The Airmic conference was in Manchester this year. Bluefin's chief exec went along for the ride
When we bought SBJ a couple of years ago, many considered it surprising as it was known as a ‘corporate broker’. The feeling was that Bluefin, being predominantly an SME broker, had no right to enter the London market; indeed other consolidators had steered clear.
I heard many times: “There are different rules, different relationships, different disciplines.” Well, some years on, Bluefin has its own thriving Lloyd’s broker and, while corporate business per se remains competitive, our ambition in the London market remains. For a business of our type and size, this is a rarity, but the opportunities, I believe, are evident.
It was with this in mind that we took a stand in Manchester at the Airmic conference last week. In reflection of our status, we were not the biggest exhibitor but our stand and attendees were professional. Taking our first few steps, we were flattered by the attention we received and felt vindicated by our view that a new player, and one who intends to stay the course, would be welcomed by both insurers and clients alike.
It was surprising how many new players attended the conference – albeit the new entrants were mostly insurers – and how the ‘big three’ international brokers still dominate proceedings at the top end.
It was also evident that some of the national players, despite spending very obvious money on hospitality, accommodation, stand, free gifts and the like, seemed to offer nothing new. This was not necessarily our opinion but more what we heard from others, and this for us is the key.
With the small end of business becoming ever-more competitive, that old bastion of corporate business at the opposite end needs challenge, needs change and demands something new. This to me represents part of the future of our industry and one we as brokers should not be fearful of entering.
Many in this market, however, frown upon new entrants, like a club with a new member. What these national players have forgotten, along with the desperate desire for new clients, the exaggerated pay for staff, and the desperate desire to win whatever the cost, is that fundamentally writing this business has to make good commercial sense.
Look at the accounts of many of these national players, and their returns are poor and going in the wrong direction – they offer nothing new, they scorn competition and live on wins from years ago.
And that is the opportunity – aim at a sensible level, give the service and product the clients want, give them something new and this market, for so long feared by most, opens up.
The opportunities for brokers to move into this field have never been so obvious – go and grab the opportunity, we certainly will be and look forward to next year at Airmic in Bournemouth. IT
Stuart Reid is chief executive of Bluefin.