Phil Bass and Pete Phillips formed Intellectus Insurance Brokers in 2014, and recently became and AR partner of Momentum. Phil shares their journey so far:
Tell us about your background before joining Momentum
Both Pete and I had broking backgrounds going back to the early 90’s, until joining AXA Commercial Direct within a month of each other in 2007.
Why did you select AR route?
There were a few key reasons for choosing to go down this route. Firstly, having been away from the broker market for the best part of ten years, we knew that obtaining agencies with key insurers would be difficult without a guaranteed book of business to promise them.
Time and set-up costs to go directly authorised were also a big factor. And finally, joining a network seemed to be the best way for a small, independent, broker to have the presence of a national brokerage in the marketplace, ensuring our customers had access to the right markets to manage their insurance needs & requirements.
What lessons have you learned?
We really wish we had done this earlier! There is plenty of space in the Commercial Insurance market for brokers like ourselves. The broker market continues to be consolidated and we are regularly coming across local businesses that simply aren’t getting the service or advice they need and are purely being sold on price.
What is important for you in selecting a principal firm?
It’s crucial you do your research. The principal’s reputation in the marketplace is crucial. Not only do they need to have access to markets, but they need to have the relationships with these markets to get the business placed.
Make sure you meet the team you will deal with day-to-day. Can you work with them? Do they have the knowledge and expertise to manage you and your customers’ expectations the way you have been accustomed to?
Being a small business it’s critical that you get some time away with the family, and having a principal with the capability and experience to support your client in your absence is critical.
What are your ambitions for Intellectus Insurance Brokers?
Over the next 3 years we are looking to double the size of our business. We are passionate about getting to know our clients so we can provide them with a first class service. As we continue to grow, we cannot lose sight of this.
What role do you see Momentum playing in supporting these?
Momentum are a key element in our plans and crucial to our ongoing success. Having recently joined Momentum, the interaction and support is seamless. They are completely aligned to our business and our customers.
While it’s still early days, the move to Momentum has already resulted in a significant uplift in our GWP growth and helped secure some substantial new business, through their market relationships.
How does being an appointed representative affect your client relationships?
There isn’t a downside. It actually enhances what we do and helps us both react quickly to our clients’ needs. As long as you explain Momentum’s role, customers understand that we are independent, but through being a member of a network we have the presence of a national brokerage in the marketplace.
How is your working life changed since leaving the corporate world?
This may seem a strange answer, but it is significantly less stressful. There are no weekly team conference calls with management, where you are expected to justify your existence by pledging how much new business you are going to write that week, while seeming to take your existing clients for granted.
Working as a partnership we hold each other accountable and this works very well.
How important is the freedom to focus on your clients not on the back office?
Vital. The level of service provided by the Momentum team has immediately shown its worth, as we have been able to concentrate on our clients and leave the chasing of insurers for terms and paperwork to Momentum.
How important is it to have quality IT systems and software house?
In today’s world, it is imperative that you have the right back office software in place for your business.
In addition to having the right back office system, it’s also incredibly important that the network has the resource and experience to support it and develop it to make sure it is fit for purpose.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a brokerage as an AR?
1. Most importantly make sure you have sufficient knowledge and expertise in the markets you are looking to target; not just insurance knowledge, but specific knowledge of the industries. If you don’t understand your clients’ activities or needs, then premiums can be irrelevant. The client has to have confidence in you.
2. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to win and retain business but make sure you have the financial resources to keep you going in the early months.
3. Your AR network needs to be aligned to you and your client’s needs. Speak to former colleagues/acquaintances/even insurer contacts for their impression of the network. Interview them, test their staff with cases and get to know them before making a decision. It’s an expensive mistake if you get it wrong.
4. You’re the one taking the risk so make sure you retain client ownership.