Newbie news: Starting out

Barry Abrams

Barry Abrams, managing director of Abrams Insurance Services, tells Insurance Age how the start-up broker has fared so far

▶ Why did you decide to start up a broker?
I’ve always dreamed of working for myself and running my own company. It’s nice to be able to do things your own way and that was the incentive for starting up. We had it planned for about a year. In December last year we registered the company name and in June we really got the ball rolling. 

What did you do before?
I’ve been an insurance broker for the last 22 years. It’s all I know. I worked for a company locally in Hemel Hempstead for 12 years. I left there in October 2018 and worked for SJL in their City office up until September this year.

▶ How hard was it to get up and running?
It takes a lot of time and effort and it’s daunting. We had some external help from a compliance company which made things a little bit easier. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but there’s a lot of paper work and everything has to be right the first time around to help speed the process up. We were authorised on 16 September 2019.

What are your targets for the first 12 months?
We set ourselves a target of £600,000 GWP in year one. We’ve got a long way to go yet, but so far we’re ahead of target.

Where do you see yourself and the business in three years?
We’ll have more products on offer, more insurers behind us and lots of staff. 

How big is the team?
There are two managing directors – me and Paul Cairns, who is a silent partner. It’s just the two of us so the tea round is pretty quick and easy at the moment. Hopefully we’ll have a member of staff soon. 

Did anyone help you with funding?
Luckily, that’s the responsibility of my partner. He has been very good and kindly funded the whole operation. It does get quite expensive. 

What would you say were the most difficult obstacles to overcome?
Definitely the authorisation process. Apart from that, we’ve been okay. We’ve had support from insurers and wholesale brokers that we’ve known for many years. That has helped. If you didn’t have the backing of insurers, you’d be a bit worried. 

I’ve been in the industry for a long time and I’ve got to know the insurers and underwriters on a good level so for us it’s been pretty easy

What lines of business are you specialising in?
We’re generally a commercial insurance broker. We will have some offerings in personal lines as well. We’ve got a few things we focus on, including marine cargo insurance and the waste and recycling industry. We do also support the traditional lines – fleet, liability, commercial combined. We pretty much try and write whatever comes through our door. 

What is the local competition like?
We’re based in Essex. It’s very close to the City, which helps us build relationships with insurers and the London Market. We serve nationwide so we don’t really come across too much local competition. There’s not a great deal of brokers where we’re based so I can’t envisage there will be too much of a problem. 

▶ How do you plan to market the business?
We’ve got a lot of previous customers, so word of mouth is keeping us busy at the moment. We also have a Facebook page which has had a good reception. People are liking and sharing and commenting and we’ve had quite a few enquiries from that so far. Over time, we’ll expand that across all social media platforms. 

What has insurer support been like? 
I’ve been in the industry for a long time and I’ve got to know the insurers and underwriters on a good level so for us it’s been pretty easy. We’ve not had any issues at all. We’ve had quite a great reception from our insurers and they’re excited to have us on board.

Would you advise other people to go out on their own?
Provided they’re prepared to work very hard and have deep pockets. It’s going to cost. And they need the experience and the relationships with insurers. If you’ve got all these things, then yes indeed. 

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