The Leeds-based commercial broker tells Insurance Times about its ‘old-fashioned’ approach to broking and why service quality is paramount

Just over three years ago, Ian McCarron and Paul Coates left their previous director roles in order to set up shop together – the duo, who had worked together for 15 years at Gauntlet Group, launched commercial transport and haulage broker McCarron Coates in 2018.

For them, the new business was all about reintroducing broking’s personal touch, placing a heavy emphasis on delivering a high quality and value-added service with lots of customer interaction, rather than focusing solely on number crunching and minimum touchpoints.

Director and co-founder Coates describes this as “an old-fashioned approach”.

He continues: “We’ve seen in the market the consolidation of the big brokers and the swallowing up of the independents. We could see where that was going and [instead] we wanted to do the old-fashioned [approach], the service delivery and the service pledge to our clients.”

Fellow director and co-founder McCarron agrees. “Our competitors are just looking to streamline processes. What we combine [is] this whole service delivery piece around actually looking after the client and working with the client, the insurance company, the risk management partner and the technology partner,” he explains.

“Whilst we sit in a supplier agnostic position, we are well attuned to what our clients need to manage their risks, whether it’s a fleet of coaches that might need some driver training or they might need to move further upstream and do some profiling. It might be a tech solution; they’re not getting the claims reporting to us in time, so we need to get something that has FNOL reporting in the vehicles or we need to get some cameras or telematics.

“I think the one thing we’re very good at is seeing it through. A lot of our competitors, they’ll give the lip service at the set point of sale and then [clients] won’t hear from them again for 10 months until the renewal process starts again. Whereas we come away from that point of sale and we’ll already have booked in a schedule of meetings with the client for the year and it comes back to that point – if we don’t deliver that service, we’ve only got ourselves to blame if we lose the business.”

Looking to demonstrate “a real client focused model”, McCarron adds “we’re not interested in the profit now. We’re interested in building a business and building an asset”.

With this in mind, McCarron Coates is keen to step up and help clients with tasks outside of broking too.

McCarron explains: “We do have clients where we do things that other brokers probably wouldn’t do. We’ll write their processes internally for their insurance department and all of that.

“I think we’re pretty comfortable about how that allows us to grow the business. Because we’re still a relatively small team, if we want to go out and get a new client, we do but what we don’t really do is sit here hammering the phones to find new business. It works its way back to us.”

This approach is clearly paying dividends. Upon launching, the independent broker recorded a premium income of £3.5m, mainly from clients that followed McCarron and Coates to their new business venture. Now, however, the business boasts £12.5m in premium income.

Expansion plans

McCarron Coates has a lot on its agenda for 2021. Primarily, the business is looking to expand its wheels-centric portfolio to include a range of commercial covers – something the firm is already doing for its clients, however the business wants to further grow in this direction.

“People often just class us as wheels broker, but every wheels client that we’ve got will have 15 policies with us because they’ll have commercial combined, cyber, D&O, engineering, motor trade – they’ll have everything that goes there,” McCarron explains.

“One of the things we’re doing now is really looking at what the next stage of the growth will be because we can continue just bringing clients in, but actually it’s moving into these areas where we can create other opportunities by doing things our way. General commercial, not just specialist wheels, is a big opportunity for us.

“Our success and our story is wheels-based, but our vision is much wider and we’ve got a few things happening in the early part of [2021], which see our shackles come off and allow us to really start to develop the business and grow [it] further.”

This includes an increased focus on claims service; in December, the firm hired a claims manager and the broker also plans to launch a “claims app for our drivers or our commercial clients to report claims to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week”. Around six months in the making, the app will be available in early 2021.

McCarron Coates will also be expanding its scheme provision, building on its already successful Van Excellence product model, which is delivered in conjunction with transport association Logistics UK and insurer QBE.

Coates anticipates this work will come to fruition between March and May this year.

He says: “We’ve got other things that we’re working on which are in a similar vein.

”We’re working on quite a few other facilities with some other insurers on large scale opportunities in different markets. Some of it is wheels-based, some of it’s non-wheels-based. We think these could be very, very good for us as business and they could be great for clients.”

The pair also have plans for the final mile delivery sector, which includes products for couriers.

McCarron explains: “That has been something that’s stood us in good stead over lockdown because obviously we’ve seen a huge boom in online ordering and, as a result, our clients have grown significantly.

“What we’re in the process of doing is bringing innovative products to that sector which are not available at the moment. We’re quite excited about what that will look like – probably quarter one to quarter two next year, we’ll hopefully have that live and it potentially could change the environment, the way that that looks.

“What we’ve got here is the ability to change direction quite quickly and we’re quite nimble, so if we see an opportunity, we can go at it.”

Market specialists

Despite these growth ambitions, remaining specialised within the commercial insurance market is a priority for McCarron Coates, and the business has no intention of entering the personal lines market.

“Within our business, I think specialism is key. These niche areas that we’re working within and [the] development of products within those specialisms, I think we need to continue to add value,” McCarron says.

Coates adds: “There’s always going to be a place for brokers who have a specialism.

“There’s still going to be a need for brokers to provide their quality, commercial advice, but I think the world’s going to change in terms of the tech. I don’t see that necessarily taking away from the brokers. Tech giants will want brokers as the interface between clients.

“I think it’s quite exciting for us. We’re quite big on our tech and we’re working with some tech insurers on traditional models of business and I think the tech and [artificial intelligence] that can be produced from some of the things that insurers are working on is quite exciting.”

Award winning

McCarron Coates was recognised at 2019’s Insurance Times Awards, winning the Claims Broker of the Year accolade, as well as getting silver in the Commercial Broker of the Year category.


Speaking on this, McCarron says: “Our industry, it is very difficult to set yourself apart. We can only do that through our clients. I genuinely believe we are doing things differently. I think we’re a little bit more innovative. We look at things from a different way.”

Coates adds: “We’re passionate about it. When it’s yours, it’s slightly different to being somebody else’s. The proof’s in the pudding. We do what we say we’re going to do – we deliver a really good broking service, we deliver a really good claims service. I think that comes across. Our passion comes across.

“Our approach is just fresh and honest. It’s a client focused approach.”