbourne Insurance

The job of the broker, as I see it, is to provide clients with innovative solutions and a personal and professional service, by definition that means that for even the simplest of personal lines enquiries we conduct a risk analysis, (or as I like to put it “have a conversation”) in order to understand their demands & needs. We don’t do this because we think it clever or compliant, we do it because it helps build rapport and ultimately helps to secure the clients’ business.

We have always taken this approach, long before FSA compliance or even GISC, why? Because we had to! It was our way of communicating the difference between us and the competition and a means of demonstrating added value.

We have been searching markets, comparing prices and offering a range of solutions, long before “cyber-world” came to the fore, the difference is that you cannot replicate what we do via a web site.

I have no real issue with the aggregators or direct writers and like to think that we have a very different offering to their “stack it high, sell it cheap” mentality. There is no doubting that their activities have impacted on the numbers of enquiries we receive for “standard” personal lines products and you ignore the internet at your peril. The flip side however is that we have been forced to re-think our objectives, strategies and tactics and whilst by no means the finished article we are now confident in our own ability to forge our own future.

We have a web site and I like to think it reflects our personal and professional approach; we do not have full e-commerce and hope that the site will encourage the insurance buying public to talk to us. All optimisation is geared to our strengths and does not therefore pitch us in against the aggregators or direct writers.

Whilst I have to accept that we will never generate the volume that these “massed produced” markets do, I’d bet my last penny that we will always achieve a much higher renewal retention and client loyalty.

“I feel that the time is right for the broker to re-position itself in order that we can be a much stronger force when all the dust has settled and the current financial crises is over.

Our challenge is to find those clients and generate those enquires that will produce long term, mutually beneficial relationships. We need to focus on quantity, (are we doing enough activity?) direction, (are we doing it with the right people?) and quality (are we doing it with skill, knowledge and enthusiasm?).

I feel that the time is right for the broker to re-position itself in order that we can be a much stronger force when all the dust has settled and the current financial crises is over. For many of us it is simply not possible to throw vast sums at national TV advertising, the process of educating the insurance buying public is going to be a long and arduous one and not for the faint hearted.

The task is made easier by the large volume of policyholders who have in recent years purchased “virtual” insurance. Everyday we hear stories from people who, being price driven, bought on-line expecting the traditional broker service only to be sadly let down. Whilst currently only a small stream of enquiries and not a raging torrent, it is interesting to note that service and cover are now their priority, not the price.

I can’t afford to sit in my ivory tower under the misapprehension that my business is recession proof, but I also can’t allow myself to think that the current “crisis” will not come to an end. These are difficult times, the like of which we have never experienced before, all my thoughts and energies are geared toward coming out the other end in a stronger position.

It is therefore more important than ever that my business offers something that is new, better or different than that of the competition.

See his first blog: A happy New Year