Jane Chewins has taken the plunge and set up her own brokerage. She shares her insights on the challenges she’s faced, the importance of independence, and the social side of the Network.
How did you get into insurance to begin with?
“I had to fight my way into broking,” Jane jokes; “it was summer of 1984, and there was an opening in my father’s brokerage. I’d just trained as a cleric, but felt a pull towards insurance. My dad took great pride in his work, and had very high expectations of his staff regarding levels of skill and diligence – taking too long on a lunch break for instance really wouldn’t have been an option!”
Jane impressed from the start, and was so driven in what she was doing she would ultimately come to create her own brokerage: Jane Chewins Limited.
Going it alone
“I’ve always valued my independence, and I suppose in a sense running my own company was a means to prove to the world that I could make my own way,” Jane reflects “plus I’ve always loved the personal nature of broking; the approachability, recognising people by face, and really getting to know customers. Setting up my own company allowed me to focus on the areas that mattered most to me.”
The appreciation clients show for this level of service is a huge motivator. “I’ve got one client for instance who wanted cover for his second home. It wasn’t a big case by any means,” Jane explains; “he’d assumed he was paying premium prices for a broker’s services. When the quote I gave him was a pound cheaper than the aggregator sites he’d been browsing he was so happy he felt compelled to make a public announcement at our next networking event – I couldn’t believe it!”
Picking up steam
The business has grown by networking and organic growth, with the focus predominantly on commercial, agriculture and equine insurance due to Jane’s love of the countryside and horses.
“When I set out on 1st Jan 2011 with no business to speak of and having done a business plan stating that I would place £150,000 of GWP per annum for the following three years – life was a trifle daunting. I had nothing to offer anyone and took the AR route which I always felt was a distant second to being directly authorised. So five years on being in a position to progress to Direct Authorisation and join Broker Network makes me very proud as a person and business woman.”
Becoming part of Broker Network
As the company has grown, Jane has had to take on more staff to cater with demand, and there are now four on the team. With independence prized so highly, a pre-requisite of joining the Network was that it didn’t restrict Jane in any way. “I can hold up my hand and say that it’s been a great experience on every level – it’s a step I wish I’d taken ten years before I did. The different departments are like an extension of our own team giving us the capabilities of a much larger organisation.”
There are a few services that have proved especially valuable. “BNU stands out. They offer a few quirky products like Electrical Contractors and Fire & Security; we’ve successfully placed a few big cases off the back of this,” Jane reflects, “and Agency are great. They help us with our day-to-day activities like TOBA management freeing up more time for us to focus directly on our clients.”
The social side of the Network
It’s more than just the services though. “I can’t think of another organisation where everyone is consistently as approachable as at Broker Network”, Jane reflects. This goes back to the first Broker Network organised event she went to – a networking golf day: “I remember going in not really knowing anyone, and Andy Fairchild just walked straight up to me, said “hello Jane”, and started chatting. We’d met once before, but only very briefly. To have the CEO of a company the size of Broker Network remember you by name and spark up a conversation with no one there to prompt him – it really made me feel special. I think the whole of the Network reflects this ethos.