Broker Spotlights

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Instinct Insurance & Risk Management

Tom Baker, Owner and Director of Instinct Insurance & Risk Management Services recently spoke with us about his journey from TEn Broking Team Leader to Broking business owner via the Appointed Representative route.

In January 2021 Tom took the leap from full time employment, to become his own boss and start Instinct Insurance & Risk Management Services, based in Staffordshire. Instinct Insurance is an independent Commercial Insurance broker, that provide a highly professional, yet personal service to their clients.

We caught up with Tom about how he found the process of starting a brokerage, what makes Instinct Insurance unique and what advice he would give to other insurance professionals thinking about starting their own broking business.

Tom, tell us a bit about your background in the insurance industry including your time at TEn:

TB: I began my career in insurance, in 2012. I was approached by my old football manager who owned his own insurance brokerage with his wife. They offered me a job and I really enjoyed the 3 years I spent there. The commercial side of insurance really sparked my interest, and I knew I wanted to move into this area.

In 2015, I started my job at TEn in Manchester as a Commercial New Business Account Handler and later progressed to Team Leader, where I led a team of 6.

What inspired you to establish Instinct Insurance?

TB: I’ve always wanted to own a business, and after spending 9 years in insurance, enjoying helping people, problem solving and learning the complexities of the industry it seemed logical to start my own business.

My family and friends have always known this was something I wanted to do and gave me reassurance that I was capable, and they believed in me, so I decided to take the leap. The lockdowns in 2020 highlighted the benefits of a more flexible way of working. I was saving myself a 3-hour commute, plus I now had the assurance I could work successfully from home.

Working at TEn and seeing how other Appointed Representatives have developed and grown, plus the lifestyles they are able to give themselves really inspired me. Also having spoken to other Appointed Representatives, it was often the case they wish they had started their own brokerage sooner!

How quickly were you able to establish the business, and what were the costs of starting up? Have you needed any outside funding?

TB: To be honest, the costs were less than expected. I set aside some capital and had expectations set from my interactions with TEn.

I have used both my savings and a 0% interest credit card to allow me to spread my costs. This meant I was able to make purchases, whilst retaining as much capital as possible for the business.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve had a lot of help from friends and family. My best friend is an Accountant, he has been a great help throughout with advice and guidance such as setting up the limited company.

A friend helped me purchase & set up the website and then recommended a designer who put together the entire site, which I loved immediately. My logo was also designed by a friend that dips into graphic design.

The total process took 3 months. TEn were great throughout, giving me everything I needed and ample guidance. They explained the different parts of the process and were very clear about everything. Despite working for TEn previously, there were things I wouldn’t have had a clue about had it not been for TEn’s experience and expertise!

We were up and running quicker than expected, especially considering Christmas fell within this period too. There are many stages to go through, but the entire process was very smooth.

What are the best things about being a TEn broker and why did you choose TEn as the home for your business?

TB: I was 100% sure I wanted to follow the Appointed Representative route. As I was so familiar with TEn, I was aware of all the services offered and that using the model correctly leaves you to focus completely on your clients.

TEn is so well established and the team are supportive, experienced, and professional, plus the staff are well qualified and know the market. TEn have also been a great support in terms of IT, Acturis, Accounts, my listing on Findbroker, alongside regular chats with my BIDM about prospecting and growing my business.

The set up at TEn means we don’t deal directly with insurers. They do the leg work allowing me to concentrate on my customers.

The fact that TEn is employee owned also gives great security. Consolidations can be worrying, especially when seeing things in the news constantly. Being with TEn makes that one less thing to worry about.

Do you feel like you have taken any risks becoming a business owner?

TB: Absolutely, it’s a massive risk! I got myself in to a good position where I could leave my full-time job and take the plunge, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my partner – she has been amazing and backed me all the way.

The transition from a salaried position to self-employment has been interesting! I’ve tried to keep a routine – paying myself on the same day I was used to, for example. I must admit, it’s been daunting, but at the same time it’s just so exciting to be on this journey!

Has becoming your own boss has helped to improve your work life/balance? What does your typical day look like?

TB: It has greatly improved my work life balance. As I am based in Staffordshire, I was getting up very early and returning home late due to all the travel to Manchester. I have more time to sleep and switch off alongside spending my days building the business.

I wake up in the morning with a drive to just get straight on with my tasks for the day, contacting customers and exploring opportunities. From the outset, I made sure I was mindful of a work life balance, being strict and regulating my hours together with having regular breaks to ensure I keep to a healthy routine.

Owning my own brokerage has also given me more time to do the things I enjoy like golf, and at a time that suits me.

I’ve been used to working in a busy environment, and whilst there’s room for me to get busier, I’m not being desperate. I am focussing on help and guidance, for me, the most important aspect of an insurance broker. I’m hoping this approach will result in referrals, recommendations, and ultimately, winning business.

What are your aspirations for Instinct Insurance? Is it important to build an asset for the future and does being a member of TEn aid this?

TB: The fact that as a member of TEn client ownership always remains mine is vitally important. The model at TEn is perfect for a start-up brokerage. As a broking business, your clients are your biggest asset, so knowing ownership of these remains our own is a one less thing to worry about.

Whilst location isn’t a factor or hinderance, one of our aims is to grow and become known as the local broker, helping businesses in the area. We do already have clients spread across England as technology allows us to connect how and where we need to.

I’d love nothing more than to build Instinct as an asset for the future. Growing the company into a brand, finding new and unique aspects, and perhaps adding new areas would be great to help our clients. It would be lovely to be able to give back to my family as well, perhaps getting them on board and helping, improving their work life balances, for example.

The reputation of the insurance industry has suffered over the past year. What value do you place on business ethics and integrity?

TB: We place a lot of value on ethics and integrity. Personally, I am a very honest person and I bring that to the business. I try to focus on being up front, caring, and passionate and integrity plays a large part of that.

My approach is service - to explain as much as I can to my clients – for example, why the market has hardened, why premiums may have gone up, what cover they are missing and what they need. We’re not here to try and make money out of whatever situation we can, we are here to give the best advice we can.

I’d like to think being honest could go further than trying to tell all clients you’ll better their current cover. We will be truthful, if we cannot better their current cover, we will tell them, and people seem to really appreciate that. Hopefully, they will think well of us for the future and perhaps return as a customer one day.

As a qualified member of the CII, was it important you worked with a network that has Chartered Broker status?

TB: 100%! This goes back to my stance on ethics and integrity within broking. As a professional service I personally think qualifications are vital. It’s important that we know and understand what we are talking about when advising our clients. With many of the team at TEn also being qualified, to me that is a big selling point.

Moving from your role at TEn to running your own Broking business meant, unlike many other Appointed Representatives, you began with no book of business. How have you found prospecting, and winning business?

TB: It’s certainly been tough and a lot of hard work, but we have had a lot of opportunities and help from people.

We’ve just offered good quality advice. We haven’t promised to be able to undercut premiums etc, we have just taken the time to review customers cover, understand what they have already and explain what they are missing, and that seems to have really made a difference and encouraged them to switch to us.

I’d have loved to have started up with a book of business but not having one has made this journey all the more exciting! Since we have been speaking, I have had 2 enquiries come through and I can’t wait to see what I can do to help them!

Tell us a bit more about Instinct Insurance, what’s behind the business name and what makes you unique?

TB: There was a lot of thought behind my choice – weeks in fact. I wanted to find a name I could hopefully turn into a brand and one that included ‘Ins’. In our industry, ‘Ins’ is the abbreviation for ‘Insurance’ and whilst researching I saw ‘instinct’ and thought this was really appropriate! As soon as this name came to me, I knew it was right. At Instinct we offer honest, personal, and passionate advice. You get a broker that is here to fight your corner and is dedicated, truly understands policies and trades with integrity.

We are on hand throughout the customers journey, from securing a policy through to the claims process if one occurs – that’s why we buy insurance. I have a wide variety of experience and have been exposed to many different types of products throughout my time in the industry.

Why should clients choose Instinct for their insurance needs?

TB: Hand on heart, you’ll get a broker that is passionate about the industry. I undertook my professional qualifications at a young age because I was keen to know more and feel assured that I know what I am talking about when facing queries or problems.

Not only do we offer insurance, but we also feel risk management is incredibly important for businesses and perhaps not spoken about as much as it should be.

What’s key to understand is that insurance is based on risk and the risk management that a company puts in place will have a big impact on how underwriters look at the risk. The two go hand-in-hand, so we try to bring them together.

At Instinct we have several great resources to help businesses identify these risks and ways to manage them whilst at the same time, highlighting these to your insurers in a positive manner.

What is the best advice you would give to someone approaching an insurance broker?

TB: If there is an existing policy in place, what’s to say this is correct? We love when a customer asks what they need; we explain the different covers, risks, and exposures. We’ll work hard to ensure the right policy, cover and insurer is then recommended.

The benefit of using a broker is calling upon their expertise – that’s what we’re here for. We are a professional service and are here to advise on exposures to a business.

TEn: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting their own insurance broking business as an Appointed Representative?

  • Speak to plenty of people
  • Do your research
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Look for help as a start up company – there’s loads of help out there
  • Talk to TEn!

Tom’s foundation of his own brokerage has been a great success so far, and we look forward to supporting his growth for many years to come.

To find out more about Instinct Insurance, please click here

To connect with Tom, please click here

To learn more about becoming an appointed Representative with TEn, please get in touch for a confidential chat

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The site map will be an aid to navigation around our various websites. Of course, these sites have just undergone a major structural update and things are still changing.

So, it’s a bit like when a supermarket periodically shifts things around, either, just for the hell of it, or, because they have decided to squeeze in a click & collect point, where the bread used to be.

As stuff relocates, consequently, leaving the signs above the ends of the aisles as they were before, could become confusing.

Our current situation here is very similar.

Mind you, whether before or after the reorganisation, you can never find the Tahini paste. You always have to ask.