Year in Review: Seàn Kemple, Close Brothers

Close Brothers MD Seàn Kemple reflects on the challenges brought on by 2021 and discusses the implications of the hard market for the broker space.

What’s been the most surprising thing in insurance in 2021?

Since I took on the role of MD at Close Brothers Premium Finance (CBPF) in April, I’ve been surprised but hugely impressed at the resilience of the broking market and the continued focus on customer service from our broking partners towards their customers, especially businesses in hospitality, travel, and transport, which have been acutely hit by the pandemic. The manner in which brokers care for their clients and customers has made it doubly important for us at CBPF to step up to the plate and provide all the support we can to keep the wheels of broking turning. Broker optimism has been inspirational and helped build my own enthusiasm about the prospects for working alongside our partners in 2022.

What’s been the biggest challenge of 2021?

Without doubt, the difficulties arising from remote working and managing a large business. I have been helped by the depth of knowledge and expertise of colleagues in the Premium business, which has accelerated my own ability to get up to speed with premium finance. To meet this challenge, we have been focusing on a colleague-first strategy. The principle is that happy colleagues means happy brokers, a simple concept but one which has required a lot of work internally to understand how our people are feeling as well as understanding where we’re at as a business, what our proposition is, and how we are perceived by our partners. It’s been a big challenge, but our people are in a good place and ready to continue to support our brokers over the next 12 months. 

How will the hard market evolve in 2022?

I am pretty sure the hard market will be with us for some time yet. It’s worth remembering that the last true hard market was in 2001, after the Twin Towers tragedy, so there’s a lot of catching up to do across commercial lines. I expect to see some levelling off during the next 12 months but a lot of it depends on macro factors outside our control. 

Who has been the standout insurance star in 2021?

It’s hard for me to name just one individual. Every single colleague in CBPF has weathered a very tough year, and they’ve been ready to go the extra mile for brokers and customers. I have already said that I’m impressed by the resilience of broking.  The collective manner in which everyone in CBPF worked alongside our brokers during very challenging conditions has been outstanding. So, I’d like to give a big collective shout out to the team at CBPF. They are all stars, supporting one another.

Together, we are Premium. 

What have you learned this year?

I am learning every day on this job, and I’m loving it! I was under the impression that broking was a very mature industry where the number of brokers was in terminal decline. What I have learned is that some of the smartest, most energetic, and entrepreneurial people in the UK and Ireland are insurance brokers. This has made my role even more fascinating, and I look forward to getting back on the road and meeting more of our partners in 2022. 

What’s been the biggest insurance success in 2021?

It’s the way the whole industry has come together and rallied round to support and help each other. It’s a terrible cliché, but together we really are stronger, and as we look ahead to 2022, I believe we should all take heart from the way in which we have faced into the economic headwinds caused by the pandemic, Brexit and, of course, the prospect of significant changes in the regulatory regime in 2022. I have no doubt at all that brokers will rise to that challenge and any new ones that come along too. 

This article was taken from Insurance Age.