For any insurance business recently posting its financial results for 2019, discussing the time before the COVID-19 crisis can feel a little like rehashing ancient history. For Brightside Group’s group CEO, Brendan McCafferty (pictured), looking over the double-digit growth in policy sales enjoyed by the business in 2019 is rewarding but is just part of an ongoing story at the group. That story, he said, is one of growth and of specialism, and of embedding the customer journey and customer thinking into the fabric of the business.
An instrumental part of driving a successful strategy forward is making difficult decisions about investment priorities, he said, and this was the driving force behind the decision to close the group’s MGA Kitsune. It was a difficult decision, he said, noting that he was very proud of the work done by the Kitsune team and what they built. However, the responsibility of the group is to make tough choices to ensure that both investment return and the speed of that return is in-keeping with the ambitious growth strategy of the wider business.
“I am very clear that we need to make sure that our focus is on the right areas of growth,” he said. “And that is about being specialist and niche and staying away from that busy and hyper-competitive mass marketplace where others participate, and good luck to them. I believe that our strategy is a better one where we’re focusing on those niches. And I believe we’re doing that incredibly well, and that’s borne out by the confidence that our capacity providers and our insurer partners have in what we’re doing, and our [2019 year end] results.”
Brightside’s renewed journey is well underway, and part of that is the evolution of the business beyond its roots of being a purely personal lines broker. Simply put, the profile of the business has changed. McCafferty noted that the group is still avidly growing its personal lines business and will continue to do so, but that a large portion of what the business is doing is now also across the spectrum of micro and small SME business right through to corporate risk.
The group’s commercial product range is dedicated to meeting the needs of SMEs, he said, and the broker tends to be a home to people who have struggled to find the right coverage elsewhere. Operating within that space can lead to the development of great distribution relationships within the market as other businesses can send customers they cannot assist in the direction of Brightside, which is a win-win for everybody involved.
Creating such an environment means focusing keenly on what the customer needs and investing in the customer journey, and McCafferty highlighted that this is an ongoing process. When he first took on the role of group CEO, he said, he knew that customer centricity had to be central to the business’s development.
“And you can see this in all our evidence points - whether it’s our Trustpilot scores, whether it’s our complaints which just accelerated downwards and are consistently low, whether it’s the retention rates that we see in our business,” he explained. “There are lots of measures that tell me we’re having a big impact. And that’s no accident - we’ve invested heavily in these journeys, we’ve invested heavily in our people and we’ve created a very clear culture of doing things properly, and ensuring that we put our customers at the heart of what we’re about.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Brightside responded very swiftly to having its team work from home, he said, and have consistently resisted the urge to dive back into the office as quickly as possible. The business will continue to take that position for as long as is necessary and this has proven to be an effective strategy in light of the second nationwide lockdown.
People are used to carrying out their roles like this now and, while offices will inevitably feature in the future, the current structures in place are supporting the wider team and customers, while maintaining the innate culture of the organisation. McCafferty highlighted how the value of strong analytical data, great team leadership and excellent communication has come uniquely into focus during the pandemic.
“The question for the entire team at Brightside has been ‘what is it that we’re about in this business, and what are we trying to achieve? How do we ensure that we’ve got a sustainable business that’s growing in the future?’ So, we engage our senior leaders often in conversations about those topics and that’s absolutely pivotal. In times of crisis, people want clarity. And they want to know what is it that we’re doing that’s going to be different in these circumstances?
“And as far as customers are concerned, we are very watchful around those key measures. And we talk to our people about what they experience. And the bumps in the road that you get, particularly as you go through a change like this, are quite real. But so long as you’re adapting to them, and you’re aware of them, and you’re responding to what people are saying, then you’re pretty likely to be OK.”