We recently caught up with Paul Graham, owner, and Director of Nene Valley Insurance.
Specialising in Fleet Insurance, but catering to all commercial and personal lines needs, Paul has spent over 20 years in the industry and run his own brokerage, Nene Valley, as an Appointed Representative of TEn for the last 3 and a half years.
TEn: What made you decide to establish your own insurance brokerage?
PG: After cutting my teeth, over 20 years ago at two large brokerages, I felt like I was just a number. I then moved on to a vibrant local broker. At the time they were the fastest growing insurance broker in the UK.
I went on to own and manage a successful broking business, but it came to a time in my life where I wanted to start a family, so I exited that business and took a bit of time out. After going back into employment for 12 months, I decided I wanted to start my own business again – once you’ve worked for yourself, it is very hard to go back to working for someone else! I like being my own boss and steering the ship!
TEn: Why did you choose to partner with TEn?
PG: I was aware of several broker networks, but TEn are the most established. After reading up on the business model I saw TEn had both larger Brokers and one-man bands like me.
I met with a director of TEn and it felt like a nice fit. For the most part, the last 3 and a half years have gone incredibly well, and I am glad I chose TEn.
The professionalism of TEn paired with the importance of remaining independent and owning my clients were key factors in my decision. Also, the back-office facilities provided and Acturis were at the forefront when deciding to join TEn.
From the first contact and to this day, TEn remain professional, consistent, and confident in their approach.
TEn: What’s the best thing about being an Appointed Representative of TEn?
PG: I can remain fiercely independent, but I know I have plenty of support where required.
TEn take care of the things that take me away from looking after my clients – client money, IT, and guiding me through my regulatory responsibilities, leaving me with time to talk to clients and do the things I enjoy.
My impression of TEn is great. Great Directors, Management, and overall high calibre of staff. The broking team I interact with day to day are very stable.
TEn: Was it easier to start a brokerage than you expected?
PG: Because of my insurance background, starting Nene Valley wasn’t a huge risk to me. Partnering with the right network also helped me to feel confident in this decision.
Starting my brokerage, this time as an Appointed Representative, was far easier than when I previously did so.
The process was much smoother and quicker, probably due to TEn’s expertise in this area. This time around was a breath of fresh air!
TEn: What makes Nene Valley Insurance Practice Unique?
PG: Nene Valley provides a real personal touch. My clients say they know I care, more so than in a bigger brokerage where you won’t necessarily have the same contact every time.
My access to markets is great. With the TEn buying power behind us we have the same buying power as any of the large brokerages out there.
With the back office broking functions being provided by TEn and the process streamlined by Acturis, do you have more time to win new clients and grow your business?
PG: Being a member of TEn gives me time to do the things I enjoy. Recently I’ve been focussing on cross selling opportunities and social media improvements. Originally, my clients didn’t always realise I do far more than just fleet.
I now have time to market to previous unconverted leads and showcase my products to them. Plus, the Acturis system allows me to look at all this data in one place.
I’d used Open GI for the last 25 years, so I had to learn a new system, but I love Acturis. It is far superior to any system I have used before, and it’s continuing to develop. It does what it says on the tin and makes my life very easy.
Do TEn have all the markets to meet your client’s needs?
PG: Yes. I am very wheels heavy! Fleet Insurance is our way in the door to talk about the client’s other insurance requirements.
Fleet makes up 50% of my book and the markets at TEn facilitate very well for this.
Have you faced any challenges throughout your time running Nene Valley?
PG: The last 12 months have been challenging, but the business hasn’t gone backwards at all. I’ve applied myself well during the lockdowns, working 5 – 6 days a week. Although it is reassuring to know should I wish to take a holiday TEn will provide support and cover.
When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, it affected a lot of my clients. There’s a lot of manual trade on my books, not only construction but the allied trades also. Everything had come to a stop, so Nene Valley didn’t grow at this time. The main challenge was to retain what we already had, as opposed to winning new business.
As soon as we came out of the first lockdown, construction and allied trades really took off again. Quarter 3 and 4 were the busiest they have ever been!
If you could start again, what would you change?
PG:I wish I’d have done this sooner!
I probably wouldn’t have focussed as much on Fleet. With my background, initially, I was perhaps a bit nervous of other products.
Now I would attack all areas of commercial insurance, but that confidence comes with experience!
I’m very proactive and have asked a lot of questions. I’ve also done a lot of webinars covering many areas. By being inquisitive and getting out there I have learnt a lot.
I have a lot of points of reference if I need help, the broking team have been great for my needs, alongside my BIDM and TEn management, should I need them.
TEn: What are your aspirations for the future?
PG: Nene Valley is my asset for the future. The independence and stability provided by TEn helps me to build this.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own brokerage as an Appointed Representative?
PG: Be tenacious, confident, and inquisitive – ask a lot of questions.
Get out there and get stuck in.
If you’d like to read more about the experiences of our members, please click here.
If you are interested in learning more about Nene Valley, click here.
You can connect with Paul here.
Site map coming fairly soon...
...in the New Year probably.
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.