As the owner and managing director of Guardian Insurance Brokers, Evan Jackson (pictured) is recognised as an industry stalwart and this year he celebrates 50 years in the insurance sector. Recently announced as a finalist for the title of ‘Broker of the Year – Independent’ at the 2020 Insurance Business Australia Awards, Jackson spoke to Insurance Business to discuss this nomination and said that it is great to still be so relevant, and to be able to continue to contribute to an “undervalued and understated industry.”
Though his childhood ambition was to become a vet, to fulfil this aim would have meant leaving Adelaide to live in Melbourne or Perth to attend university, he said, and this was simply not financially feasible. He decided that if he couldn’t be a vet then he would leave school and get a job, Jackson said, and for most people who were not going on to university, this meant working for a bank.
“After finishing an interview and heading home, while waiting at the bus stop, I noticed an intimidating glass door with gold signwriting,” he said. “I thought to myself ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ so I walked in jobless and walked out with a job. When I got home, mum asked ‘how did it go’, and I said, ‘I got a job in an office’, not realising it was for an insurance company.”
This mantra of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ has worked out exceedingly well for Jackson who said he has always loved working in the sector and that he believes what he does for a living is his purpose in life.
“I get to meet a lot of people and have a cup of coffee and a laugh and I get paid,” he said. “Can you believe that? There should be a law against it!”
Examining what he identifies as the most essential values held by great brokers, Jackson said he thinks the most important requirement is that of honesty and that, in reality, this is the only thing that really matters. Being honest with your client is essential, he said, but brokers must also be honest with themselves because sometimes they have to walk away from a client when they simply are not adding value to their financial security.
That being said, he noted, there is no use having an honest person who has no working knowledge of an insurance policy and it is absolutely and unconditionally essential to know how to apply that knowledge when designing a program. His job, Jackson said, is to identify the risks and then find the correct cover to meet those risks, but especially when submitting a claim.
“As an industry we exist because of risk,” he said, “and I don’t want to be part of the risk by sitting across a table giving poor advice to an unsuspecting client.”
Having been in the insurance sector his entire adult life, Jackson has significant insight into the key challenges facing the broking community of Australia at this time and he believes the most pressing is how the sector can present itself as an attractive profession to younger people, and the challenge surrounding staff training.
As an industry, the broking sector has not invested enough resources into promoting the profession, he said, or into emphasising the capacity of these jobs to allow employees to work anywhere in the world. Jackson also believes that it is a failing of the industry that it is made far too easy for individuals to receive a qualification in an attempt by businesses to just fill their open positions, and he highlighted people portraying themselves as qualified and practising insurance brokers after only a few months in the industry.
“We need to get serious about our industry and the next generation,” he said, “or else we will have desks at supermarkets and all that will matter is price.”
Jackson believes that the only fundamental change to the role of insurance brokers in recent years has been the increasing demands placed on brokers to have a greater understanding of contract laws and changes to the business landscape. Relationship building is still as essential as ever, and he noted his role as an advocate for his clients.
This philosophy should never be compromised when dealing with a client or an insurer, he said, but brokers should remember that this does not mean that they are anybody’s servant. He personally develops very open and honest relationships with his clients, Jackson said, and part of this is making it very clear to them that he is an insurance broker and that they should get on with what they do best, and allow him to get on with what he does best – being their personal insurance broker.
It’s so important for brokers to develop their own personal brand and the values that differentiate them from the rest of the crowd, he said, but they must also remember that nobody can be everything to everybody.
Between his own nomination for broker of the year and the nomination of account broker at Guardian Insurance Brokers, Lauren Reeves for ‘Young Gun of the Year – Independent’, the future looks bright for Evan Jackson and his personal ambitions for the years ahead consist of training the young professionals in his office and talking to the next generation of staff as well as “more coffees and more laughs.”