Accelerating across the bridge over the Thames in Henley the other day, on my way to Oxford, I was struck by something. Not a Burberry-clad pedestrian fortunately…

  • 15 Nov 2012 – 11:52 AM
  • News

Thanks to some late summer sunshine, my eyes noticed that I had passed four insurance broker offices within shouting distance of each other. It made me think about who worked there, and wonder how much inter-insurance-broker-job-swapping might take place.

Initially that was the end of it. But by the time I reached Lower Assendon, the thought returned with a slightly more challenging consequence: if, perhaps, a particular set of skills became really important due to some new market opportunity emerging, then how would the brokers of Henley-on-Thames fare? Anyone who had the relevant skills would be in line for a tantalising pay rise maybe. They’d probably be getting phone calls from the broker across the street. They might get a call from someone in Glasgow, Leeds or Faversham – anywhere. To what extent would each broking office find its staff moving on to a new employer? All of a sudden, I could imagine a kind of race for talent within the UK broking industry which could benefit some brokers, but seriously threaten others.

Obviously this line of thinking requires the emergence of a new market opportunity, and what’s new in insurance? Well. Schemes may just be the catalyst for such a migration of talent. If schemes continue to develop in appeal as they have over the last three years, and if low-touch, standardised, price-led product solutions continue to take share through electronic systems, isn’t the skill set within brokers going to have to change too? Alongside e-insurance, brokers will have the opportunity to create well-targeted insurance solutions specifically designed to meet the demands of customers with a common, but specialist, need. They’ll need to be able to offer expert advice, and deliver a personal, high quality service. In fact they’ll have to do that in order to win customers with something more compelling than a click here and a click there. And that’s going to take people with the right skills.

A quick example. One of the key features of schemes is delegated underwriting authority. This is not given lightly by insurers who will need to be assured that the individuals in brokers’ offices are proficient, qualified and capable of carrying it. Now that sounds like a particular set of skills to me.

So where will those skills come from? We’re suddenly back in Henley and thinking about who might have the right capabilities nearby. Or maybe we need to look further afield – but where, and how would we attract them in? What underwriting skills would we need for what sort of scheme? Who do we know who could help us? Do we look at other brokers, or do we need to find people from insurance companies?

My message is don’t be alarmed. The opportunities are there and offer great potential. But you might want to be prepared.