An annoying thing about working in the insurance sector, according to Jon Tricker (pictured), the MD and owner of the Norfolk-based broker Whitegates Private Clients, is that when people are asked how they came to join the industry, they tend to reply, “I just sort of fell into insurance.”
This is understandable, he noted, as it is the experience of so many, but it seems a shame that this is still the standard response when the industry itself is so fascinating, and the depths and diversity within it are astounding. Having been in insurance for around 25 years, he finds that even now he meets brokers who specialise in areas of insurance that he has not heard of.
Tricker’s first role in the insurance sector was with A Plan, which he credits as a fantastic starting point for his career, before he moved to work with a broker which later became Clear Insurance. He later moved to Jelf, followed by a stint working in the City. This trajectory ultimately brought him to owning and running Whitegates, which specialises in the high net worth (HNW) sector.
Working in the sector comes with a host of advantages, he said, and chief among these is the wonderful people it involves, from those whom he has the pleasure to work alongside, to the clients whom he greatly enjoys advising. In addition, he highlighted that working in the HNW sector allows him to see some stunning properties and incredible collections of cars.
Read more: How can brokers access the HNW sector?
A career spent within the broking industry has given him an understanding of how essential brokers are to the insurance ecosystem. Tricker saw first hand how brokers were impacted by the emergence of direct insurers, but also how this has come full-circle in recent years.
“I actually feel quite nervous when I think about the amount of people who have decided to use direct insurers, just to save money,” he said. “I have had so many cases of people coming to me, asking me if I can help them. In some cases, they have had claims kicked out, as policy conditions weren’t met, and these were policy conditions that they did not understand.
“I have had cases of people coming to me with certain perils specifically excluded, that they had not known about. Conversations like ‘are you happy to not have any flood cover at the property?’ are regularly replied to with ‘oh, don’t we have any flood cover?’ There is absolutely no thought spent on level of cover, claims service, endorsements and warranties.”
In an effort to reduce costs, he stated, direct policies tend to have to cut cover on things like trace and access, for finding leaking pipes.
“I had a client who made a claim for just this sort of thing,” he said, “and as I arranged a very good policy for him, his trace and access cover was up to the building sum insured. His claim cost £19,000. His previous direct policy had that section of cover capped at £1,000. Had he still had his old direct policy, he’d have had to fund the additional £18,000 himself. Yet the only factor that a lot of people are using to differentiate between policies is premium, which is scary.”
For an insurance broker to continue proving their place within the insurance matrix, there are several traits which Tricker believes they need to exhibit and key among these is the need for brokers to be caring and honest, with a personality and a sense of humour. So many direct insurance interactions are made of multiple people from various locations throughout the world, but for many clients, the stability of knowing who they are speaking to is of real value. Being available evenings and weekends is also crucial as so many clients in the HNW sector work very long hours and cannot find time during traditional working hours to chat.
Additionally, he noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic may have some long-term implications on the value placed on advice over price in insurance, he has not been severely impacted by the crisis as a broker as his speciality areas of HNW home and motor insurance have not been too badly affected.
“One thing that has changed,” he noted, “is that my clients seem to have had more time to look at their policies, which can only be a good thing. I had a lovely 45-minute conversation with a lawyer I’ve insured for years. Prior to COVID, we’d only managed to snatch really brief 45-second calls, before he was dragged off to a meeting.”
Looking to the future, Tricker said he is very positive about the long-standing role of brokers in the insurance industry and that he is keen to make this an occupation of choice rather than something which people fall into.
“Brokers are amazing,” he said. “And I’m very keen for young, entrepreneurial professionals to set up their own brokerages. With the current trend of acquisition continuing, there does seem to be a real gap for smaller, privately owned brokerages going forward – a definite hole that needs filling with lively, energetic young people.”