Ken, you’re a well-known Coffs Harbour business person. Tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the go-to insurance expert?
Like a lot of people in the insurance industry, I kind of fell into it.
I moved from Dubbo to Sydney after school and, over the following 14 years, honed my technical underwriting skills with various global insurance companies. In 1999, I moved to Coffs with my wife, Wendy, to take up a management position with Zurich.
We only intended to stay for a few years before returning to Sydney, but we quickly fell in love with Coffs and decided to raise our three wonderful kids here (Mia, Will and Charlie). I had always harboured the ambition of owning my own insurance brokerage and took that next step in 2004.
Your new business, KPI Broking, has just launched. Tell us about this new change and what you’ll be offering clients.
I’m really excited about this new venture. KPI Broking is a boutique insurance advisory service. We seek to truly understand our clients’ business activities to ensure all exposures are identified.
We have access to over 200 insurers and underwriting agencies, so at each renewal we can easily entice insurers to compete for our clients’ business – thereby extracting the best deal in terms of breadth of cover and price. We provide placement services, policy maintenance and most importantly, claims advocacy – if it’s grey, we argue that the insurer should pay!
You’ve owned and operated a very successful local insurance brokerage for 11 years. Why are you starting again?
Rather than a new start, this feels like a continuation of that strong ambition to have complete control of my own destiny. I’m also fortunate enough to receive support from a great bunch of clients, and I really enjoy talking to them about their businesses, their challenges and their aspirations. We have some very talented business people in Coffs Harbour. This new venture allows me to spend more time with great people!
People generally hate buying insurance. Why do you love it?
Insurance is the DNA of our economy. Nothing gets manufactured, built, sold, driven, flown, sailed or moved without it. It’s one of the most complicated products in the world and after more than 25 years in the industry, it continues to challenge me every day. I like that. I also like helping businesses understand their exposures and how insurance can plug the gaps so that they can enjoy peace of mind and get on with their own business.
What are some of the trends that are evolving in the insurance industry at present?
Cyber Crime is almost certainly the most worrying trend for business owners. The biggest concern is that, in addition to large corporations and multi-nationals, SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) are now being targeted. Business owners need a risk management and disaster recovery plan. They should engage an I.T. expert and also consider outsourcing the exposure via insurance. If you do both, you should be able to protect your cash flow and bottom line and importantly, protect your enviable Coffs Coast lifestyle!
The big insurance companies are selling more and more insurance products directly to customers online. Is this a threat to you as an insurance broker?
I see it as a challenge, rather than a threat. Insurance brokers add tremendous value, but we need to work hard to communicate and demonstrate that value. That’s the challenge.
Online “off the shelf” insurance products are certainly running rampant. They “dumb down” the product, and it can be very competitive sometimes. You can swipe your way to the shopping cart in minutes. That’s disruptive! It’s important to understand, however, that when you buy online you do not have a professional acting in your best interest during the purchase or when you make a claim. In my experience, the premium is long-forgotten after the claim has been paid. Furthermore, in terms of business insurance, I have not found the online market to be any more competitive that what we can access.
I’d imagine that networking and getting to know as many new business people as possible is a key part of your marketing activities. What are your top tips for making the most out of networking opportunities?
Great question! Networking is a critical business skill that requires lots of practice.
At a networking event, first and foremost, try to relax. Think of it as a chance to make new friends, so try to smile and be yourself and people should be drawn to you accordingly.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to participate in the conversation and make sure that you are alert throughout their responses. Act as a sponge and attempt to soak in everything that is being said. You will be thankful later when you try to recall what you have learnt!
I’ve found that it’s often better and more rewarding to engage with fewer people at a deeper level than to hang around the coffee pot flicking your business cards in the air hoping someone will catch one!
You were successfully nominated as a committee member of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce. What do you hope to achieve on the committee?
I’m thrilled to be accepted onto the committee. I was attracted to it by the strong leadership and consistent and clear messages delivered over the past 12 months. Small business is everybody’s business and if I can contribute by lobbying for the removal of unfair and inefficient taxes on insurance policies, a reduction in payroll tax or a reduction in penalty rates, then I’ll feel that I’ve made a worthwhile contribution.