When discussion turns to equalising the playing field of opportunities within the broking sector, the development of brokers beyond the London market is an essential consideration. For Bethan Perris (pictured left), client manager at Vista Insurance Brokers, this has been an area of focus throughout her career to date and, in a recent interview with Insurance Business, she discussed the importance of professional development training opportunities for brokers in regional markets.
Looking at the Manchester broking sector, Perris said, she believes that while the London market might think it overwhelms the regions, this is not entirely accurate. The Manchester market, she said, is actually quite self-sufficient, particularly when the incredibly strong insurance community within this area is taken into account.
“When I worked in London,” she said, “people made it sound like Manchester was some tiny little office where no-one did anything. When I moved up here, I realised it is the biggest insurance sector outside of London.”
When she came to Manchester, Perris knew nobody, but a chance encounter with John Batty, former regional chairman for BIBA in the Greater Manchester region, led to Perris being offered the opportunity to become the young broker ambassador for Manchester. Upon joining the committee, Perris highlighted the ways in which BIBA could promote the work done by brokers and give the wider public a greater understanding of what this job entails.
Her role when it came to the young broker platform, Perris said, involved not just looking at how to attract young talent but also how to retain it. There is a precedent of people joining an insurance graduate scheme, she said, only to be picked up by another segment of the financial services after a few years of training.
The solution to this, she said, was looking to the development of a greater social community in Manchester for young brokers, and also creating a more even keel when it comes to broker training in this region. Previously working for JLT, Perris said, if she wanted to attend a training session, she could simply get a train to London and charge it to the company but, for smaller companies, the resources to do this are simply not available.
“I asked ‘why?’” she said. “If we’ve got all these brokerages and all these insurers, why are we not hosting our own CPD training sessions for free?”
From this question has sprung the Manchester young broker committee which now has 13 members who are each responsible for hosting a CPD or networking event. This committee, Perris stated, gathers together different brokerages, knowledge and expertise, and is aimed at ensuring that all younger brokers receive the same training that any of the major brokerages would be able to offer.
This has been well-received and well supported, Perris said, and she detailed the contributions of multiple brokers and insurers to these events: from Lockton who sent a networking specialist to Manchester to give 25 young brokers a half-day session on how best to professionally network, to Marsh carrying out a professional development planning session with 30 brokers.
“For the year 2020, we’ve got about 13 CPD sessions booked in around a whole host of things and put on by a whole range of different insurers and brokers,” she said. “People have been so generous with their time.”
Going forward, Perris outlined, the committee is looking for opportunities to serve the non-commercial insurance market as previous events have often been quite commercially centric. Throughout 2020, more professional development events, showcasing management techniques and how to create a good client portfolio will be an emphasis, she said, as people are looking for sessions and information that is more general in outlook.
Insurers have been doing some great work with the committee throughout Manchester, she said, but it has been great to see that most of the events have focused on broker-to-broker training. This has included companies training young brokers from rival firms, she said.
Perris highlighted the role of the community within the insurance sector of Manchester as essential to this but also noted that, because insurance is an industry where people tend to move around a lot, there is an understanding from companies that they might be training their own future employees and co-workers.
Perris, who won the Markerstudy broker of the year at Insurance Business’s 2019 Women in Insurance Conference, said she has embraced her role as young broker ambassador, not for the recognition or the awards that it has brought, but because she had been in the position of requiring the same services she has helped create in this region.
She is modest about her role in the work that has been done in the sector and said that the success of the committee in creating a network for young brokers “shows that if the resources are there, someone just needs to light a fire under it and see what happens.”