July 11, 2014

Regular readers will be wearily familiar with Bankstone News’ sick obsession with insurance-themed online video sensation Broker Apprentice.

The first instalment, aired last week, introduced us to the six contestants whose first challenge was to invent names for the two teams into which they were split. They ended up settling on the vanishingly insipid and clichéd Team Innovate and the frankly bizarre male-bonding inspired Team Bro Kode (for full details click here to see last week’s Bankstone News coverage).

For their second challenge, the two teams were tasked with convincing an audience of Year 10 pupils at one of London’s top inner city schools (Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney) that insurance is a fascinating and rewarding industry/profession/whatever in which to work.

In their pre-presentation “strategy” session, Team Bro Kode appeared to spend most of their time arguing over whether the opportunity to study for lots of CII exams was a selling point or a turn-off for would-be broker trainees.

Former soldier Will reckoned the big appeal of insurance is that you don’t need lots of exams and can just pick it up as you go along. Graduates Josh (Law) and Max (Economics) disagreed. Expert Jonathan Swift gamely attempted to persuade us that this difference of opinion was interesting.

Team Innovate spent less time arguing and more agreeing that a) emphasising the diversity of a career in insurance and b) audience participation would both be important, and c) they would probably win. Which they did.

Cut to the big day.

As they stride out onto a brand new looking but very creaky stage, the Bros are clearly on a hiding to nothing. By way of explaining what insurance is about to people whose awareness of insurance, they are assuming, will be based exclusively on TV advertising, a somewhat disheveled Will mimes/acts-out getting up and going to school, encountering hazards such as “pretty hot” toast along the way.

Super sauve Will provides kids TV style narration, before Josh interjects in the role of presenter. “So you’re thinking where’s insurance got to do with Will’s journey to school. Well, insurance was there to cover all the what ifs. What if Will’s toast had of burned, created a fire, burned his house down.” Insurance “helps keep you protected on a daily life” Will elucidates, having now abandoned his thespian duties.

Having clarified that, the three amigos launch into detailed summaries of their own careers to date. In a nutshell Will always wanted to be a soldier and it was going really well but unfortunately it didn’t work out so he ended up working in a bank and then found his way into insurance which was “absolutely fantastic”.

Josh was dead set on being a lawyer (or possibly ‘a law’ – he’s a little unclear at this point) but having got his law degree he met a powerful older man who opened his eyes and beckoned him into an industry where the possibilities are limitless.

Poor Max was “always going to go into financial services” but had never thought about insurance. Now, however, he recognises that “there’s so much that you can do, that it’s a great place to be” with lots of opportunities for people who fancy leaving school after GCSEs and getting stuck in.

“You’ve been given an opportunity to listen to us,” Josh congratulates his listeners, adding that “we’ve all shared our passion with you. If you take one thing forward from today,” he urges, it should be that “the opportunities are limitless.” With that, the fabulous broker brothers wander off stage to a bewildered smattering of polite applause.

Creaking on to take their places, Team Innovate begin with an explanation/demonstration of insurance which is, if anything, even less coherent than Bro Kode’s. “If I go grab my handbag just now,” suggests likeable young Scot Daniel, returning quickly from the wings with the aforementioned accessory. “If I pay £10 to Veronica, she will look after my phone for the whole year.” He hands her his “phone”, in reality an iPad, but you get the general idea. “So, she takes my phone and she will look after it. However, if I am out on a night out and I drop my handbag, she will give me £100 to go out and get a new phone.”

After this slightly shaky start, things pick up a good deal, with lots of audience participation and the persuasive charm of not one but two Scots accents (If it works for call centres…). Veronika talks a bit about claims. Natalie talks a bit about underwriting. Dan says he quite likes Meerkats, although they can be a bit annoying, and he actually has one of the toys, but stresses that “Insurance is far and beyond a lot more than than.”

Innovate wrap up with a Q&A, during which they talk a bit about their own experience. Veronika did badly at school but worked her way up. Natalie reveals (we think) that she wanted “to be a dancer at Sin” but found insurance when that didn’t work out. Dan says he “didn’t have a clue” when he went into insurance, but soon found himself enthralled. “People think insurance is boring,” he says, “but it really isn’t” and “it’s something you can fall into at any time.”

No doubt appreciating the fact that the second team have actually acknowledged their presence and even engaged with them as something other than a few passive rows of faces, the assembled Year 10s acclaim Team Innovate as winners, with more or less a single voice.

In the debrief interviews, task loser Max demonstrates consummate political skills, gracefully opining that: “I think at the end of the day the task was more about inspiring young people into our industry and, if both teams did that, I consider that a job well done.”

Watch and learn, Ed Milliband.

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