With well over two decades supporting sales and marketing efforts across the financial services industry to his name, Nic Brown (pictured) knows better than most how to recognise opportunity. Having worked with some of the biggest insurance brands in the world to help deliver profitable growth, he said, it was recognition that the time was right to build something of his own that led him to strike out and launch FJN Growth Solutions.
“I’ve always really enjoyed turning things around and setting things up, whether that’s new distribution channels and new products, or refreshing and re-energising sales and marketing capabilities and helping build them out into new territories,” he said. “I really love it, it’s what gives me a real buzz and I’ve got a lot of experience doing that.”
Like many of his peers in the insurance market, the COVID period was the first time in a long time Brown had enjoyed a real stretch of living and working in the same place. With young children at home, he said, the appeal of fostering a great work-life balance was strong and a conversation with Dan Small, MD of FJN Solutions, opened his eyes to the opportunities presented by lending his expertise to the market through consultancy work.
“At that point I’d been having lots of conversations with people saying the same thing – that, whether brokers or insurers, everyone’s pursuing a growth agenda but most people are struggling to deliver on theirs,” he said. “When I put that against the constant movement of people leaving and starting or joining businesses for a whole variety of reasons, I saw the opportunity to take my experience and support those businesses by helping them put the right structures in place for growth.”
Reflecting on what he has learnt from decades of supporting the growth ambitions of insurance businesses, Brown noted that there is a framework for delivering a strong growth strategy. What FJN Growth Solutions is looking to do is help its clients best leverage their sales and marketing capabilities, by utilising the principles of that framework – in part or in full – to access new opportunities, offset challenges and realise their ambitions.
He’s looking to leverage this tried and tested approach to supporting a wide variety of different organisations, he said, because, at their core, they’re often facing the same kind of challenges – how to re-energise, how to re-motivate themselves, and how to refocus their sales and marketing capabilities to deliver growth.
Identifying some of the key areas where he sees that businesses need more support than ever, Brown highlighted how the pace of M&A has disrupted the insurance ecosystem. There’s a huge amount of M&A activity occurring in the intermediary space, he said, and it doesn’t look set to slow down any time soon.
“There’s real opportunity that exists there in two key ways,” he said. “The first is, how you are able to effectively integrate the independent insurance broker within the wider acquisitive brokerage. And some of these intermediaries have that as an ambition. But others are looking at this from the perspective of how you identify the very different strengths of the businesses you’ve acquired and apply them to your other businesses. And I think we can help facilitate both approaches.”
Looking back to a time when he asked a network event of some 150 independent brokers whether they had a growth strategy, he noted that everyone in the audience put their hand up. When he asked how many had delivered on that growth strategy, only 10% of hands remained raised and even that seemed unnaturally high.
“The independent broker has got so much on their plate and the pace of life just takes over,” he said. “So, we can see the opportunity to engage and get them the external support required to give their growth plans the attention they need. Also, within the insurance space, there are lots of new products taking root out there and lots of new distribution channels coming in. I think MGAs, in particular, tend to start in a specialism and then expand and that’s where their challenges start to evolve in terms of growth.”
It’s an exciting time for the market as insurance intermediaries look to new channels, products and audiences to better serve their customers, he said, and he’s looking forward to having the conversations that will dig into the challenges these businesses face. That process of constantly identifying new challenges and different strategic ambitions is what has kept Brown’s interest in the insurance industry alive, and he relishes the opportunity to keep learning and finding new ways to support the market.
“I’ve been really flattered by the messages of support from the market I’ve received since the business was launched,” he said. “We’ve been inundated with well-wishes and opportunities to connect and reconnect with people, which has been fantastic and I’m so grateful for that. But I like to think that the reason for this is the way I work and the way my teams have always worked to be as good as we can be and to deliver the best results.
“To deliver those results, you have to put both the customer and your distribution partner at the centre of it all, and work tirelessly with structure and discipline and focus to support them. That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I want to continue to do – to help our clients get really good at execution. I want to help people get absolutely brilliant at the basics and nail that execution piece so their growth ambitions get realised, rather than chased.”
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