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Confessions of an Insurance Broker

I first started working in the Insurance Industry back in 1984 and as a very young man it was all about the selling of policies, getting noticed by my boss and getting up the ladder.

What the product actually did for people was not much of a concern for me until the day that made me understand that insurance is so much more than the exchange of cash and a signature on the bottom of a proposal form. We don’t even have proposal forms 37 years later.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had been left on my own as weekends were never busy. I went to make myself a cup of coffee and as I was returning to the front desk I noticed there was a smell in the air, a smell of smoke and burned hair.

When I got to the front desk there was a family of four waiting for me. Mum and Dad and two kids between eight and ten. All looked rather distressed and quite frankly singed at the edges, they were obviously not in the office to get a quote for Dad’s Ford Cortina. I looked at them, they looked back at me.

I eventually managed to say, “How can I help you”. Dad responded with, “Our house just burned down”! Honestly this is a true story, I had been selling motor insurance, home contents and buildings insurance for the best part of a year. I had dealt with small motor insurance claims by phone but had never dealt with something of such monumental size, and here I was on my own with these people wanting me to help them.

We did not have computers back then so I asked Dad for his name and went and got the file. It always starts with a file even in this digital age. As I looked at the file, took note of the insurer that covered their buildings and contents insurance, I also looked at them. I put the file down, moved them to a back office, sat them down and asked if anyone wanted a tea or coffee, a coke or frankly anything! It was dawning on me that these people had just lost everything and that I had no experience on what could be done to assist them in this moment of extreme need.

Once I had the family settled, drinks, sandwiches and sweets from the shop down stairs, I closed the office, locked the front door and went to my desk to get on the phone. The Insurer, sadly no longer with us, was the General Accident.

I phoned the broker support unit for home insurance claims and without any delay was talking with someone that had obviously been in this situation before. “Firstly get them doing something”, the woman at the other end of the phone said. “Give them a pen and paper each and tell them to list everything they have lost from every pair of socks upwards”. “Go do that whilst I start sorting things out from here”, she said. I did as requested and by the time I got back to the phone this amazing woman from the General Accident had already got everything under control.

It was the most levelling experience that young man, me, had ever witnessed. From seeing insurance as something to sell I suddenly got the first-hand experience of what it does in an emergency.

Within twenty minutes of my returning to the phone a hotel for short term occupancy had been arranged. A driver had been booked and was on his way regardless of if Dad had a car or not and within an hour and a half from them entering my office Dad, Mum and the kids were thanking me as they departed.

All these years later I have never forgotten the Jenkins claim, how devastating it was for them and how it educated me that insurance is all about people, especially when the sh#t happens, as often it does. That was back in Hertfordshire when I was not much more than a boy. Seen a lot of sh#t since then and in the main the outcome supports why I stuck with this industry.

Now here I am in Spain, still selling Insurance but sadly no longer a boy. One thing's for sure, be it motor, home, life or health insurance I am selling something I have believed in for more than three decades.

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