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Member of the Month: Barry Fehler, SEIB Insurance Brokers

Barry Fehler, CEO of SEIB Insurance Brokers, set up the brokerage almost 60 years ago. As one of the first Members, they have been part of Broker Network for more than two decades. Starting as an equine broker, they have grown over the years, and in 2017 launched an exclusive Motor Trade scheme with the Network, which Barry and the team hope to grow in 2021.

Tell us a little bit about the history your business and your role?

I first set the company up in 1963 at the age of 17, as a general insurance brokers. It all started when I purchased a show hunter horse and went to insure it, only to find that there was no loss of use cover, only economic slaughter. This meant that if the horse was injured and could no longer go to shows or be ridden, I would need to have it put down in order to get paid out, even if it could otherwise live a happy life away from the show ring.

In response to this, I put together a wording for loss of use, which was the first product of its kind available on the market. As a result of that initial idea to go into Horse Insurance, South Essex Insurance Brokers was born. From there, we have expanded our specialisms by developing further equestrian products and other niche services for Private Hire Insurance and Insurance For Funeral Directors.

South Essex Insurance Brokers was eventually shortened to SEIB, and through the years we’ve strengthened and expanded our team, knowledge and range of bespoke offerings. In 2008, SEIB became the first broker to be purchased by Ecclesiastical, thereby becoming part of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. I agreed to be purchased by Ecclesiastical because of their ethical approach to business and the fact that I couldn’t see how they could be purchased themselves, as they are ultimately owned by a charity. They bought us for the right reasons – for a steady income and not to be sold on for profit.

Today, SEIB specialises in four distinct niche markets – Equestrian, Funeral Directors, Private Hire and Motor Trade. We can point to a successful track record of more than 50 years in the Equestrian sector, over 40 years in Funeral and Private Hire Insurance, and nearly 20 years in Motor Trade. We also have a dedicated commercial team who manage the insurances of our VIP customers, including the British Horse Society, British Showjumping, and National Association of Funeral Directors; as well as helping a wide range of national and local SMEs to safeguard their businesses.

In 2014, we acquired Lansdown Insurance and WRS Insurance in 2020; we now employ more than 120 staff.   

What has been your business biggest milestone?

For me, it has to be the decision to move into the scheme arena and away from general insurance. It has proven to be hugely successful for us and now makes up 80% of our business.

In 2017, we launched an exclusive Motor Trade Scheme – Network Trade – with Broker Network and Ageas. The scheme offers cover for full time small-to mid-sized motor trade businesses with their own premises, all at competitive prices. We’re delighted to be able to offer the scheme to our fellow Members and are pleased to say it has proved popular. Thanks to Premier and Advantage Members placing business via Network Trade, we surpassed the £1m premium milestone towards the end of 2020, which was a great achievement for us.

Do you feel the Network has supported you during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The regular Broker Network newsletters throughout the outbreak have been very informative and useful in giving brokers crucial updates. Plus, we have made use of the Placement Support team at the Network during the pandemic, particularly for our commercial department, to find carriers for difficult to place risks. We also have frequent placement discussions with our BDM and attend the Member Forums and other virtual events the Network hosts.

Broker Network has been a great support in helping us to get the word out to Network Members about our wholesaled schemes. Brokers have been more reliant on schemes like ours through the pandemic and as a result of the challenges of the hardening market, as service has suffered at some of the major insurers. The BDM, Marketing Consultancy and Communications and Events teams at Broker Network have been fantastic at sharing our messages; this means our products and excellent service levels are being accessed by more and more Network brokers.

What Member Services at Broker Network do you feel have been valuable for your business?

Our compliance team use the regulatory guides available through the Network and are in regular contact with our dedicated Risk and Compliance Consultant. It’s also been great to know that we have the backup of technical advice and additional access to resources to fall back on when we need them. As a Member, we have someone to turn to and Broker Network always provide clear guidance and clarity on any queries we have in a very timely manner.

In addition, the library of documents on the Broker Network Hub are a great source of information and includes some really valuable templates that we make use of. Plus, the webinars the Network hosts and newsletters we receive also provide a helpful summary of anything we may have missed.

Last but not least, the Marketing Consultancy team were a real help back in 2018 and provided support on the copywriting for our new website launch, which were over the moon with. Having a fresh website has helped us to reach more clients and grow our business.

Do you have any growth plans for 2021 and how do you feel Broker Network can help you achieve them?

We do plan to grow in 2021, specifically in our core scheme business. As a specialist broker offering niche products on both a retail and wholesale basis, we anticipate our services will be required more than ever in a hardening insurance market. Whereas, some of the peripheral players, unrated markets and others who are dipping their toes into the niche specialisms we have consistently worked in for many years may struggle or have to apply large rating increases to continue to trade in these areas.

If you’re a Member and would like to be featured in our Member of the Month series, please speak to your dedicated BDM. If you’re not currently part of Broker Network and would like to find out more about joining, please get in touch with a member of our team.

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