The speakers at our IT Pack event revealed their secrets to achieving success

Chris Patterson, Bollington

Bollington head of commercial Chris Patterson switched from insurer to broker because he became frustrated with the bureaucracy and inability to make an impact as an individual.

He gave the example of losing a £15m deal during a tender process because the insurer he worked for lacked the IT and budget to secure the deal.

Bollington is more dynamic, he said, but added that greater accountability came with the ability to make a difference.

The 60% Groupama shareholding makes no difference to the way Bollington trades, Patterson said. “The relationship with Groupama is the same as it would be with any other insurance company.”

Bollington has shifted from using acquisitions as part of growth to a focus on niche markets and affinity organisations, Patterson noted.

The broker is open to future acquisitions, he said, but added that Bollington has none currently planned.

Bollington still has an entrepreneurial spirit despite the move away from acquisitions, he added, pointing out that the broker needs to remain innovative.

“The ideal person joining the organisation is somebody who has a sound technical knowledge, is sharp and intelligent, but has that drive, focus and enthusiasm.”

Alan Drury, Aviva

Brokers should keep track of changing underwriting appetite from insurers, Aviva head of trading for the North West, Nottingham and Northern Ireland Alan Drury said.

“Our appetite has changed out of all recognition in the last 18 months,” he explained. “Keep current, and keep talking to underwriters about what they are trying to do and achieve as a business.”

Brokers often underestimate their value to underwriters, he said, because insurers know that brokers’ involvement in claims and risk management will improve their overall risk profile.

The most important risk factor for corporate business is the quality of business management, Drury said.

A lack of professionalism from management is often linked to poor health and safety records and increases the underwriting risk, he said. “It can be the difference between us writing it or not.” Because of this, underwriters want to visit the client with the broker.

Underwriters look for long-term relationships with intermediaries and clients, Drury said.

Brokers could improve negotiations with insurers by fully comprehending their relationship, he added.

“Understand how important you are to that carrier, and how profitable you are. Know where the profit is driven from.”

Roger Black, Olympic athlete

The biggest difference between sport and business is that it is harder to have clear goals in business, according to British Olympic athlete Roger Black.

Athletes have more tangible goals to work towards, he explained, but in business it was often harder to set out clear objectives.

But he added: “As long as you know why you need to achieve something, you will.”

The biggest asset to any organisation is having like-minded people, the Olympic 400-metre silver medallist added.

A team with shared goals would achieve more than the same number of people working individually, he suggested, advising the audience to focus all their energy on areas they can influence, and to set targets in those areas.

Black said he set a goal to run his perfect race, and added that winning an Olympic 400-metre silver medal felt like winning a gold medal because he had hit that goal.

Talent was vital to succeed in anything, Black added, but pointed out that motivation was more important.

Steve Redgrave combined talent and motivation by winning five Olympic gold medals over 22 years, he said.

“Talent is the ticket to the party; it gives you a chance,” he said. “But at Olympic level, everyone has been given that chance.”

Leon Walker, JLT Specialty

In addition to insurance, a young broker should also stay informed about law and current affairs to give the best service to their clients, according to JLT Specialty associate Leon Walker.

“I have to be part lawyer, because I have to know the regulations, I have to know what affects my client, and what’s coming up that could be a train wreck for their business,” Walker explained.

“I watch an hour of Bloomberg a day. I need to know all sorts of things just so I can talk to them in their language.”

Brokers that can show a wider knowledge of their clients’ businesses will be the most valued, Walker added.

Young brokers also need to learn very quickly about specialist topics, he said. In his first week with JLT, Walker had to deal with a nuclear decommissioning case. “I didn’t know anything about nuclear decommissioning, but I did by the end of that week.”

This wider knowledge was crucial for brokers, he said, because they often failed to promote themselves as a profession. “That’s how you appeal to these people. That’s what they’re interested in.”

The IT Pack award could do wonders for any young broker’s career, Walker added. “This is people competing for what is, essentially, being recognised as one of the top young brokers in the country. That’s how big this is.”

Soundbites

Find your passion

“The question I would ask you is: what’s your passion? If you have a passion and desire to be the best you can be, it doesn’t matter how hard the bad times are. You will come through them.” Roger Black, Olympic athlete

Build your skills

“I think there should be more pressure on people to do the qualifications and show that we are as good as the other industries. I hope there will be the support. We’re going to lose a lot of technical knowledge, and it’s our responsibility to take that on – but there is not enough in place for that to happen as it stands. I think there will be a real skills shortage in 15 to 20 years.” Jemma Nicholson, Swinton Commercial

Make a difference

“In this industry, I’d like to see more people getting in quite early and being pushed more, getting more qualifications and changing the industry.” Matthew Gregory, C&C Insurance