The FCA’s new regulations on ARs will provide a boost to AR networks, says managing director 

Appointed representatives (ARs) were thrust into the regulatory limelight early in August (3 August 2022) as the FCA confirmed new rules aimed at tackling a growing complaint crisis.

The regulator hopes the implementation of new rules regulating the conduct of ARs will prevent them from mis-selling and misleading consumers, as well as ward off misconduct to ensure the market operates fairly and safely. It is also working with His Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to determine whether future legislative change is required.

According to analysis conducted by the FCA in August 2022 – as highlighted in its Improvements to the Appointed Representatives regime Policy Statement PS22/11 – principals and ARs accounted for 61% of the value of claims referred to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) between 2018 and H1 2019, which equated to a total cost of £1.1bn.

On average, ARs and principals also cause up to 400% more supervisory cases and complaints than non-principals, according to the FCA’s analysis.

ARs are not authorised by the FCA. Instead, the individual or firm can offer certain financial services or products under the responsibility of regulated firms – also know as principals.

The FCA’s new rules primarily lay out requirements that make principals more responsible for the conduct of their ARs via enhanced oversight and annual reports to the regulator.

Movo Partnership managing director Lea Cheesbrough is not shying away from the challenge of the new regulatory environment, however.

In fact, she believes the new status quo may help her take Movo Group’s AR network for startup and established insurance brokers to the next level.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Cheesbrough expressed delight that ARs were now on the regulator’s radar. 

She explains: “With the FCA tick box to say that ’yes, we put the protocols and processes in place that are to be followed’, that gives insurers the support that [this model] is now validated.

“Maybe the word appointed representative won’t be such a dirty word anymore because, unfortunately, it has become quite tarnished over the years.”

Getting to know Cheesbrough

Prior to becoming a broker for EDN Insurance in 2005, Cheesbrough went to medical school, which she joked was “quite scary for some, because I could have been a GP”.

Before delving into a career in insurance, she also worked the “glamorous” job of being a fragrance director for Boots.

After ending up “on her own with two very small children”, her “love affair” for the insurance industry began when she started working as a broker for a firm just across the road from her home. In this role, she discovered it was her “destiny” to enter a sector entailing “lots of grey suits” to “really rip it up”.

She continues: “After 10 weeks of pushing bits of paper around, reading policy wordings and the statutes involved, it triggered that passion I’d always had for contract law.

”I’ve always been very sales-y as well, [so] I was putting two things I loved together and knew that, [while fighting hard to succeed], I was going to make a real impact in the industry.”

One of her positions in the industry involved working as an insurance director at multimodal logistics firm Stobart Group between 2012 and 2014. In this role, Cheesbrough set up the group’s broking arm – Stobart Insurance Services, which launched in August 2012.

Supporting brokers’ independence

While talking about her latest endeavour – Movo Partnership – Cheesbrough’s passion for insurance was clear to see.

She launched the AR network independently on 26 September 2019 after receiving the go-ahead from Movo Insurance Brokers founder Golan Lambranzi, who she met “completely by chance”.

The purpose of the network is to “stop people feeling the pain that [Lambranzi] had gone through of trying to set up a directly authorised entity”, by providing brokers with support, accountability and the opportunity to become ARs.

Cheesbrough believes this is important because it ensures that independent brokers are secured with a “long-term to run” in a “world of shrinkage and acquisition”.

Fast forward three years and her first member of staff, Jordan De Saa, now serves as the network’s broking and insurance relationship manager.

The Movo Partnership team now comprises 39 staff, which is soon to be bumped up to 40. Alongside this, 60 brokers have signed up to the network.

“We will be [at] 65 by the end of the year and we’ve already got five signed for [2023],” says Cheesbrough, adding that one of the upcoming deals will take the form of an acquisition.

The upcoming acquisition follows the network acquiring a 50% stake in its first insurtech – Durrell – in July 2022, with the aim of improving technology and additional capabilities for its brokers.

Each broker can join the network for a flat fee of up to £36,000 - dependent on the firm’s gross written premiums (GWP) and revenue - instead of being charged commission. The firm is then set up on a sub-addendum and trades directly with insurer partners.

Around 50% of the network’s brokers are startups and are either self-funded or funded by Movo.

The network re-invests all profits into supporting new startups, as well as boosting other areas that it hopes will further enhance the proposition.

Part of Cheesbrough’s job involves holding brokers’ “feet to the fire” by managing the likes of organic growth consultancies, as well as directing firms towards “quick wins”.

She hopes this will “allow them to look at their business in a slightly different way”, as well as “increase their bottom line” and add additional services that will push brokers through the “glass ceiling”.

In terms of her own success, she says: “I am very proud to be a woman in business, but I am not here because someone needs to tick a box and put a woman at the top of this business. I’m here because I’m good at what I do and I’ve fought hard to get here.”