Having been at the helm of Lancaster-based brokerage Reid Hamilton for a little under 30 years, Duncan Woodcock has just about seen it all. However, even he admits that the SSP outage, which struck on August 26, was one of the most difficult events he’s had to deal with during his career.
Yet, whereas many brokers have articulated disappointment in the firm’s handling of its technological meltdown, and others have expressed outright fury, Woodcock has spoken in the firm’s defence.
“If I am being honest there are brokers that will be absolutely up in arms with SSP but my own personal view, for what it’s worth, is that they had already planned migration away from the site for all the right reasons and they were just really unlucky that they didn’t get that migration complete before this unforeseeable event took place,” he said. “To be honest my heart goes out to the people who work for SSP because they have been working around the clock and dealing with people who have no doubt been shouting and swearing at them.
“We’ve been with the various incarnations of that firm since 1991 and it’s the first time anything like this has happened. I am quite sure it was as dreadful for them as it was for us.”
Woodcock first noticed that he was offline during the Bank Holiday weekend when the outage first struck, but assumed it was just planned maintenance. When he returned to work, however, it became clear there was a problem – one that ultimately left his firm without access to the system for nine days.
However, Woodcock had inadvertently planned ahead – he keeps a meticulous paper file system in addition to his SSP account.
“We’re not one of those brokers who feels that having paper files is a bad thing and everything should be paperless,” he said. “I am a bit of a crusty old dinosaur and we have files for everything. So while there were SSP members sitting on their hands incapable of doing anything, we still have our up-to-date paper files - so in terms of our ability to trade on our commercial lines business it didn’t make a huge amount of difference.
“We weren’t able to transact debits and credits and raise invoices but we were able to raise invoice documents that we were able to input into the system later on. There was a much bigger impact on personal lines because personal lines are all transacted with EDI nowadays. Fortunately, it came back on quickly enough that there was no real damage.”
When asked if he feels he lost business because of the outage, Woodcock says he “doesn’t think so” although he admits some new business opportunities may have passed by although these, he states, would be “hard to quantify.”
Where he does agree with the majority of the brokers affected, however, is with the idea that the communication from SSP could have been better during the outage period – although he states, even that was not necessarily a total negative.
“I think that’s a fair point,” he states with regards to SSP’s communication being poor. “One of the problems that everyone had was that uncertainty as to where they were up to and how long it was going to be until anything happened. But if you’re going to be realistic about it, at least SSP were not saying things that were undeliverable – they were not making promises they couldn’t keep. So I think you can look at that scenario in two ways.”
While Woodcock sympathises with those brokerages that were impacted worse than his own, he also expresses sympathy for the SSP staff who he believes worked hard to put things right.
“I am not for banging for a witch hunt and suing them to blazes,” he states. “I think they have been unlucky and they’ve got a load of people working their tails off to get people back up and running again and for that I am extremely grateful.”
What has your experience been like during the SSP outage? What are your views on the firm now? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.