“A primary consideration for us was the impact on our customers” – CEO Q&A: Theo Hoare, Apex Insurance

By Business & Finance
20 June 2018
Theo Hoare, Apex Insurance, insurance
Theo Hoare, Apex Insurance

In our next CEO Q&A, Theo Hoare of Apex Insurance gives a walk through on the new aspects of the insurance industry and his growth plans going forward.

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My role is multifaceted – spanning all aspects of the business. Some of my goals are measurable such as targets and budgeting, while others are more subjective – like customer care and fostering a happy and productive work environment.

In essence, however, it is my job to ensure all aspects of the business function well and to a high standard.

The foundation the business is based on is the delivery of quality insurance solutions, and the provision of expert and reliable advice to our customers in the, often complex, area of business insurance. All other business functions should contribute to the delivery of this.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Staying competitive against larger intermediaries and direct insurers in a crowded marketplace. The key to this lies in specific insurance solutions and service delivery. We are a smaller player in a big pond but this is actually one of our unique selling points (USP).

Keeping pace with IT advancements has also presented some challenges over the years, but we have always strived not to fall behind the curve on this one. We have put in place optimum technology and systems for the business to get best efficiencies so that we can provide a high standard of service to our customers.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

By promoting an inclusive environment at all levels. On our team everyone has a view and an input – regardless of experience. New staff can have lots to offer in terms of fresh ideas and perspective. Communication is key, and feedback on a daily-basis is important in ensuring all staff queries and issues are dealt with in a timely manner. We have regular problem-solving sessions in which employees help their colleagues and provide training, support and mentoring.

I look at each staff member individually and ensure that their particularly strength matches their role. It stands to reason that people’s work output is better if they are using their core skills.

We reward loyalty and provide flexible working conditions through mobile and cloud-based technology.

And it’s not all work – we do strike a good balance with social and team-building outings!

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Of late, claims and the management of associated costs, legal and otherwise, have presented some hurdles. This is particularly true for motor insurance. It has resulted in sharp increases in premiums and has been the source of major concern for our customers.

The issue is ongoing and our role is to continue to innovate and research solutions and work with insurers to provide more stability to the sector and, ultimately, greater certainty on costs for our customers.

Our sector has also been hit in recent years by the collapse of some insurers and the fall-out of these has reflected poorly on the sector overall. A spotlight has fallen on the solvency of insurance providers and how they are regulated.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has brought with it its own challenges for every business in all industries and we’ve had to increase the resources we dedicate to preparing for the new regulations. This coupled with increasing incidents of cyberattacks means that exposures are changing and evolving and there is a growing need to provide insurance solutions for cyber liability and data protection issues.

Other types of financial lines insurance are becoming increasingly more relevant as exposures to businesses change, such as professional indemnity employment practices liability, directors and officers liability insurance.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I believe there is scope for considerable improvement on current software options available to enable advisors maintain high-quality service standards.

We also need to see more consistency with insurance rates to avoid volatile price changes. It is difficult for businesses that budget for insurance costs, to then be hit with an unexpected but substantial increase. We have seen this put

considerable stress on businesses – particularly where the costs involved are almost prohibitively expensive.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

Because the economy is now thriving, it can be difficult at times to find experienced and skilled staff. It’s not a huge problem now, but to stop it from becoming one down the line we need to attract new entrants from the time they leave school. The apprenticeship facility introduced by the Insurance Institute has been an excellent initiative and offers an excellent managed career path.

Q. How did you strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

A primary consideration for us was the impact on our customers – we worked hard to secure premium payment options and to develop solutions which would reduce insurance costs. We did this through assistance with risk management and health and safety measures with the assistance of relevant providers where required.

It’s important during any period of change to stay close to your customers and learn about the challenges in their business.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We have yet to see any significant impact but we transact a substantial amount of business through the UK (Lloyds) market so it is on our radar, of course. As is the case generally, there are many unknowns at this stage. Many of the larger insurers have secured operations in the EU, including Ireland. We are obviously keeping a close watch and are in constant contact with our providers in the UK on the issue.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

For me, it is about achieving the goals I set out for myself and for my business.

Starting a business from scratch and bringing it to a sustainable and growing enterprise has been hugely rewarding.  Developing strong business relationships with colleagues and customers is very satisfying and engenders confidence.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

When I look back at some of my major business decisions – many were made perhaps against ‘perceived’ sensible advice. It is necessary to take risks – being in the business of risk it is also important to measure the risks and get as much information and advice as is necessary. Ultimately, you have to go for it and in a lot cases you must make the decision based on your own intuition.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Moving premises has been a major highlight, as we ran out of space – which is a good position to be in! We acquired some new key team members and a number have been promoted – all of which helped move the business forward.

Q. What’s next for your company?

Our plan is to continue to develop business growth and profitability. We are currently working on new sales and marketing initiatives to bring excellent value propositions to new and existing customers.

Now more than ever businesses need quality insurance advice. Businesses face many different exposures and our role is to ensure these are understood, those which can be retained and managed and those which should be transferred to the insurance market. We will continue to develop innovative solutions to achieve this.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?

As the economy continues to new property developments and growing businesses, these present new opportunities. We will continue to grow our core areas of business insurance including property owners and landlords, tree surgeons, construction and manufacturing.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We want our business to grow somewhere in the region of a 20% increase in turnover through our action plan. We are aiming to greatly increase our brand visibility in the SME sector.

I look at each staff member individually and ensure that their particularly strength matches their role.