It’s been more than 20 years since Gary Dunning (pictured) ventured into the industry, and in this Q&A with Insurance Business the managing director recalls how his career unfolded – from his top-notch training and underwriting beginnings, to the turn he took towards broking as well as the challenges that went with establishing a brokerage.
Here Dunning also shares his plans for Coeus Insurance Management, which is a strategic partner of the Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce and a member of the Marsh ProBroker network, and talks fondly about a decades-old friendship.
How did your insurance career begin?
My insurance career began some 21 years upon completing my A-level examinations. The first full-time job I obtained straight from school was with Royal Insurance as a trainee underwriter in their Liverpool branch which shortly afterwards became Royal & Sun Alliance. The insurance training provided by them was first-class with great emphasis placed on obtaining your Chartered Insurance Institute qualifications and fully supported by them. The majority of my colleagues had a wealth of insurance underwriting experience, so I ensured that I learned as much as possible from them.
What made you switch to the broking side of the industry?
I decided to switch to the broking side of the industry around the time that Royal & Sun Alliance decided to restructure the business with the Liverpool underwriting branch closing. Many of the insurers that operated within the local Liverpool market were starting to pull out and relocate their underwriting facilities into the Manchester market, which was not something I wanted to do so early in my career.
I had built up a number of relationships with brokers whom I had serviced for several years and thought that broking was an area where I could add significant value to front-line customers with my experience of being an underwriter allowing me the insight to be in a position of highlighting positive and negative features of risks that would influence an insurer’s rating.
In your more than two decades of experience, what have been the biggest challenges for you?
Our biggest challenge was probably founding and setting up an insurance brokerage when regulation was at its most stringent and insurance broking start-ups were almost unheard of on the back of a long financial crisis. A significant amount of time and effort was put into our research and incorporated within our robust business plan.
This was only the start, however. We then had to convince insurers why they should provide us with an agency and how we were going to deliver on these promises. We made a great decision to align our company to Marsh ProBroker network and we remain the only start-up business they have taken on in the past seven years. Our relationship with Marsh ProBroker continues to grow from strength to strength and long may that continue.
Aside from our own business challenges, the insurance industry can pose varying degrees of challenges, many of which are out of our control. Major events like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the financial crisis in 2008, the London terrorist attacks, and more recently the Brexit confusion means that our industry has to be able to react quickly and adapt immediately when meeting challenges head on.
As managing director of Coeus Insurance Management, what do you envision for the business?
We envision Coeus to continue to grow at a controlled pace allowing us to continue to service our clients to the high standards they have become accustomed to from us. At the same time we will continue to invest in quality staff to complement our teams. We are committed to remaining fiercely independent in a marketplace where brokers are dominated by the larger consolidator business model.
If you were to leave insurance for another sector, which one and why?
I would have loved to have been involved in some capacity with the sports industry, specifically football, and work within sports science. As sports becomes more competitive, teams are looking at marginal gains whether it be from nutrition, exercise, training methods, or recovery.
Name one thing your peers probably don’t know about you.
Most people don’t know that my business partner, Stewart Jordan, was tasked as being my guide on my very first day in the insurance industry at Royal Insurance – we have remained friends ever since.