MD of Ten Insurance, Kedric Rhodes, talks to Chris Wheal
Kedric Rhodes is managing director of Ten Insurance Services, of Aylesbury, Berkshire. Ten provides full broker back-office functions to allow new entrants into the broking market. The company has agencies with a wide range of insurers, so as not to restrict brokers to a small panel. It provides IT, accounting and broking services. The company started trading in 2005 and claims to have helped over 30 new brokers start their own businesses.
How did you make it to where you are today?
I started work in 1961 in the insurance department of Taylor Woodrow, dealing with construction employers’ insurance. I moved through a couple of other big construction firms before setting up my own broker, Sceptre Insurance, in west London in 1971. We expanded and had offices in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. We eventually sold it in 1999 to what became Country Mutual. Some pretty naff investments in shares and in Spain forced me back to work. I also could not face the thought of retirement after two years on the Country Mutual management team.
What are the key challenges ahead?
The profession, with the exclusion of the IIB, seems totally unaware of the time bomb of failing bank customers suddenly falling on to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme final “block”. If Northern Rock had been allowed to fail then the banking element of the scheme would have been used up and insurance brokers would have had to bail out the customers of a failed bank. It is crazy that brokers should have to bail out the banking sector. I would like to see that final block abolished and, as an IIB director, aim to take up the cudgel. Also, we must not reduce broking to a commodity business (computers and the internet can do that better). Hence, we must stress quality of cover and quality of claims service.
What has changed the most since you started in insurance?
When I started there were, for example, at least 12 insurer branch offices along the Uxbridge Road in Ealing. Now there are none. The good news, I am told, is that this is all in the name of improved service – I leave your readers to decide.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out?
As managing director of the Ten Network, I obviously believe that we can help anyone start in broking – so my advice would be to contact Ten. We contractually ensure the customers remain with our appointed representatives, but we provide all the back office support, the broking, the computer system and the accounting. They do all the customer-facing stuff. The customers are theirs.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
Selling Sceptre Insurance when I did – it would be worth a small fortune today. I was 50-odd and I didn’t know if I had the energy to keep developing the business. We sold the company to NFU Mutual in 1999 for a reasonable sum – but nothing like the multiples now being bandied about.
What was your biggest success?
Starting Ten with my co-investors and directors. I wanted to leave a mark on the industry. Malcolm Lee and I had this idea that we wanted to help people start their own brokerages, to reverse the trend. In September 2004 we had two empty desks and plain pads and we started to prepare our business plan. Ten was born. It was a further year before we were ready to start trading. It has been an exciting ride and we now manage well in excess of £10m of GWP, all from a standing start.
Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends
I have many friends and colleagues – some at present at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, others retired and some competitors – but we can still meet and chew the cud. I particularly miss Andrew Paddick from the IIB. Who is now going to look after me in the political arena?
What is your unique selling point?
I hope – honesty. I do not believe in exaggeration or ‘bull’. What people get is what I have promised.
When you are not working what do you do to relax?
I love sport – playing table tennis to a good standard, playing golf to a more questionable standard and watching QPR, where I have been a season ticket holder for many years. I am also writing a novel, which I hope to sell to my friends in the industry before I retire.
What is your favourite book/film/football team?
I loved The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon. If only I could write like that. I tend not to watch films, my favourites would be the very old ones – Casablanca or The Third Man.
Football Team – well, the best in London of course, QPR.
Day in the life
6:00am I donÃ¢t believe in alarms. I dont need one. I am in my sixties now and I dont sleep, so I can be in the office at 6am or at 9am just depending on when I wake up. I always eat breakfast. I think that is important, so I have healthy porridge or muesli. Then I walk to work.
9:00am As managing director of Ten, I rarely have a typical day. The excitement of what we do is that we have no idea before we arrive. New appointed representatives mean new problems, new risks, new challenges. I generally check my emails first thing, check my diary and check what is on my desk. If things are going smoothly I dont get to hear about them, so most things that end up on my desk are problems. I have to prioritise them.
10:00am At least two days a week I am out of the office. I might be in London meeting insurers and underwriters, or out visiting our appointed representatives. We have just started in Northern Ireland, so I have been there twice recently. If I am in the office, we will have people come in for meetings. We encourage local appointed representatives to come in so they can see the business working and see that we are trustworthy individuals.
1:00pm I always have lunch and I always go out. I am not one of these sandwich at the desk types. I often go to the pub next door, though it may not always be an alcoholic lunch. Lunch is a good time to meet insurers and get things done without interrupting the working day. Alternatively, I might have a working lunch with my fellow directors, if we have not seen much of each other that week.
2:00pm More meetings and problem solving. I may have to make a call to persuade one of our insurer partners to behave sensibly (well, in my view anyway). Risks to broke only appear on my desk when every other avenue has failed so underwriters must know I am a bearer of bad news. But I might have a potential new appointed representative in and I will hope to have him signed up by the end of the day.
5:00pm Its time to catch up on the many emails that have come in during the day.
6:00pm That is when I think, oh I had better actually do some work. But the reality is I would rather come in on Sunday than work as late as I used to. Sometimes my fellow directors and I will pop to the pub to catch up with each other over a pint. Then I will walk home. I work quite long hours, often working at the weekend from home sometimes because of pressure of work but often because I enjoy it. I am not sure if I am Up the Ladder or over it, or even at the bottom. No doubt my colleagues will enlighten me.