Blog: Broking is vital to help UK business recover from Covid-19

Sharon Bishop

Premium Finance Week: Sharon Bishop, CEO Close Brothers Premium Finance, explains why brokers have an essential role in getting the UK back in business.

At the end of this special ‘Premium Finance Week’ in partnership with Insurance Age, I am convinced broking will bounce back after the pandemic is over.

Commercial broking is a first and foremost a relationship business, and so it has proved during the lockdown, with brokers in close contact with hundreds of their clients, giving advice and support and representing their interests with insurers. Covid or no Covid, that tradition is continuous.

But brokers have an even more crucial future role to play in helping the insurance industry as a whole to re-establish trusted relationships with clients.

Collective response
The whole insurance industry has been under intense public scrutiny, and customers seldom differentiate between the various players. How we collectively respond during the next few months will be vital in reminding business of the role of insurance and insurance broking in particular as engines of the economy.

We need to deploy all the tools we have at our disposal to help individuals and businesses back on their feet, whether the business is a self-employed tradesman in his fifties, a young person going back to college and needing car insurance, or a 35-year-old entrepreneur starting up in manufacturing.

Customers are waking up to the advantages of premium finance. We now support one in six households to spread the cost of their insurance helping to make it affordable. The pandemic has accelerated the demand for payment flexibility, and we are now able to service further growth in demand via our Payment Services technology.

The 55-year old tradesman, who’s always paid his insurance in full and up front, may need to change his insurance buying habits. Brokers need to be able to help explain how premium finance will help, and in Payment Services, there is now the technology to make that transaction seamless and straightforward.

The young entrepreneur starting up her business will be able to access and process her premium finance facilities via technology, and I am convinced that helping businesses to spread the cost of their insurance will be a vital role for brokers. The more we can spread the message that there is a raft of payment choices available to customers, the more they will change traditional insurance buying habits and tap into the ease and convenience of spreading the cost of their premium.

Extra mile
Although the industry as a whole has been in the media firing line, there is of course another side to the story. I have heard many examples of brokers going the extra mile for their clients, and I believe that help and support will be remembered long into the future.

The enduring issues of ethnic and social diversity remind us that, as well as building relationships with clients, we need to do more to demonstrate our commitment to being supportive and inclusive.

In January, the British Business Bank announced that of 15,000 start up loans advanced in London since 2012, nearly half had gone to BAME entrepreneurs. Some of these entrepreneurs will be the business success stories of the future. Our industry must better reflect its future client base.

Tackling diversity should be given more priority, just as brokers also need to tune in to their natural entrepreneurship and help their clients get the best possible outcomes for their insurance needs.

If the UK economy is to recover quickly from Covid-19, it will be the UK business community that leads the way, and they will, again, need all our help to do so.

Sharon Bishop is CEO of Close Brothers Premium Finance.

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