This was a great task for the apprentices because it actually tested their imagination and their entrepreneurialism and it did so in a practical way.
They had the opportunity to use some of their experience to try and sell something that had the prospect of making money and growing in the future.
Interestingly, there were several different approaches. One was completely off the wall.
A couple were based around schemes that are already in the market place, where they felt they could get a distinct advantage, and a couple went into areas where they are currently nothing in the market place - which was particularly interesting.
Off the wall
The EnviroInsure idea was off the wall. Then again, perhaps Ashley is the Martin Peters of schemes – 10 years ahead of his time!
He tapped into the whole notion of the green agenda and sustainability, and tried to find something that linked them together by delivering benefits to both the client and the insurer. I’m afraid at their stage it’s probably a goal too far.
He put up a passionate argument and defence of his scheme and there is clearly potential around it. But I’m not sure that people are ready yet to pay more money to tap into that agenda.
Both Jonathan and Oliver focused on areas where there are already schemes in place with brokers other than their own. I can see why this was a useful market for their business to get into.
Both of them had good ideas on some aspects of differentiation and offering something new.
But neither of them had much in the way of existing skills and capabilities in their businesses to be considered experts in those areas immediately.
On the one hand, in terms of the Broker Apprentice competition, this was a strength. It meant they had taken the task seriously, done their own research and not just picked up an old suggestion knocking around their office to pass off as their own.
In fact I believe none of the five contestants did that, which is a credit to them all.
But I do think for brokers to have successful schemes they need to be seen to be experts with all – emphasis on the all – the skills and capabilities in those specialist areas.
Oliver opted for the very well tried and tested area of hairdressing, where there is already a very big stand out market leader.
Taking them on would be a challenge.
Jonathan wanted to focus in the security protection area. This again is a growing area and one where there are a number of opportunities to expand. And to be fair his business already has some expertise in this area.
Although his presentation did not persuade me fully that he could hit the “all” level I emphasised earlier.
Both Holly and Katie went into new and very interesting areas. Katie focused on a growing trend for vineyards in the UK.
Her marketing proposition might have benefited if the props she brought in were full rather than empty bottles of wine….
In all seriousness her proposition could come through - and who knows, with global warming vineyards could become a core part of the UK economy.
However, while it was definitely a most interesting idea, and well presented, I’d like to hear more about it all, which is the issue – she has more to do to pinpoint the full range of covers needed, as the questioning showed.
Holly, on the other hand, devised a scheme because she had spotted a frustration that the owners of mobility scooter shops may currently be unable to access a suitable package.
These outlets, which sell and repair mobility scooters, wheelchairs and other similar types of equipment, have distinct needs.
What they require is very different to normal shop keeper cover and, as Holly pointed out, in fact have some similarities with the motor market.
I found the fact that Holly’s business has had experience in similar areas interesting. She certainly managed to persuade me that her scheme was designed for what is likely to be a growing market given our ageing population.
Double the prizes
On balance this was a very difficult challenge to decide a winner. There was a good mixture but in this category I did choose two winners.
Jonathan managed to deliver a well thought out presentation that he had researched thoroughly.
His style was relaxed and confident. There are some areas for him to improve on but it was a great and impressive start nonetheless.
But I also liked Holly’s innovative idea of a mobility scheme. At first she seemed nervous in pitching to me and my two accomplices.
It was perhaps under questioning that her real passion and knowledge best came through and by the end it shone out clearly.
They both had big ticks in the imaginative and entrepreneurial boxes.
Good ideas that, with work, could make money and grow. And that’s why I doubled up on them.
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