As the merry-go-round of mergers continues, Roger Williams asks brokers to remember that sometimes small is beautiful....
Do you remember the film Little Shop of Horrors? Rick Moranis is an ordinary chap who buys a small plant and tries to make it grow. He's not succeeding and the plant is dying when he accidentally cuts his finger and a drop of blood falls into the flower.
Miraculously this revives the wilting plant. A few more drops of blood and it begins to thrive. Very quickly it is being fed on larger and larger amounts of blood and red meat, and grows into an enormous plant. Eventually it develops such an appetite that it needs to have a human sacrifice in order to survive and turns on Moranis himself. Fortunately he manages to destroy the plant before it can destroy him so there is a happy ending.
With this analogy I simply want to show that insurance brokers need to be careful how much they feed the same insurance suppliers. International and global companies are not always the best: sometimes small is beautiful. I wonder if the world has gone crazy. Greater turnover, greater profit – that is what we are all looking for.
However, why does this growth always need to be meteoric? The idea of gradual year-on-year increases seems not to be enough for boards of directors and shareholders. 'More' is the watchword. And the result is the ongoing frenzy to build business more and more quickly, to cut costs, to cut people, to generate profits, to be a star. Then begin it all over again, but do it more quickly this time because somebody is watching and wants a greater return on their investment.
Once again, in recent days in the insurance industry, we have heard another announcement about a merger. And I'm certain that this is by no means the last one we will see.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this is the broker, the intermediary. I suspect that he or she wants to deliver a choice to his or her customers but feels this is increasingly disappearing.
Well actually, this is where they are wrong. There are plenty of insurance companies around who can deliver service and products. I work for one such company: Congregational & General Insurance is, we believe, small but beautiful.
As a general insurer we write home and commercial property-based business, and we insist on excellent service because we simply accept that customers are important, and service is a given.
Products are competitive in terms of cover and service, and what's more we don't place onerous demands on brokers for new business.
Of course, in life everything is relative, so if you, as a broker, are struggling to give yet another million pounds worth of GWP to one of these large insurers just remember that there are others.
In these days when we are all rushing around trying to do everything and doing it now, it's very easy to forget the principles that we have come across and lived by in the past. Once upon a time the customer was king. I suspect this isn't quite the case any more, but do remember that, as the broker, the customer of the insurance company, you should be.
- Roger Williams is marketing manager of Congregational & General Insurance