Edwards discusses his plans for the business, and the fun to be had with marketing

IT: Has the turmoil in private motor market been reflected in motorcycle market?

JE: To our panel of motorcycle insurers, clearly their big exposure is to motor. So at a really high level, they are looking at motor as a product and then down from there is where they split it between cars, vans and motorcycles. So naturally, if the insurer isn’t having a good time overall that is adding pressure to them to increase the results on the motorcycle book. Therefore, of course it’s having a knock-on effect for us and this is where we have really taken time to understand the importance of validation. This includes collecting 100% no-claims bonus proofs; collecting 100% copies of driving licences; and speaking to all policyholders whether they call you or they buy through price comparison sites. This is really where we feel brokers are falling into two camps. There’s no doubt about it, where we have achieved this, it can make a difference of up to 12% on the underwriting result.

IT: Is the reduction in motor capacity being felt in niche markets?

JE: On motorcycle, it’s had a limited impact but on the motor side, just the rate increases that are still going though month on month are still making the difference. On the motorcycle side, it has been more limited, but it always would be on any niche personal lines. Our books of business with insurers are in good shape. We are putting it down to the validation we are doing, which makes transacting the business more expensive, but we are here for the long term. Brokers need to get back to doing exactly that, being good brokers, as opposed to retailers of insurance.

IT: How successful has MCE’s marketing been and what else do you have up your sleeve?

JE: We are title sponsor of the British Superbikes and we signed a three-and-a-half year deal for that, which we’re 12 months into and that’s been hugely successful for us. The element that has struck a chord with bikers the most has been our Club MCE. So instead of us just becoming the title sponsor, what we really took the time to do was understand how to improve their experience at the events. At Silverstone at the British Superbike round two weeks ago, on race day we invited our club members to ride the track on their own bikes. Our guys, led by Big Ed [MCE’s marketing character], were able to complete five laps. We’ve really taken the opportunity to come up with nine completely unique features and benefits, which have just got better every round this year and we’ve got so much more of that, which we want to roll out for 2011 and 2012. We’re in a niche market place and you can’t just place an advert to do well in your niche, you’ve go to embed yourself in it. Genuinely from that our volume of recommendations has gone up threefold. The early sign is that it is really going to improve our renewal retention rate.

IT: MCE seems keen to hit the acquisition trail – but how would you react to becoming a target?

JE: We have the calls periodically but we are genuinely out of the closet on this one; we are not for sale. Not in the short, medium or long term. There is no exit strategy for anyone involved and there is no motivation from anyone involved to want to exit. We feel we’ve got a very long and bright future. It’s a really exciting place to be and it’s actually what we want to do. We’re very innovative and we like to come up with new products, ideas and ways of transacting business. In terms of traditional entrepreneurial businesses set up to sell, that’s never been our strategy and that’s not changing. So we are here for the long term.

IT: It’s common for second-generation family business owners to implement change – is change on the horizon?

JE: Naturally there are going to be changes. I’ve been a director at MCE for five years, I’ve worked closely with our commercial team and people were put into key positions looking at this change occurring. Of course, working closely with my father for the last 10, 15 years or so, we’ve had a fantastic working relationship, but we have got different styles, we have got different ideologies and we are not the same person. So, yes, of course there are going to be changes to MCE, there is going to be developments. We’re very joined up on the strategic vision, which is still very plain and simple: our absolute purpose is to be the number one provider of motorcycle insurance by delivering the best customer experience at every opportunity.