Growth driven: Richard Dornan, underwriting and business development director at Premium Choice, explains how the broker has carved a niche for itself but is expanding into new areas.
▶ When was the company set up and why?
Mark [Woods] and I met in 1990 at Express Insurance. We were both directors and worked together for the best part of nine years. He was sales director and I was the underwriting director. I felt that my boss at the time didn’t appreciate what we did so I said to Mark ‘we can do this on our own’. We left there in 1999 to form our own company, Premium Choice, just the two of us.
▶ How have you grown the business since then?
In 1999 it was a very different time with no internet. It was Yellow Pages advertising and we had a strategy which worked. We were very busy very quickly. We’ve always done niche motor and a lot of young drivers. There was always a big demand for it. We had good relationships with insurers and within less than a year we had 20 staff. It’s been a success story all of the way through and we’ve grown nearly every year since we started.
▶ You do a lot of specialist vehicle classes – does it benefit you to be niche?
Yes, because mainstream motor is becoming very commoditised now. It’s driven by direct writers and the prices are very cheap. We fish in a different pond – young drivers, convicted drivers, modified cars. If something doesn’t fit the standard space, that’s what we do best.
▶ Do you insure anything unusual?
We insured the tanks in the film Fury. We insure military vehicles, fire engines and all sorts of weird and wonderful vehicles, including motorbikes, vans, cars, custom cars and classic cars – we do them all.
▶ How do you use technology to stay ahead of the competition?
We employ data analysts. It helps us price accurately and attract the right quality of business and gives us opportunities of data sharing with insurers to combat fraud. I believe if an insurance broker like us didn’t have a differentiator, we wouldn’t be around. It’s about being viable and providing additional value to the insurers that you use.
▶ Do you worry about disruptors coming into the market from outside of the sector?
Very much. Standard motor will be transformed within the next five years. The youngsters don’t want to call anymore, they want to transact electronically. The less contact the better. But you can’t make everything black and white. As long as we’re always there to hear the story and look at the grey areas that’s our value. Additional question sets using technology will be critical.
▶ What is going to be your main focus this year?
To grow the company in the short to medium term. We want to increase our presence in the non-standard market, continue to look for diversification in the brokerage to add extra value and to cross-sell to our existing client-base.