Lessons learned from a career spanning decades

An MGA’s managing director on change in the industry and his advice for younger brokers

Lessons learned from a career spanning decades

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

As the managing director of Touchstone Underwriting, and a broker with sister company James Hallam Insurance Brokers, Alan Roe knows a thing or two about insurance.

Having spent almost 40 years in the industry, Roe told Insurance Business that he got his start in insurance at Norwich Union in Nottingham, having been offered a job from a girlfriend’s father.

“I started off right at the very bottom,” he said – filing, and writing out insurance policies on carbon paper – before eventually joining the trainee programme. After five years, he got his first proper role in the Luton local office.

Since then, in a career that has so far lasted almost 40 years, he has held roles including managing director at Bradstock Insurance Brokers, and director at Kerry London.

In his current role as a broker at James Hallam, Roe looks after around 20 corporate clients.

“It’s all about client requirements, keeping them happy, forging relationships. And I love that – that is number one,” he said.

As the managing director of Touchstone, Roe has spent seven years guiding the business and helping it grow. “I’ve loved building the team,” he said. “There were four or five people when I first started at Touchstone, and now there are 19… I’ve enjoyed the growth, the people, the staff, watching youngsters come through the business and making their way.”

Over the course of several decades in the industry, inevitably much has changed. FCA regulation and authorisation have been the key defining changes that Roe has experienced during his career.

“I can see that it was required, because a lot of brokers and businesses aren’t run on the same sort of TCF (Treating Customers Fairly) cultures that they should be. I’ve always worked on that basis, that the customer comes first,” he explained.

Technology too has dramatically changed the industry – and in Roe’s opinion, for the better. “From my perspective, I’ve always taken it on board and relished it, so therefore I’ve used it to move my business on,” he said.

Roe recently got the Seventeen Group board to agree to bringing in a new IT underwriting system, which he says has transformed the business – though the emphasis is on using technology to increase efficiency, rather than for its own sake.

Asked what advice he would give to younger workers climbing the insurance ladder, Roe’s number one piece of guidance is to work hard. “You only get out what you put in,” he said.

“What I say to my junior guys is – get your exams, learn the systems that you’re using, be open minded, and don’t be frightened to ask things or put things forward.”

Had he not had a successful career in insurance, what else might he be doing?

“I’d love to be a racing car driver,” Roe said. “My passion is racing and cars and sports cars. I’ve done a hell of a lot of personal training to get myself to a level to be able to drive cars like that, and I own a Porsche. I spend a lot of my spare time doing that.”

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