Standing out from the crowd. The SME market provides enormous opportunities for brokers who innovate and offer greater customer focus.
The SME market is growing. Fast.
The number of SMEs in the UK has grown by almost 16% since 2000, with small and medium-sized businesses now accounting for more than 99% of all private sector businesses in the country.
The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £18 trillion at the start of 2016, equivalent to 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK, and the sector employed 15.7 million people – that’s 60% of all private sector employment in the UK.
But while the strong growth of the SME market represents a big opportunity for brokers operating in the sector a lack of innovation is holding back brokers as they struggle with increased competition, commoditisation of the market and an increased threat from insurers with big budgets and big brands.
And Grant Georgiades, director at Han Insurance Brokers, says that this threat from Insurers cannot be underestimated.
“The threat from insurers in the SME market is huge – it is just a replication of the formula that worked for them in the personal lines market.” he says. “That means commoditisation of the product, the process and economies of scale, meaning they can do things with a much larger budget. Crucially, the cost of acquisition can squeeze brokers out.
“Expertise and the availability of a range of expert covers is one thing brokers can stand out with. Brokers need to try and constantly develop new products and tailor cover to specific customers. Segmentation of the market, and brokers focusing on niches within niches is also important [for combatting the threat of insurers].”
Innovation Broking chief executive Paul Dickson, however, downplays the threat from insurers, and says a broker’s expertise and specialism will always gee them an advantage in the SME market.
“Insurers will always try to go direct but in my view it isn’t and never has represented, an existential threat to brokers,” he says. “SMEs will always need advice on insurance and above all they need an insurance advocate.
“Only a broker can perform these invaluable roles.” Regardless of the threat presented by insurers, it is clear that innovation is needed to prevent stagnation in the marketplace.
Jodi Cartwright, who the chief executive of new personal lines broker Tock, says there is much SME brokers can learn from their non-commercial counterparts.
“Personal lines isn’t exactly where it needs to be, but it is more advanced than SME,” she says. “The main thing SME brokers can learn is around being more customer-focused, more digital and making better use of third-party data.
“It is incredible the amount of third party data, on commercial as well as individual consumers, so one of our propositions is using third-party data to make the customer journey a lot simpler.”
She continues: “SME, generally, Is part of being a commercial broker, and it is a lot more profitable to write larger commercial business than smaller. Many commercial brokers are pulling out of SME, because to make money as a SME broker you have to streamline your business and you have to make more of digital, as otherwise it will never be profitable.
“There are a lot of serious commercial lines brokers out there making a lot of money, so why rock the boat and make the investment if you are already making a lot of money?”
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