The chief executive tells Insurance Times how focusing on employee engagement and supporting staff with technology is ’our whole shtick’

Commercial broker Konsileo was founded in 2015 with an intention to disrupt the insurance market through its proprietary tech stack, innovative organisational structure and collaborative workplace culture.

John Warburton, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, set up the business with an explicit philosophy of emphasising the human aspects of broking, but supporting this with technology.

“We have a business strategy which is an employer branding strategy and an employee-employer engagement strategy – the two are the same thing,” he tells Insurance Times. “That’s our whole shtick.”

The company now employs 60 staff across various UK locations and is looking to at least double that number over the next year. It currently places around £25m of gross written premium and has organically grown 100% year-on-year, each year, as at June 2022.

Warburton has 20 years’ experience within the insurance industry and has worked for major insurers across the world – including in China and the US. However, it was in Europe where the idea for Konsileo really took shape.

While working in Munich as a market manager for Allianz, Warburton noticed that small tied agents across Europe – insurance brokers that placed business with one insurer based within a local community and that often employed only one other member of staff – garnered a high degree of affection and trust from their local clients.

“The thing about them is that their customers really love them,” he explains. “They know everything about their customers, they’ve got this really deep advisory experience that they give to their customers.

“But they’re bloody expensive to maintain and very inefficient because the technology around them was poor.”

John Warburton Konsileo

John Warburton

Terminator or RoboCop?

Warburton says that while he was at Allianz, one of the strategic debates throughout the company – and at other large insurers – was around whether or not the small tied agent model should be discontinued in favour of sending clients online.

He brands this line of thinking the “Terminator model” – referring to the classic 80s sci-fi film where an advanced hostile software system takes over the world and attempts to eliminate humans entirely.

“That line of thinking is about getting rid of people,” he explains. “Whereas what we’re trying to do is create the RoboCop model.”

RoboCop – another classic 80s sci-fi film – sees a human achieve superhuman feats while augmented by technology.

Warburton says: “What we do is wrap technology around the person so that the advisor experience is still there. That’s how you enhance the experience for the customer, but retain this really engaged, emotional advisory relationship that [staff have] nurtured, because that’s really valuable.

“We are making a big bet that people remain relevant to clients for the medium to long term. We’re betting on the future of the insurance broking profession, rather than the insurance broking industry.”

Commercial insurance broking is a “craft” that one learns similar to any other, notes Warburton.

“I have a deep respect for underwriting and broking,” he continues. “How it manifests itself as being able to translate all this complexity into an insurable story.”

Employee engagement

As an employer, Konsileo eschews a traditional top-down management structure in favour of empowering its brokers to utilise their expertise via fluid, collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Konsileo’s internal structure, therefore, is designed to emphasise its employees’ knowledge. Warburton explains: “That’s pretty much the story - we’re blending this European tied agent style advice with insight that the [broker] consolidation model is leaving behind.”

Drawing on his “Bible” – a book called Reinventing organizations by Frederic Laloux – Warburton designed Konsileo’s organisational structure to focus on three key tenets - a self-management structure, asking employees to bring their whole selves to work and focusing on organic growth.

Freeing staff from a “corporate culture” of demands and providing them with responsibility to manage their own working hours and relationships creates more engaged employees, adds Warburton.

“A more engaged person with better tools is going to be a better broker. That’s our baseline assumption.”

Konsileo also employs a system which Warburton refers to as virtual team contracting - this is where any broker at Konsileo can team up with any other broker at the company and work together on a client case.

“What this means is we’ve got this really flexible workforce [which] can bring expertise to bear on any client,” Warburton explains.