Brokers from around the Midlands gathered in Birmingham at the Insurance Times Midlands broker event.

Brokers from around the Midlands gathered in Birmingham to put the world of insurance to rights at the Insurance Times Midlands broker event.

The main theme centred on the soft market and brokers blamed this on insurers. They said that until underwriters felt the pain, rates would remain the same.

Another issue which inspired debate among the Midlands businessmen was the mandatory commission disclosure. Some believed this to be the grim-reaper of the independent broker.

They argued that the fear of compulsory disclosure was the reason many brokers had turned to consolidation, and the only beneficiaries were the likes of Towergate.

And this, they said,was because small brokers had become the victims of the “compliance overkill” due to increased costs associated with adhering to the regulations.

On a lighter note the winner of the Insurance Times Top 20 Midlands Broker awards said its achievements would give a boost to all staff at its companies.

Tim Andrews, managing director of Clarke Roxburgh – the company which won Largest Independent Midlands Broker award – told Insurance Times that he would let all his 200 hard-working staff know about the award.

He said: “This will help our business. For a broker out in the sticks it will give a lot of credit.”

“For a broker out in the sticks this award will give a lot of credit

Tim Andrews, Clarke Roxburgh

Andrews said the broker’s aim going was to grow even further. “By 2010 we want to be 50% bigger than we are now. We want to control roughly £75m GWP,” he added.

Andrews said Clarke Roxburgh would do this through organic growth and explore new areas. Going against the grain, the broker embraced mandatory commission disclosure.

“We embrace the FSA. It’s the best way of treating customers fairly. If you embrace it, it can help you grow,” he added.

Meanwhile, the winner of the Most Efficient Independent Midlands Broker award, MC Edwards (MCE) was adamant that talented employees was how it had made its business efficient.

The specialist personal lines broker dismissed the view that brokers could only make money in commercial lines.

Michael Edwards said: “We are going from strength to strength. You don’t need to consolidate to grow or improve efficiencies. We are growing totally organically.”

Edwards and his son Julian, who is a director of the company, revealed that the secret of his business strategy was investing in marketing, technology and product placement.

He added: “There’s definitely nothing stopping personal lines brokers from progressing and remaining independent.” He explained that MCE worked closely with its IT supplier Open GI and that they have forged “very strong” relationships with their partner insurers. And MCE writes schemes using technology.

“We are growing totally organically

Michael Edwards, MCE

Edwards berates the personal lines brokers which had fallen by the wayside since direct writers flooded the market. “They did not have a clear vision. They did not invest. They did not understand marketing and they will not invest in technology.”

MCE currently writes £30m GWP and by 2009 it hopes to grow to £45m.

The award for the fastest growing independent Midlands broker went to James Hampden Insurance Brokers.

Martin Cantor, finance director of the broker, said the reason for the business expansion was the take-over of Nottingham-based Dragoon Insurance Services last year.

In addition it acquired a significant portfolio of business in Australia, where the broker has a binding agreement with Lloyd’s.

Cantor revealed that the company would continue growing through acquisitions which would probably be general brokers dealing in SME business, commercial property, directors’ and officers’ and professional indemnity.

“As well as controlling costs very carefully,” Cantor added. Cantor said the award would be a great reward for James Hampden staff. “It’s very pleasing and it will make our name known a little bit better,” he said.

Midlands winners:

Largest Broker:

Clarke Roxburgh Insurance Brokers

Fastest Growing Broker:

MCE (Insurance Brokers)

Most Efficient Broker:

James Hampden Insurance Brokers