Insurance Times, together with sponsors QBE Insurance and Close Premium Finance, brought together the broking elite to determine the best brokers in the South West, based on analysis by Grant Thornton

All aboard in their support of the FSA

The South West may be happy with FSA authorisation but commission disclosure is the talk of the night

Brokers convened at the Glass Boat in Bristol's historic docks from as far afield as Plymouth and Cheltenham for Insurance Times' penultimate Regional Broker Award ceremony.

The South West is growing in stature as a financial centre and this was reflected in the quality of the Top 20 list.

Grant Thornton's Stuart Howard highlighted some interesting responses to the regional survey.

None of the respondents believed that customers are shopping around more than they did before the FSA became regulator at the start of last year. Perhaps this should be interpreted as a solid endorsement of the quality service given by brokers in the region.

As our regional broker events draw to a close, it is increasingly clear that brokers are coming to terms with regulation. South West brokers were generally very happy with FSA regulation and 75% of respondents even claimed that the new regime had brought manifest benefits.

Commission disclosure was a hot topic of discussion on the evening, with one broker bemoaning the shift from commission to fees as not in the interests of brokers or their clients.

But brokers from south-western shires were less happy with the support offered by product providers. Only 25% of respondents indicated they were happy with the support, while more than a third characterised it as poor.

The overwhelming concerns from brokers on the floor - or the deck of the ship - were margins being squeezed and the increasing difficulty of turning a profit as the market share of the bigger brokers inexorably creeps up.

The Largest Independent Broker in the South West award was won by Endsleigh Insurance. '

' Endsleigh's technical manager, Judy Falding, commented: "We are both delighted and appreciative to win this prestigious award. Endsleigh's continued growth can be largely attributed to our commitment to a fully integrated multi-channel approach.

"The option of branches, call centres and the internet offer what our customers tell us they want - choice and convenience. However, we equally understand that price is a critical factor in securing business and in addition to bringing new insurers onto our panels we continue to address our cost base in order to remain highly competitive."

The Fastest Growing Independent Broker in the South West award was awarded to the Jelf Group.

Chris Jelf, the broker's founder and chairman, collected the award and commented:

"The regional prospective of this award is important to all of us at the Jelf Group because we do see ourselves as a broker with strong links in this area.

"What is pleasing about this award is that we have achieved the growth rate in this year from a combination of both organic and acquisition growth. We have also balanced this with delivering profit for our shareholders. None of this would have been possible without the dedication and efforts of the employees of the Jelf Group. I would like to put on record our thanks for all their support and efforts."

The Lampier Group picked up the Most Efficient Independent Broker in the South West.Bob Hearne, Lampier's managing director, said: "Good business practice, but above all the hard work, effort and dedication of all our staff, have won Lampier this award."

What the brokers said

Q What, if any, extra support would you like to have received from product providers?

  • Flexibility and quick turn-around times
  • Would have been nice to receive TOBA's on time and subsidised training from key insurers. Hardly any commercial insurers offer key fact type documents
  • Quite happy with the support
  • We are not sure what more they could have done in this respect
  • Providers sending docs on time and addressing issues
  • Better and clearer communication
  • Q What key issues does your firm currently face with regard to FSA requirements, eg client money?

  • No major issues, just continued compliance with all relevant issues
  • None - we have recently completed a themed visit from the FSA on CMR and were complimented on our systems and understanding of the regulations
  • Just time taken
  • Increased call duration with distance selling
  • All aspects of FSA regulation! We are seeking to embrace the FSA's changes to the benefit of our brokerage
  • Introducing the treating customers fairly (TCF) strategy
  • Contract certainty
  • Q Did the firm find the process of applying for FSA authorisation straightforward?

  • Yes, the process was straightforward
  • Forms seemed quite straightforward although they were repetitive. Compliance solutions assisted us and continue to do so
  • Time extensive but appropriate
  • We were helped by a compliance consultant
  • The forms were not straightforward.
  • Too much gobbledy-gook and kept changing - the FSA themselves did not know the rules

  • Unnecessarily complicated process - added to which the FSA were themselves unprepared
  • Q What activity have you undertaken in relation to treating customers fairly (TCF) requirements?

  • Alignment of the entire business process - right from our mission and values to the delivery and implementation is about "never losing a customer" and hence treating them fairly is an inherent part of our business process
  • Re-evaluation of our procedures and production of TCF guidance notes in association with conflicts of interest policy
  • Substantial amount of activity of varying degrees
  • We have evaluated what TCF means to our business and clients. I have created a code of practice and monitoring regime
  • We have carried out a GAP analysis and risk assessment
  • Ensure I read all relevant info available on FSA website and follow their suggestions
  • Review of operational processes and changes as appropriate
  • TOBA and other documents issued are all compliant with FSA
  • Staff workshops to develop a culture fundamental to transacting business