At first glance, the qualities that link what it takes to be an insurance broker and what it takes to compete in an Ironman Triathlon may not seem clear but, as director of Johnson Insurance Services Max Johnson (pictured) can attest, there is an intrinsic thread which links the two. For both a certain tenacity is required, particularly, he noted, when your training for the latter includes open-water swimming in the middle of November.
For both, the capacity to step outside your comfort zone to embrace the opportunities which might be found in the unlikeliest of places or situations is key. Being able to adapt and multi-task without issue, he highlighted, is also a characteristic shared by successful insurance brokers and those who successfully complete a triathlon.
These are the qualities which have defined Johnson’s career to date, and saw him do a season with the champion Irish National Hunt racehorse trainer Edward O’Grady upon leaving school. He later worked in a series of jobs, including a role at Betfair and as an amateur jockey. His first involvement with the insurance industry happened when he was 26 when he was looking for a career that tied in with his passion for racing.
“Insurance broking seemed the perfect fit,” he said, “and I subsequently applied for an insurance broking job in Malton where I spent seven years before taking the leap of starting my own business in 2017. Starting my own business was something I always wanted to do and ultimately the time is never right on paper, and it’s a big jump. But I would encourage anyone thinking of doing the same [to do so] as it’s incredibly rewarding. Just be prepared to work hard and make a lot of sacrifices.”
When founding Johnson Insurance Services, Johnson said he was able to place upon the brokerage the cultural, ethical and professional values that he prizes and these principally come down to wanting to do the best by clients. This is at the forefront of every decision-making process, whether it’s new business or renewals, or mid-term adjustments or handling claims.
“It’s about always looking to get the best results for your clients,” he said, “and best really does encompass a lot of values. But providing you are fair and transparent, and constantly looking at ways to improve what you do, then you will deliver on giving your best. At a time of so much uncertainty, it has never been more important to be proactive and to communicate and help my clients. And that’s whether it means looking at ways to weather the storm or ways to manage expectations as both are very important.”
The COVID-19 crisis has been a real touchpoint for brokers and their clients, he said, where each can understand and empathise with what the other is going through because so many businesses are in the same boat. For clients whose businesses are taking the greatest hit from the pandemic and the lockdown, particularly those in the hospitality, leisure and events industries, this is a time of real turmoil and brokers should be living out the mandate of their roles – to support their customers in a time of crisis.
When it comes to industries the business doesn’t cover, Johnson said, it will signpost clients to brokers that do specialise in that area and will be able to better cover the query. It is the value of being able to offer good technical knowledge when providing advice that is core to what Johnson believes a good broker does and this was the driving force behind him obtaining his ACII.
“This is so when clients come to you for advice on technical matters you are not just flying by the seat of your pants, and you’re able to actually come back with a clear, concise answer,” he said. “I feel that adds great value to what we do as a broker. And I also feel there’s a big shift going towards a more automated processing type role and there’s another great opportunity there for those brokers that are qualified and do have the technical knowledge and the expertise, to prosper.”