Chris Wheal talks to Neill Robson about his life and career
Neill Robson set up Complete Insurance Solutions in Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, on 1 April 2006 as an appointed representative of Ten Insurance Services. The majority of clients are within a 30-mile radius, but some are as far as Edinburgh and Glasgow. The business started trading from a spare bedroom and has moved this year into a recently converted garage to accommodate its first employee and an another in the future.
How did you make it to where you are today?
I left school in 1986 and started work with a local Dumfries broker handling car, house and travel insurance, dealing mainly with local people. During this time I gradually became more involved with commercial clients. I then moved to another local broker, Ewen C Mair, to deal primarily with commercial business. The firm joined the Broker Network as a member in 2002, and was sold to the network in 2004 at which time I became branch manager. That role was not suited to me. After reading articles about Ten Insurance Services and its appointed representative network for start-ups, I made inquiries and eventually went to Aylesbury in December 2005 to meet the directors and exchange contracts. I tendered my resignation in January 2006 and enjoyed three months gardening leave. On 1 April 2006 Complete Insurance Solutions started trading.
What are the key challenges ahead?
We need to keep growing the business, but in a manner that allows us to be able to continue to provide the same personal and professional service to which our clients have become accustomed. Regular contact with clients is key to ensuring that we are meeting their exact insurance requirements.
What has changed the most since you started in insurance?
Regulation has brought about changes, but brokers that had always provided a professional service were already compliant to a certain extent. In my opinion the biggest change has to be consolidation. The reduction in the number of independent brokers has been phenomenal, and with insurers purchasing larger brokers and networks, this trend could continue for some time.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out?
They need to be confident enough to believe that they can provide and indeed deliver the service levels that customers are looking for. They will need to know their target audience and the suppliers and products available to them. They will need to work closely with their clients and build a relationship trusting enough to allow them to sell the policy best suited to their clients’ needs. And most importantly, be honest, professional and always work with the best interests of your clients in mind.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
I regret not going alone sooner. I should have done it at least five or six years before I did – the new millennium would have been ideal. Before consolidation and networks you were always afraid that insurers might not provide support.
What was your biggest success?
Gaining the trust and loyalty of clients. When you decide to go it alone with a mortgage to pay and children to feed and there’s no salary at the end of the month, you are relying on the loyalty of the people that you have dealt with in the past. If they come on board and support you, it makes all the difference.
Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends
I still see some former colleagues from time to time and it is good to catch up on their experiences and life in general. Looking at the bigger picture, I admire what Ten has done. It has given the opportunity to people like me who want to progress on their own. I also admire the people behind the large brokers and networks that keep growing.
What is your unique selling point?
Hard work and trustworthiness, and getting people to see that I am trustworthy. It doesn’t matter if it is a client who has bought his £100 house contents policy from me for years, or a business that is paying thousands of pounds a year for its insurances. They are supporting me because of my commitment to them and the fact that they trust me.
When you are not working, what do you do to relax?
I spend four hours cutting grass every weekend. I spend time with my family. As an avid Queen of the South supporter I used to go to all their home games. I recently attended their first Scottish Cup Final. I’m a keen Formula One fan and have enjoyed attending Grand Prix at Silverstone, Belgium, France and Spain. Being from Dumfries and Galloway I naturally support David Coulthard.
What is your favourite book/film/football team?
Book: I rarely read, but when I do I prefer autobiographies and I have recently read those of David Coulthard and Top Gear’s Richard Hammond. Film: I’m not into films, but I do enjoy TV programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den. Football team: Queen of the South.
Day in the life
6:30am My daughter usually wakes us up anytime between 6.30 and 7.00. I will do some basic chores around the house and sometimes we will all have breakfast together. Then after a shower and shave I will head into the office.
8:45am I like to give myself a few minutes to check emails or get files ready for any visits before the phone starts ringing.
9:00am The phone calls start. It could be clients making amendments or reporting claims. It might be new business inquiries. I willll spend a couple of hours dealing with calls and following up, which usually involves talking to my colleagues at Ten.
11:00am If I have arranged to see clients, I will get their files and head out of the office. If I am in an area where other clients are nearby I will usually call in for a few minutes to say hello and talk about their business. I would normally call in unexpectedly and explain that I am in the area. That keeps me in regular contact with my clients.
12:30pm I usually have lunch sitting in my car between 12.30 and 1.30. This consists of a roll and a cup of coffee. Occasionally when I have lunch with a client at his premises, I grab something from the local baker. It is a quick working lunch only lasting 20 minutes or so.
1:30pm If I am in the office I will deal with claims, prepare renewals and prepare or request quotes. I am normally in the office most mornings and out seeing clients in the afternoons, often until later in the evening. Some days I can be in the office all day. Most of my clients are based within a 30-mile radius. I like to think I work and live in the middle of where most of my clients are based. But I have several that are up to 75 miles away, and I may have to drive for an hour and a half just to get there.
6:00pm If I am back from the office, my wife and I will have an evening meal together and then we will go into the garden or go for a walk. The children are normally in bed by 7.30 and then some nights, if required, I will go back into the office for an hour or so. If I have been away all day seeing clients or not back until late, I do not normally go into the office. I will have checked my emails on my mobile throughout the day and dealt with most of them.
8:30pm My wife and I will sit down and maybe watch some TV and catch up with the news of the day.
10:30pm We generally go to bed straight after the main news.