Peter Moody speaks to Chris Wheal

Peter Moody runs Coleman Insurance brokers in Poole, Dorset. The firm has been trading as Coleman since 1928, but Moody, along with two others, bought the firm in 1986 when the company had six staff and a turnover of £60,000. The firm now has a general insurance division and a financial services firm with a combined fee and commission income of £3.8m and general insurance premium income of £18m. It employs 64 staff, mainly in Poole, with a small office in Southampton. The broker is primarily commercial with a growing marine business. It also has a big charity client base.

How did you make it where you are today?

At school I played seven sports for the county and gave very little attention to academic stuff. I met the Poole youth employment officer. He turned over the first card and it said trainee insurance clerk for the Royal, so I got on my bike. I joined a small Lloyd’s broker before opening an office in Poole for Bowring (now Marsh). My close friend John Dwyer and I were about to get into a lift when we got a phone call asking did we want to buy Coleman. By the time we got to the ground floor I had persuaded him and I then had the struggle to come up with my share of the money.

What are the key challenges ahead?

In some quarters there are declining values and ethics in broking today and that bothers me. I expect to see a continuing decline in the number of brokers through mergers and acquisitions, but I see insurers fighting back and there being a squeeze on commission. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up having to dispense with commission and charge a fee. It is no bad thing. We also need to work hard at making insurance more appealing. If you go to schools and colleges to talk to children there is precious little information on careers in insurance. People stumble into insurance, but it is a good business so why don’t we tell people it is?

What has changed the most since you started in insurance?

I remember hand writing policy schedules and endorsements in my early days with Royal. Today, it is an instant world. With email and the internet, things get done much more quickly. Forty years ago insurers dominated whereas now it is the big brokers which dominate. I think the FSA’s influence will grow. We have always treated customers fairly so it sticks a bit to be told we now have to do that. There has been more innovation in our industry in the past decade than ever before.

What advice would you offer someone just starting out?

Make it fun and enjoyable. There are great opportunities but it is what you make of it. It is still about relationships, so pay attention to all your clients’ needs and interests.

What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?

I made two when I was in claims. We had a claim where I believed that the third party claimant had self-inflicted his injuries. Against my employer’s advice I took the case to court. We won, but I got a lot of flak from my employer for risking the court action. In another case we had a claim for a badly injured youngster whose parents had gone to a provincial solicitor, inexperienced in personal injury cases. He had written asking for a ludicrously low sum. I tore that letter up and told the solicitor to ask for 20 times as much. I shouldn’t have done that, but I don’t regret it.

What was your biggest success?

Helping to develop Coleman over the past 22 years. I believe we have today a happy and successful business and we enjoy what we do.

What is your unique selling point?

Making clients and staff feel valued. Everyone is unique and they all have their own talents, so making the best use of those talents is vital. I also always try to see the funny side of things.

Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends in the insurance market?

John Dwyer and I took over Coleman and I worked with him for 30 years in total. We did it with a lot of laughs until his untimely death. Among insurers I admire Martin Hudson at Travelers, Barry Smith at Fortis, and Gary Wainwright at Zurich is doing a super job.

When you are not working what do you do to relax?

I spend time with my seven grandchildren. I am interested in sport of any kind, from tiddlywinks to football. Getting a golf handicap would also be a real bonus.

What is your favourite book/film/football team etc?

Book: Moonfleet – it is about a boy brought up on the Dorset coast by smugglers.

Film: Jaws – I have watched it so many times I love it.

Football team: I am a Manchester City fanatic. Good to see them so dominant in Europe.

Day in the life

6.45 I get up and take my two dogs for a walk on the heath where I discuss my plans for the day with them. Then I have to make sure I do not forget what we have decided before I get to work.

9.15. It is emails and prioritising. My job is running the business. HR and I each have our own clients, so for the first hour it is the incoming that needs to be dealt with.

10.30 It is walkabout time. I go to see the various departments, partly for work and partly social. I update myself on claims and new business, but also just chat.

11.30 I go to a meeting with a local high-tech engineering company that has had a spate of claims relating to asbestosis dating back to the 1960s. We chat about what the company response should be.

1.00 I grab a sandwich and head back to the office where I dictate letters and emails. I have a long-suffering PA who has been with me for 22 years. If I try to type my own emails it would take forever, so she is my personal IT department too.

2.30 I meet four members of staff to discuss organising the Coleman charity seminar. We discuss the venue, the speakers and the timings, to make sure it builds on the success of the last one. This is a really positive meeting and is good for team building.

3.30 There are other phone calls and lots of other stuff to deal with. I sign cheques and make appointments.

4.30 I have a meeting with a consultant about compliance. We talk about me attending an FSA seminar in London, so with gritted teeth I sign up for it.

5.15 This is my quiet time. I get some peace and I am able to read through things in more detail and think about the bigger issues. I might dictate a few more replies.

6.45 I am off to walk the dogs on the heath and to tell them they got it wrong this morning, again.

7.30 I have dinner with my wife and then if there is sport on I might watch the TV, or we will read, do Sudoku, or I might do some sketching.

12.00 I never go to bed before midnight.