In this age of diminishing markets, agency culls and broker consolidation, it was particularly refreshing to be involved in the second leg of the HSBC Insurance Brokers' Spectrum roadshows for the year 2000.
As one of three additional product providers – there are now 12 in the Spectrum range – it was with some trepidation that a colleague and I made the trip to Bath late on a Monday evening to join Richard Harrison of HSBC in preparation for a three-day marathon trip by coach, which was to take us to six different venues, all of a sporting nature.
The Tuesday morning saw an enthusiastic, if nervous, group board the coach, which was to be our virtual home while travelling the country. Our trip started in Bath, and then went on to Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Worcester, Cardiff and finally Exeter on the Thursday evening.
In the age of the internet, digital communication and conference calling, you may wonder if there is still value in the age-old concept of travelling to meet your prospective trading partners face-to-face, to conclude a deal over the odd sausage roll or two. Well, it would appear there is, as each venue was well attended by local brokers and intermediaries, keen to avail themselves of the products and services on offer.
The Spectrum concept is not a new one (neither is travelling by coach to meet your agents, for that matter); it is essentially a “broker” club, but with one or two main differences from others. There are no minimum support levels and anyone can join, as long as they meet HSBC's agency criteria.
Within the panel there are product providers ranging from standard and non-standard motor and household insurance, to commercial lines, motor trade, leisure facilities and travel cover. Other products include legal expenses and claims management, premium financing, business banking, personal accident and sickness, and a specialist high net worth facility. There are also opportunities for brokers and intermediaries to actively pursue their own scheme ideas with the support and expertise of the HSBC sales team.
All products and services benefit from a common branding, giving brokers and intermediaries an opportunity to establish this brand within their own client base and effectively cross-sell products. This makes it possible for companies to enhance their earnings without having to acquire new clients.
Opportunities also exist for cutting costs, by benefiting from bulk buying – as can be seen from the very attractive rates offered for business banking and card acquisition via HSBC.
All in all then, a glowing report from a Spectrum virgin. I returned home after three days of constant buffet eating, feeling that at the very least there were now 250 brokers and intermediaries who had the opportunity of joining a growing number of independent firms making a stand for the right to transact business with whomever they want, at whatever level they want, and without the threat of agency closure hanging over their heads.
It only remains now to look forward to the third and final leg of the Spectum 2000 roadshows in October, when no doubt some of the more jovial moments enjoyed by those on the coach in June will be remembered. But I won't go into that now.