The speakers at our Bath IT Pack talked teamwork and the importance of goals

Nigel Richardson, Jelf Lampier:

Jelf Lampier national sales director, property, Nigel Richardson gave the audience his take on the skills young brokers need to do well.

Richardson said technical knowledge was important, but that being honest and having integrity were the most important factors.

The highlight of his career was when he was part of the team that sold the Lampier Group to Jelf. Working with a consolidator was very different to being an independent broker, Richardson added.

“I like the corporate feel about Jelf. It’s absolutely fantastic,” he explained.

The most enjoyable part of being a broker is dealing with people, he said. “It’s very much a people business. I think it’s a fascinating subject.”

He said the least enjoyable parts of broking were losing business to a competitor that had used unfair techniques and watching a client fold due to economic pressure.

It was important for young brokers today to be able to cope well with change, he said. “I’ve seen massive changes. I can remember hand-writing cover notes. The market is changing, everything is changing. You just have to face it and get on with it.”

Richardson said he saw problems with the broker market consolidating. “It’s an ever-shrinking market in terms of the people working in it, and that’s a worry and a challenge for me.”

Paul Charlton, Aviva:

Teamwork and good relationships with underwriters are important areas for young brokers to develop, according to Aviva head of trading west and south Wales, Paul Charlton.

Being able to lead a team and work in a team was a learnable skill, he said. “It’s an area of business where you get little or no training, yet you’re always going to be faced with working in or leading a team.”

Investing plenty of time in understanding teamwork will pay dividends, Charlton said.

“Leading a team is a combination of skill, practice and delivery, starting from an understanding of what your own skills, strengths and weaknesses are,” he said.

It helps to take ideas from other people’s leadership techniques and then adapt it to your individual style, he added.

When deciding how to lead, it is important to adapt to the team of people you’re working with, he said.

Underwriters value brokers that could help them get a better understanding of the risk, Charlton explained. He gave the example of the various universities and rugby clubs in Bath, and said that the underwriter might not know the full extent of the risk without the brokers’ advice.

“It’s the real insight that the underwriter relies on the broker to provide,” he said. “It sounds simple, but getting there and getting it right takes a lot of hard work.”

John Nutter, Aviva:

Brokers should have a written plan to help them progress with their careers, according to Aviva senior sales development consultant (learning & development design and delivery) John Nutter.

This could take the form of a five-year plan and a personal development plan, he said. “We all have an idea of where we’d like to be, but generally we forget to think about how we’re going to get there.”

After hearing the attendees’ ideas on the skills, attitudes and knowledge needed to meet their goals, Nutter said the audience knew their own limits and had a good idea of what they needed to do.

But he stressed the importance of political agility. This is the ability to tailor how you behave according to the different people you work with.

He urged the audience to draw up their own development plans and to put a lot of work into the content. “Don’t just focus on the end goal. Think about how you’re going to get there as well.”

As brokers’ careers changed, their five-year plans should also change, he added. “People think they can only develop when they go on a workshop.

“That’s not the case. You’ve got to be developing, and thinking about developing, all through your career.”

Tasha Danvers, Olympic athlete:

The link between athletics and broking is the question of what it takes to be successful, according to Olympic athlete Tasha Danvers.

“Success is universal, and what it takes to be successful is universal,” she explained.

Danvers said that the difficult points in her life were also some of the most important, because they helped forge her personality. She listed her parents divorcing, moving to the USA and racism as some of the experiences that had shaped her.

Her athletic career was interrupted before the 2004 Olympics when she realised she was pregnant, she said. Following the pregnancy, she said her training for the 2008 Olympics was also interrupted by hamstring injuries and a divorce with her husband at the time.

Danvers said dedication was what got her through the tough points. “I persevered, and I never lost sight of my goal.”

As young brokers, the audience still had time to decide where their careers would go, she said.

She challenged the audience to decide what success meant for them, then find ways to get there. “Really define it; ignore what other people think is success,” she said.

It is important for people in any field to define their goals, she added. “You are human, and you will experience doubt.

“But if you have a strong goal of what you want to achieve, it is a lot harder to allow those doubts to really take hold.”

Keynotes

Trust brings sales

“I think to use social media effectively isn’t to go online and say: ‘buy this, buy that’. It’s not a sales platform, for me. You can use it to build up trust and, off the back of it, sales will come. You can ask an open, leading question, and use the responses to target sales.” Matthew Stringer, Bloomhill Insurance Solutions

You can’t ignore it

“Everyone of our generation uses Facebook, Myspace, Twitter. They can only really get bigger. As more people latch onto it, it’s inevitable that it’s going to explode. It’s a gradual process and where broking will go.” Harriet Ellis, Bluefin Insurance Services

Get in the customer’s head

“If you’re going to be recognised as a good broker by insurers, you really need to understand the customer. That’s really vital. You’ve got to understand the customer’s business requirements and needs.” Paul Charlton, Aviva