Few surprises, but those few were pleasant ones. That was the takeaway of Momentum Broker Solutions’ MD Howard Pepper (pictured above) from the research recently undertaken by the AR network which took a big-picture approach to evaluating the sentiment of the market. Momentum questioned 88 ARs, around 20% of the UK’s insurance broker AR market, including network members, as well as ARs associated with other networks, or attached to national, regional and small independent brokerages.
Key findings from the report revealed that 74% of those surveyed rated their ability to compete against the wider market as ‘high’ or ‘very high’, while 77% of ARs expect to grow this year.
Discussing the lay of the AR land, Pepper and Dominic Coughlan (pictured below), marketing manager at Momentum, highlighted that hearing about the number of new businesses evolving in the UK is a testament to the spirit of the nation and its determination to find new opportunities. After an event like a pandemic, Pepper noted that companies tend to become more risk-aware and risk-averse which means they need more support and advice than ever.
“As a small independent broker, your clients are your life,” he said. “You spend your time finding ways of supporting them, whereas in some bigger brokerages a lot of this [communication] is done via call centres which makes it incredibly difficult to give a personal service.”
None of this is to say that the year ahead will not bring its challenges, Pepper said, and this was reflected in the concerns of the ARs Momentum surveyed, 44% of which said the pandemic harmed their growth plans, and 14% of whom think the hardening market will cause a decrease in business. The ability to build a pipeline of new business was highlighted as the biggest challenge of the year by 31% of respondents, and Pepper outlined some of the ways that successful brokers have overcome prospecting and networking challenges during the pandemic.
“Some of this comes down to the community aspect - local networking as a result of referrals are a great source of business” he said. “… looking at consolidation in the market, when businesses are being taken over, their eye can go off the ball. Clients might not get the level of attention that they need, whereas independent brokers, such as our partners, are focused on that. They really want to be out there talking to people, having more meaningful conversations and, as a result, picking up more business.”
When it comes to generating new business opportunities over the last year, Coughlan stated that social networking has given brokers a new way to engage while socially distancing. From a marketing perspective, both LinkedIn and Facebook have proven effective engagement tools and he and his team have been creating online workshops showing how to use social media effectively. Many partners were forced to turn social by the pandemic, he said, but having been driven to it they now see the full benefits of that decision and have adapted to this new channel.
Pepper and Coughlan are both positive about the future of the AR sector, and the message they are looking to deliver to people considering starting their own business is that now is the time to do so.
“Of course you need to be thoughtful about the decision, it requires careful planning and consideration,” Pepper continued. “But if you’re confident in your own ability, then there never has been a better time to go and start and build your own business. We don’t know anybody who has started it and regretted it, but we know many who wish they had done it earlier.”