What are the fundamental qualities which make an insurance broker great? According to David Mackie, the regional development director at Lorica Insurance Brokers, which is part of PIB Group, the qualities remain much the same today as they did when he first started his career in insurance.
Mackie (pictured above) has worked in the insurance sector for over 30 years and began his career as a client executive at Commercial Union. Among the key characteristics required by a good insurance broker back then was the need for integrity and honesty, he noted, and a good broker must understand both the needs and wishes of their clients.
“A good broker is available 24/7 in an emergency,” he said, “and has a sense of humour as well as a capacity to deliver bad news promptly and clearly when needed.”
The fundamental tenets of what makes an insurance broker great may not have altered, but Mackie has seen the impact that the digital age has had on the risks faced by businesses today. This, in turn, has elevated the need for brokers to be agile. Everything is required on a “need now” basis in the age of instant information, and sometimes brokers need to carve a moment for themselves to reflect on the advice they are giving, and to make sure that what is being proposed is correct and sufficient.
Mackie believes that the key challenge currently facing the broking sector is the development of online ‘quote and buy’ platforms which are diluting the quality of insurance products available to the public as they require the consumer to essentially become their own advisor. The legal profession has a saying that ‘someone who elects to represent themselves in court has a fool for a client’, he said, and the message is similar in the broking world.
Mackie joined the insurance industry after leaving the Merchant Navy and has worked in a broad variety of roles, from personal lines to commercial lines to becoming a claims inspector. His role as a claims inspector was the one where he generated his genuine understanding of how policy wordings and endorsements are applied in the real world. Having held several insurance broking roles throughout his career to date, the sector has always held Mackie’s interest and attention due to its unique nature.
As an insurance broker, being invited into all different kinds of businesses and finding out what they do and how they work is a fascinating process, Mackie said. From considering the exposures that each business might face to creating bespoke solutions to meet their individual needs, to balancing the risk faced by a business with a premium they can afford, the work of a broker is complex and wide-ranging. The risk profile of a business is an intricate picture which must be fully understood and conveyed to underwriters in a manner that portrays the risk in a good light and highlights the pro-active management of the business which is making this risk acceptable to an insurer.
“Trust is a huge part of that as you are told some very confidential information that can be commercially sensitive,” he said. “Explaining the benefits and shortfalls of insurance in a plain language in line with their business sector away from jargon is what clients like to hear.”
There are many proud moments to be found in a career in insurance broking, and Mackie noted that he takes pride when the insurance programme arranged responds positively and quickly to help a client who has suffered a loss. Seeing how such a prompt and effective response enables a business to survive and for jobs to be protected is always rewarding, and, throughout his career, he has seen many examples of how the right insurance cover has enabled businesses to carry on trading even after the worst-case scenario has occurred.
Looking to the future Mackie is interested to see what the long-term impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may be. While some insurer wordings may have been too lax, at the end of the day, an insurance contract is a legal contract between the policyholder and the insurer and it needs to be honoured or tested in the courts.
“We will probably, as an industry, face some bad press as this unravels,” Mackie said, “but I am sure it was never an insurer’s intention or within their financial ability to cover the lockdown of a country and [to cover] the impact of this on the businesses it insures. The new normal that emerges as we come out of lockdown will be interesting, and we will have to wait and see how people and things are valued in the new world.”