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From the family business to branching out – looking at a lifetime in broking

From the family business to branching out – looking at a lifetime in broking | Insurance Business

From the family business to branching out – looking at a lifetime in broking

As both his parents worked for most of their careers in the insurance sector, the head of customer success at Broker Insights, David Christmas (pictured), was brought up with an intrinsic awareness of the importance of insurance. When his parents established an insurance brokerage in 1971, they were essentially early adaptors of the COVID-19 lockdown, he noted, working from home to build their business from scratch before moving into permanent offices.

“You could say that insurance is in my blood,” he said. “At the age of about 12, I first became involved in the business as a ‘Saturday boy’. In fact, I think I wrote my first cover note out at that age and, in those days, it was all manual cover-notes, so I was blessed by having pretty good handwriting. And it became clear that I could perform a function that really contributed to the business so, thereafter, virtually every school holiday as a teenager and a young adult I would spend helping out in the business and learning the ropes.”

He was encouraged, particularly by his father, Christmas said, to steer clear of a career in insurance and duly went to university and obtained a law degree. However, the call of the sector proved too strong and he went on to join what was then Guardian Royal Exchange as a graduate trainee. Having swiftly risen through the ranks to become an insurance inspector, Christmas gained a broad overview of the industry before re-joining his parents’ business in the late 1980s as they were approaching retirement.

Over the next 15 years, David and his brother Roger grew the family business from a small high street presence to a good-sized regional business, which merged in 2010 with its main regional competitor to become Bennett Christmas Insurance Brokers. The business then embarked on a growth strategy which included several acquisitions, the creation of its own MGA and the acquisition of a risk management business, growing from 17 employees in 2010 to over 50 by the time he had sold his shares in August 2019. Ethos Broking acquired Bennett Christmas as one of its regional hubs and Christmas moved on to the next step in his career – Broker Insights.

“My background will ring true with a lot of regional brokers that have [insurance] in their blood,” he said. “There’s a lot of family businesses in every industry but broking is one of those that seem to engender it. And when I’m out and about in my role at Broker Insights, I see a number of regional or smaller brokerages that are first, second or even third-generation businesses so it does seem to hook families in.”

At Broker Insights, Christmas has been delighted by the opportunity his role has given him to support the growth of this platform in the UK, by sharing his broking experience, his contacts, and his knowledge of both insurers and brokers alike. Broker Insights launched the first, searchable platform for the commercial insurance market and Christmas’s role within the insurtech is to ensure the successful connection between insurers and brokers and to facilitate the relationship between them.

The business is committed to enabling insurers who may previously have only had the resources to support the top-tier of the broker market to connect with regional or smaller brokers, and Christmas is a great advocate of the role that brokers play in supporting their local communities. It is these community brokers who are best placed to help their clients and their local business contacts through difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the feet on the ground who are visible and available to their clients - they share their challenges and experiences because they’ve had to adapt in the same way.

“When I was a broker, I prided myself and our team on really identifying with our clients and becoming, if not a friend, then certainly a close acquaintance with as many of our clients as possible. I’ve always loved meeting people and I loved sharing their success and seeing them develop as individuals and as businesses. Putting a smile on people’s faces is something I really enjoy doing and, while the insurance industry and broking don’t have a particularly exciting or, dare I say, sexy image, no two days have ever been the same. I love the people who are part of the industry and I’ve taken real pride in being able to help clients in difficulty. I’ve had clients who’ve had some catastrophic type claims and incidents… and being able, as an individual, to help them through that process and help rebuild their businesses and recover – that’s probably what I’ve enjoyed the most.”

“The broking community is as strong now, as it’s ever been because those that are actively involved in it really do have the commitment to drive their businesses forward,” Christmas said. “And, in my opinion, they, the entrepreneurial brokers, are as strong as ever.”