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Inside the ‘broker of the year’

Inside the ‘broker of the year’ | Insurance Business UK

Inside the ‘broker of the year’
Crewe-based broker The County Group, which has over 25 branches across the north of England, Midlands and Wales, was named Insurance Broker of the Year at the British Insurance Awards last week. The company, which works in both personal and commercial lines, describes itself as a “modern, forward-thinking insurance broker but with heritage, tradition and a personal service behind it.”

Insurance Business caught up with CEO Dave Clapp to find out about the firm’s secrets to success, future plans, and how it has weathered recent challenges such as Ogden.

What distinguishes The County Group from other brokers? What factors helped the firm win the broker of the year award?

We have worked hard to train and nurture our staff, develop our customer service offering, acquire new businesses and grow organically. We also value giving something back to our local community, and frequently sponsor local sports teams and organise charity events. With a range of over 30 sub-brands, we are able to target those with niche insurance and financial service needs. As a result, in the last 12 months we have almost doubled the number of people we employ and our premium total.

Are there any areas in which The County Group is seeing particular growth?

This year, our goal was to increase our premium total. Our strategy was to continue to grow organically, with a controlled approach by ensuring the smooth acquisition of new businesses, continuing to provide a traditional broker service, and improving our product range. We hoped that this would then enable us to cross-sell broader insurance solutions and improve our retention rate even more.

What challenges has The County Group faced in the last year?

Insurance rates did increase when the Ogden rates changed, however this was only a short-term issue which was felt across the whole industry. As insurers are beginning to understand this, their initial rates are being reversed.
One of the biggest challenges we faced over the last year was when one of our major taxi insurance providers and remove brokers went into liquidation, which meant we couldn’t renew, alter or set up any new business policies with them. The biggest threat was that thousands of our clients would be without cover. We had very little planned communication but knew that all existing business had to be replaced. We managed to negotiate a solution with an industry leading insurer which meant no County customer was in any way out of pocket and they enjoyed continuous insurance cover.

What are the priorities for the company looking ahead?

Our strategic goals were to ensure we grew both organically through carefully selected acquisitions that complimented The County Group strategy. We have increased our commercial lines book, lessening our reliance on the hire and reward market, but have still remained the market leading broker in that arena. Our latest acquisitions show our ambition to grow further with our community broking strategy.

These businesses benefit from increased products and improved insurer connectivity, as well as compliance and marketing, but remain in place at the heart of their community. While these growth plans are ambitious, a large amount of due diligence occurs before each deal and the Group is not taking unnecessary risks. All previous acquisitions have proved successful on a tried and trusted business model. To grow organically at the same time, with an excellent marketing and sales strategy, shows that all areas of the business are functioning well.

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