Pursuing Better Together with Peter Blanc
Peter Blanc, Executive Chairman of Howden, UK and Ireland, reflects on the importance of collaboration and trustworthiness in the broker–underwriter relationship and on lessons learnt during his impressive history of mergers and acquisitions, in the latest of the ‘Pursuing Better Together’ podcast series.
Decades as an insurance intermediary have provided Peter Blanc with a real-world schooling in the art of bringing people together to find solutions. His collaborative skills have been further honed by overseeing the integration of dozens of acquired companies.
It could be said that ‘Pursuing Better Together’ has been a common thread throughout his career, notably in the broker–underwriter relationship, the crux of a functioning insurance marketplace. When the COVID-19 outbreak forced their meetings to be conducted remotely, “we, as a profession, really missed that human touch,” Peter says during the podcast.
The Value of Face-to-Face
“Brokers and underwriters have to have face-to-face meetings, on a regular basis, to talk about pipelining and new opportunities, so we can achieve that pooling of risk which is fundamental to insurance,” he says. “As a sector we have to be there for all of society.”
More complex risks, in particular, demand productive and purposeful broker–underwriter dialogue to address unique client exposures with appropriate urgency, he believes.
“If I could paint a picture of the perfect underwriter from a broker’s perspective, it is one who responds rapidly and every time we submit an enquiry, picks up the phone to make sure we can work together quickly to come up with a package to suit the clients’ need,” Peter says. “We look for rapid response, highly professional service, quick turnarounds and a can-do attitude — and that has not changed at all.”
Growing at Scale
During his career, Peter has been involved in some of the most significant mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the broking sector in the UK and Ireland — most recently one of the largest which saw Aston Lark become part of Howden.
M&A is very much a core component of Aston Lark’s growth strategy. Having completed 55 acquisitions, Peter discussed how frankness and transparency during the purchasing process are key to a successful integration.
“At the start of any M&A process, we try really hard, from the very first meeting to concluding the acquisition, to be incredibly honest and open about what the future holds, so they are a) forewarned, and b) on board with it, to make sure we are aligned,” he says. “From that point, the trust is there.”
Maintaining a strong and positive culture within a company growing at scale comes down to details and consistency, Peter says. “Culture is a state of mind. You choose whether or not to be a big corporate. It’s every little thing you do, it’s all about breaking down barriers, empowering people and getting out of their way, delivering the platform to enable them to get on with their jobs.”
Understanding Customers’ Needs
It is clear that some of his greatest career satisfaction emanates from the relationships he has made. “Insurance, it’s one of the most amazing careers, where over time your clients become your friends, and you spend a great deal of time with these friends, in what essentially becomes work,” he says.
Reflecting on how the theme of the podcast applies to the insurance industry, Peter says it’s about understanding and meeting customer needs, while earning their trust.
“As a profession if we can deliver on that trust promise, we have a fantastic future. So, ‘Pursuing Better Together’ is how we can collectively work together to find out what our clients want and need, and then deliver and make sure we are 100% trustworthy on that delivery.”
About Arch Insurance International Podcasts
During our Pursuing Better Together series, we’ll hear from luminaries both inside and outside of the insurance industry about how they have “pursued better” within their chosen professions.