February 13, 2013

Bankstone News’ insurance-related audio visual experience was considerably enhanced this week by the launch of Insurance Age’s online take on BBC1’s The Apprentice. This sees five thrusting young insurance persons vying for the ultimate prize of a week as Chris ‘Allianz’ Hanky’s personal protégé and a brief leisure break to help them recover.

Episode 1, now available for your viewing pleasure on the Insurance Urge website, sees the five introduce themselves and then confront a feisty new business prospect in the shape of Derek SME Owner (played by Insurance Age’s Andy Pearce) who’s apparently very unhappy with his current insurance broker and looking for a change. His laconically geezeresque performance is the star turn of the show – by a mile.

Sadly, voting for Derek is not an option, so Age readers must choose between Ashley Prickett, Katie Pusey (both of whom, no doubt, have already suffered enough surname-related witticisms to last a lifetime, so we’ve spelled their names e-x-t-r-r-a carefully), Jonathan Garrett, Oliver Leyens and Holly Markham.

When Bankstone News checked voting on the Age website on Thursday afternoon, ginger fox Katie had two votes (or 50% as the totalizer put it) and Olly and Holly one a piece (both of them a convincing 25% ahead of Ashley and Jonathan on 0%).

Who are these people?

Jonathan Garrett is a commercial account handler with Flint Insurance Brokers. Did Civil Engineering at Uni but didn’t fancy it and ended up in insurance. He is hungry to learn and loves fresh fish, but hates anything German like Frankfurters or Sauerkraut and some other things he’s not really sure how to pronounce. His favourite book is Animal Farm in which he detects political undertones. Jonathan is “very keen on showing my level of service that I can provide to people’ which he believes will come across.

Katie Pusey is a commercial account handler at MRIB where she has her own ‘client bank’. She started in insurance at the age of 14 doing work experience and was offered an apprenticeship after A levels and at 23 is now a Chartered broker. She likes to go shopping and go to the Spa (for groceries, presumably) but has basically been too busy doing her insurance exams to relax for as long as she can remember. She likes chocolate but strongly believes that fruit should not be in a cake.

Oliver Leyens is director of the insurance department at his dad’s firm Heath Crawford (no relation) in Bushey. He likes motor racing and takes the firm’s JP1 track car all over the UK. He is bubbly, energetic and (according to a cruel video editor’s gratuitous inclusion) thinks tweets can be 140 words long. He gets into a bit of a mood when he’s hungry, which he admits is annoying. But if you fancy a rub down, Olly describes himself as “a sponge for the insurance industry”.

Holly Markham is a commercial account handler for Lupus Foetid & Partners (think that’s what she said, bit distracted by her crazily asymmetrical barnet). She wants to continue with her CII exams and fancies becoming a director and having a pivotal role in the insurance industry. Pressed to identify an annoying trait in herself, she confesses to being a perfectionist. This apparently means that even though she has achieved something great she is never happy or satisfied. She likes documentaries and spicy food – but isn’t keen on chocolate (good news for Katie, there!). She believes she can win because, unlike most people in the industry, she genuinely cares about her clients and thinks professionalism is one of the most important things.

Ashley Prickett is an account exec with Cotters Insurance who ended up in insurance after playing football with his ‘now boss’ (presumably a diminutive and essentially spheroid individual). His Insurance Hero is Chris Hanky (what a coincidence), whose career, Ashley hasn’t failed to notice, ‘has progressed to where he is now’. Ash also sees himself progressing further – after coming a fair distance already. His Ultimate Hero, however, is Brad Pitt ‘due to the fact that he has managed to snare Angelina Jolie’. Ashley would like to think he is driven enough to put up a good fight.

Holly is first to take on the challenge. She sympathises with Derek’s frustrations and promises sincerely ‘if you are happy for me to take some details I can have a look into obtaining a quotation and we can go from there.’

Next in to Derek’s Den is Olly who hears how various employees have been falling off ladders and suggests talking to insurers who insure people who climb ladders and that sort of thing, and asks pertinently ‘do any of the guys have any sort of like harnesses or anything like that when they go up on roofs?’ “It’s their own fault, really, if they can’t climb a ladder” opines Derek dismissively. What a character!

Then it’s Katie’s turn and, Boy, does she do quality eye contact. Derek’s putty in her hands. Coming over all posh, she’s soon into the technicalities of business interruption insurance and business continuity, and makes a persuasive case for the benefits of fee-based remuneration versus commission. “Are you trying to rip me off,” enquires Del, still a tad wary, but his apprehension is quickly and professionally allayed.

Now it’s Jonathan, and he’s more of a commission man – but reckons he can work on a fee basis for MTAs and could possibly add some fees ‘on new business on a case by case merit’. Pressed, he offers to disclose what commission his firm gets. Jon seems like a man who’d love to bend over backwards but whose hands are tied.

Finally we have baby-faced intellectual Ashley and it’s still all about the remuneration. Ash is a fees man and suggests there may be room for negotiation over fee levels year on year. He’s dismissive about the misconception that brokers should look across the market for the best deals for their clients – when in fact you get better deals if you support a few insurers consistently.

“I got a mate works down the road, a mechanic, these days” Del chimes in, “and he says it’s all about going online – the aggregators – that opera singer and the meerkat – and getting cheaper deals.” But Ash comes back with a cast iron rebuttal: it’s not really appropriate for a company your size, he explains patiently, and in any case (and all commercial brokers should probably memorise this speech): ‘the whole idea of having a broker is to take some hassle and aggravation out of your day to day. The last thing you want to be doing is dealing with the insurances. And that is what we, as brokers, are paid to do on your behalf.’

Summing up in the boardroom afterwards Chris Hanky, having a spot of (post-prandial?) bother with a wayward shirt collar, is broadly positive. Two candidates have particularly impressed him. He calls them all back in and recaps what the five have been asked to do. As it turns out, this was not – as Bankstone News had wrongly thought on first viewing – to look at the client’s knees and come up with a solution, but to look at his needs – an altogether more reasonable and practicable proposition. Who triumphed in this first task and who teamed an ill-fitting suit with a frighteningly ugly handbag? You will just have to watch it to find out!

Truly essential viewing!

Ashley ponders

Ashley ponders


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