When evaluating the appeal of the insurance profession, the word that often springs to mind is ‘opportunity’. For John Garrard, (pictured), founder and MD of the newly created niche personal lines broker Wrapper Insure, his first foray into insurance was in the form of a summer job at Carole Nash, supporting the team though tea-making and filing as well as looking after the post-room.
“I absolutely loved it,” he said, “so much that I left college to go back. I had planned to study English and Business Studies, but having worked in an office, I didn’t like the lack of structure and responsibility college offered. I felt ready to enter the world of full-time employment. I asked if there were any opportunities at Carole Nash and was offered a permanent role there, so ditched my college plans.
“They called me ‘The Cover-Note King’ as my first job was in technical support and I used to handwrite all the insurance cover notes. Being naturally inquisitive, I asked lots of questions about all the elements of the business and gained invaluable experience; everything from the call centre to underwriting to compliance. I stayed for almost a decade, working my way up to head of quality and compliance.”
From there, Garrard said, he moved on to Fish Insurance, joining shortly after its first round of private equity funding, to become part of its small but dedicated management team. He then took on the role of operations director at Fish Insurance before becoming MD and, over the decade he was there, the business trebled in size. However, he noted that it was his long-held ambition to start a business from scratch that led him to found Wrapper Insure, which operates on a self-service, digital-only basis.
“I’ve always enjoyed the growth of digital,” he said, “and for some time now it’s frustrated me to know that there are still so many niche markets being underserved technologically by the insurance industry. Regardless of the product, the modern consumer requires a more modern approach that reflects and serves the digital age. Customers today expect efficiency, convenience and control, which Wrapper will provide through its easy-to-use online systems.”
Wrapper is taking a complete step away from the traditional call centre approach to personal lines insurance, he said, to give today’s customer complete control, with a self-service portal, AI chatbot and a policyholder app all provided by Ignite Insurance Systems. Meanwhile, software and data enrichment from Percayso will look to deliver cutting-edge back-office automation and fast data validation to deliver a streamlined and secure experience for customers, proving that just because something is ‘niche’ doesn’t mean it can’t be sophisticated.
The digital-led nature of Wrapper has meant that working remotely has not held anything up from a practical point of view and instead the challenge has been not being able to discuss the business over a drink in the pub. Starting a business is daunting for anyone, he said, and it would have been nice to talk about it and celebrate it more. But working with other passionate individuals and organisations, bringing their expertise to the table and turning it around quickly has been great. The brokerage received FCA approval in just four months, which Garrard considers testament to the thorough business plan and thought-out product that has been created.
“The modern consumer is used to fast turnaround times, trackability and results - most of the vendors that they deal with on a regular basis are tech-led, omnichannel, immediate response organisations: Amazon, Facebook, Google, banks etc and we have all become much more comfortable with tech over the last 12 months,” he explained. “Self-service delivers immediacy, gives the customer control and offers more sophisticated methods of customer interaction.
“An efficient, digital-led customer service solution using slick AI and bots is the most efficient way for any customer to create and build their insurance policy. Back this up with the best data gathering tools and your service is not only fast, but it’s also bespoke. I’m a passionate advocate of the digitisation of the insurance profession, to me it’s long overdue. With the launch of Wrapper, I’m putting the customer in the driving seat.”
Garrard believes that the concern expressed by some brokers that a digital-first approach could lead to reduced customer care is essentially just old-fashioned thinking. It’s all about effective, regular communication, he said - in fact, customers will get more comms from Wrapper than they might from other insurers, just on different channels.
“We are using social media, email, text and chatbots to communicate quickly and on a personal level, as opposed to making people wait on a phone call to speak to someone in a call centre,” he explained. “Our back-room technology means they will get the most relevant, targeted, efficient communication possible. However, we aren’t a faceless business and when a customer really needs to speak to us, they will be able to.”
Looking to the future, Garrard noted that the business will soon be launching new products and that its initial offering in motorhome insurance will expand in Q2 to include touring caravan, gap and micro-mobility insurance products. He and the team are excited by the opportunity to provide these leisure markets with Wrapper’s digital capability and to continue building on what he considers the best part of working in the insurance industry – bringing many different dynamics together.
“I really enjoy working with other businesses and individuals to get the best results,” he said. “I’m naturally operationally focused. [I enjoy] engaging with other people, building new working relationships and pushing the boundaries by bringing in additional expertise and capabilities, to create the best end product for the customer.”