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Q&A: Why diversity and inclusion matters

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Close Brother’s Paul Trail explains why the premium finance provider supported the D&I trophy at last month’s UK Broker Awards.

Why did you sponsor the D&I award for this year’s UKBA?
Close Brothers Premium Finance is a modern progressive business, we are proud of our colleagues - they have done a great job during the lockdown and continue to do so, still working in a remote environment.

If you look at our customers you will see they are very diverse and it’s important that we as an industry reflect that.

Ideally, in future, we won’t need this type of award anymore because true equality will become the norm. 

Has the pandemic brought about big changes in the way you operate as a business? 
Remote working has underlined the importance of looking after health and wellbeing of our people - that will continue to be a priority for us.

We have also realised that you have to treat colleagues individually, and as adults. For example, we placed great emphasis on making sure our team members have the right equipment and the best possible support to serve our partners effectively. The lockdown changed the work environment so quickly we had to react and soon realised it is all about being respectful of the various issues our staff have with regard to childcare, illness and the like

It was clear that dealing effectively with the impact of the pandemic required our industry to work together to help our partners support and assist their commercial and personal lines customers.  I’ve been hugely impressed by the response of the broking sector to the pandemic

What examples can you give of the industry working together through Covid-19?
We worked very closely with our partners after it became apparent that commercial and personal lines clients were going to need help with their premium payments

We had to react quickly to ensure that we were set up to operate remotely, and able to deliver client support, including extending forbearance to help commercial businesses and customers who needed our help. It was important that we had everything in place at pace in order to deal with the thousands of calls from concerned customers, be they commercial or personal.

It also became clear that our payment services technology would prove hugely useful in giving financially stretched commercial clients the means to choose how to pay for their insurance, including the option of spreading their payments to make insurance affordable and stay on cover. 

I believe the pandemic underlined the value of technology, such as payment services, in giving broker partners a slick, modern and easy to use means of supporting their clients

Looking ahead, what is your message for the broking sector as the economy emerges from the pandemic?
I recently wrote that it is too early to say that we are in a ’new normal,’ as Covid-19 is still very much with us, so it is hard to predict the future with any certainty.

However, I do believe that brokers have a key part to play in supporting their clients, practically, and part of that is offering a means to make their insurance affordable.

As Covid bites further I think that premium finance will become more and more sought after by businesses and individuals needing to manage their cashflows For brokers, premium finance affords the opportunity to deliver an important revenue stream in order to offset the recessionary effects of the pandemic.

How optimistic are you for the future of broking in the UK
We operate in the UK and the Irish Republic, and we are positive about prospects in both markets. I’ve worked with brokers for most of my career and can state with certainty that they are resilient, entrepreneurial and well placed to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the crisis. 

I’m a great believer in partnerships, and our role in providing the technology investment and finance expertise for our 1,600 broking partners is key - if brokers do well, we do well, so it really is a case of ‘we’re all in this together.’ 

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