The insurance industry as a whole is well aware of the need to retain talent, but what does an entire career spent within the insurance sector look like? Those seeking an answer need look no further than to Keith Knott (pictured), the MD of Clacton-based Nimmos Insurance Brokers, who is now celebrating 60 years in the insurance industry.
Knott was born in 1943, within five miles of the brokerage to which he has dedicated his professional career. He first joined the business as a junior clerk upon leaving school in 1960, and the decision to enter the insurance world was somewhat made for him, he said, as his mother did not want him to continue working at his father’s convenience shop holding after he left school, as she had seen first-hand the long-term impacts of such physical labour.
“My mother saw an ad for a job at Nimmos, which was established in 1947 by the late Captain John Nimmo,” he said. “So, I went for an interview in early September and on September 17, 1960, I started work.”
Having helped out with his father’s business since he was a child, carrying out a range of activities from working in the garden to providing fresh produce, to serving customers, Knott was already used to dealing with people, a skill inherent to succeeding in the insurance industry. In addition to this, he noted, he was good with numbers, which was particularly important in those early days as there were no calculators to rely on and mental agility was essential to the role.
“I got on very well because I didn’t know anything else except to work hard, and if you work hard you’ll get somewhere,” he said. “In those days you had to do everything the hard way, I suppose you could call it. We had quite a few staff then because you had no direct writers, and cars were becoming quite popular, so we were always very busy.”
Perseverance is key to a long and successful career in the insurance industry, Knott believes, and he highlighted that when you try and persevere in your own life and career, others will be encouraged to do the same. The thing about the insurance business, he said, is that you never finish learning. There’s no such thing as a quick learner in the insurance industry because the information just keeps changing and even after all his time in the sector, he too is still picking up new tricks.
“I never really got into computers though,” he admitted. “We had those easy mini computers when they first came out, before personal computers, but they were easy to operate! But I’ve still got a very good memory and to this day I can outdo the computer sometimes. When somebody walks in, I can say ‘yes, this is where you live, and that’s your property’ or ‘I remember you were in an accident five years ago’, and that [work] keeps me out of mischief.”
As a business, Nimmos welcomes a culture of life-long learning and innovation and cemented this by joining Marsh Networks, the membership of which allows the brokerage to deliver market-leading products which match the changing demands of its clients. People have become more aware of the need for insurance, Knott said, and clients have become more demanding and, for brokers, this meant having to ensure that they are kept up to date with everything that is occurring in the market.
While he belongs to the first major category of those working in insurance - those who “fell” into the sector - Knott’s son is part of the second category: those who follow family members into the industry. Knott explained how his son David Knott wanted to join the insurance sector and how he encouraged him to build a career with a leading general insurer first before joining Nimmos, where he is now a director and runs a lot of the day to day processes of the brokerage.
While COVID-19 has been a harbinger of a lot of change and challenges for Nimmos, which was required to implement remote working procedures very quickly, he said, one of the key satisfactions of running a local brokerage, particularly during a crisis, is the good that you can do within a local community and the thanks you receive for going the extra mile. When COVID has abated enough that certain restrictions have been lifted, Knott is looking forward to getting to go out and seeing his youngest grandchild again.
“My daughter lives in Southampton and our last grandchild was born in January,” he said. “We see them on FaceTime but we last saw her [face to face] just after she was born, before the lockdown period came down and then we met them halfway between Clacton and Southampton at the end of August and we haven’t really seen them since.”
When it comes to the COVID crisis, Knott has a similar outlook on it as he does for the rest of life and said: “There’s no good in looking back, you can’t change what you’ve already done or shouldn’t have done, that’s life. And it’s the same with COVID, we’ve just got to learn to live with it, as I see it, and take all the precautions but not just go into a shell.”