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Insurance Business Elite Broker Nicholas Bedggood has had a short but stellar insurance career. When he was in his early 40s and selling boats, he visited a friend at a pub in Sydney. Bedggood and his wife had a baby on the way, and she said he needed to get a “serious job.” His mate at the bar was an insurance broker who was always doing well financially.
“So, I had an epiphany,” Bedggood explains. “Everyone needs insurance. Not everyone needs a boat.”
So, at 43, he did an insurance apprenticeship and fell in love with the industry; he has since prospered and is now the founder and director of Citadel Insurance Services.
He attributes his success to hard work and perseverance. “It’s been a very difficult few years with floods, bushfires, and COVID,” he says. “It’s been very challenging, but I’m good at what I do, and people come back to me because I’m available for them.”
Like his fellow winners, Bedggood has the numbers to back it up. As part of the IB Elite Brokers survey, each candidate had to submit 2022 numbers that were used to calculate:
• number of policies written
• total revenue
• revenue per policy
• new clients
• total new client revenue
• revenue per new client
Each broker was ranked in each of these measurements, and the total of their rankings was calculated to determine their final placement on the list.
“It’s brutal. We’re in between the third and fourth year of a hardening market. There’s a lot of people overpaying. I’ve conditioned my clients, but every renewal is a difficult discussion”
Nicholas Bedggood, Citadel Insurance
Frans du Plessis started at an early age at several major insurance companies in South Africa. By 24, he was leading a team of 27 members.
In Perth, he started Grace Insurance in 2015, acquiring and retaining clients by treating them like friends and family, and always going the extra mile.
“Client service is key to any brokerage,” he says. “This in turn leads to greater client satisfaction and retention. If clients are satisfied with your service, they will refer you to others.”
Meanwhile, du Plessis says one of his biggest challenges has been going from a broker-only operation to a staffed broking operation. “This started our journey of acquisitions,” he explains. “In order to sustain staff, you need the clients and income to be able to pay for staff. This led me to do my first large acquisition and enabled me to employ not one but two support staff. Today, our staff remains key to our success.”
And he reiterates that to be elite, a relentless mindset is necessary. “Every broker I speak to are all extremely busy and exceeding their targets. I believe the brokers who want to grow their portfolios will do so with ease,” adds du Plessis.
“It depends on the product that you’re underwriting, but for most brokers it is certainly a hard market, and that’s a combination of factors”
Scott Guse, KPMG Australia
James Skiadas, with Victoria-based IMC Insurance Brokers, is another Elite Broker 2023. He says, “We have experienced significant growth in the last 12 months, which shows us that people really do need guidance and are more concerned about the product they’re buying.
“Inflation and increased interest rates do have an impact. Natural disasters and increased claims costs eventually result in higher premium rates, which is felt by our entire industry.”
Although Skiadas is technically a director – senior broker, he prefers the title “fireman.” “I put out fires,” he explains.
He began in the industry in 1987 and established IMC Insurance Brokers in the mid-1990s. With a team of 11 featuring his brother, wife, and daughter, IMC is a family affair.
“Whilst we don’t always discuss work at the dinner table, it does come up a lot, and the subject of insurance is always around us,” he says. He attributes his success to “people power,” with most of his team having been with the company for a decade or more.
“It’s important to ensure that your team is happy with their workplace environment,” he says. “If they love where they work and they care about what they are doing, it’s reflected in their work and clients really see that.”
One of his greatest challenges has been overhauling the business to accommodate increased competition, greater customer expectation, technological advancements, rising operations and compliance costs.
All of IB’s Elite Brokers chalked up impressive numbers despite what Bedggood labels “brutal” market conditions.
“We’re in between the third and fourth year of a hardening market,” he says. “There’s a lot of people overpaying. I’ve conditioned my clients, but every renewal is a difficult discussion. So, it’s taxing in the extreme.”
A financial services partner with KPMG Australia in Queensland, Scott Guse concurs. “Absolutely, it’s a hard market,” he adds. “It depends on the product that you’re underwriting, but for most brokers it is certainly a hard market, and that’s a combination of factors. But also, reinsurance is driving price increases through the insurance industry and therefore, price increases in insurance policies mean more commissions for brokers as well.”
Regarding the current talent crunch, Bedggood comments there should be a more natural pathway into insurance broking, such as undergraduate or graduate programs.
“We need good people,” he says. “At the moment, the labour market is so tight. We need as many people as we can get.”
That’s a sentiment reiterated by du Plessis.
“Our current inflow of new business exceeds our capacity 4:1. This is a good problem, but we also do not like it if we cannot keep to our high level of client service and professionalism.”
“I believe the brokers who want to grow their portfolios will do so with ease”
Frans du Plessis, Grace Insurance
Bedggood feels ancillary factors are hindering the market. One, specific to New South Wales, is the infamous fire services levy, a fee collected by insurance companies to fund fire and emergency services.
Other issues are the much-maligned taxation system and a mortgage cliff, which he predicts will have a lot of people leaving real estate.
Then there’s a growing disparity between the wealthy and the rest. “There’s been people going to homeless shelters who were otherwise wealthy two years ago,” he says. “What you would call a ‘normal middle-class person’ is sleeping in their cars.”
Skiadas is more general in his critique. “Compliance requirements set by regulatory authorities can be challenging; however, we take them on board and follow the rules.”
While du Plessis adds, “Challenges will always be there as there are ongoing changes in legislation. I believe the key is to embrace, adapt and change as quickly as you can to the changes in the industry. I believe if you embrace and evolve your brokerage, the battle is half won.”
“It’s important to ensure that your team is happy with their workplace environment”
James Skiadas, IMC Insurance Brokers
Best Insurance Brokers in Australia | Elite Brokers
Listing in order
To develop the annual list of Elite Brokers, Insurance Business uses an objective means of ranking the best-performing insurance brokers in Australia – not just those with the biggest portfolios or the largest number of clients. Each broker was required to send their own information along with details of a contact who could verify those figures. The criteria included number of policies written, total revenue, revenue per policy, new clients, total new client revenue, and revenue per new client. Each broker was ranked in each of these measurements, and the sum of their rankings was calculated to determine their final placement on the list.