Will Working From Home Joy End for Account Execs?
Is the working from home tide turning and will hundreds of insurance account execs find themselves ordered back to the office, where they could be marooned and, if there has been a buyout, working within a company culture never before experienced ‘in person’.
The writing appears to be on the wall. The UK economy is stagnant and the working from home experiment, which experts said would provide a 13% increase in productivity has been a mere pipe dream. Productivity has actually fallen.
Why account execs might fear tech giants’ WFH U-turn
Companies took their lead from the big tech giants and the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet when willingly embracing a working from home or hybrid working culture. Now take note. In the past six months, Google, Meta, Apple, Amazon, Disney, Twitter and Starbucks have made it crystal clear that they want workers back at their desks.
Amazon has been monitoring entry pass scanning, to check employees are working at least three days a week from the office. Elon Musk has told Twitter’s employees at least 40 hours a week must be worked from the office and that coming into the office is “not optional”. Zuckerberg has back-tracked and told Meta employees to be back at their desks three days a week. Zoom says, any employee living within 50 miles of one of its offices, must work from that office at least two days a week.
Meanwhile, the Publicis advertising agency expects employees, to be back in the office three days a week. Barclays wants its deal makers back in 4 days out of 5.
Failed experiment leading to demands to get back to the office
Words like “catastrophe” are being used in relation to working from home. Employees at failed bank SVB even blamed the bank’s failure on remote working. In May, the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, referred to working from home as “a failed experiment” and one of the “worst mistakes in a long time.”
Many of the tech giants are not just cajoling staff back to their desks but demanding it. Staff are being told office attendance will be considered in their performance and pay reviews. It would seem that getting employees back to the office is seen as imperative, even though finding and keeping talent is a huge challenge and forcing people back to office environments is a big risk, in terms of talent retention. Perhaps, these businesses realise that it soon won’t be, as all other companies will follow suit. Economies depend on productivity rising again.
Working from home and the UK insurance industry
So, where does this leave the UK insurance industry? Gauntlet Group believes it is in a pickle. Call centre responses times are under the spotlight. Customers have been receiving shoddy service, at a time when they are already inclined to cut their insurance purchase and respond to the cost of living crisis. There is disengagement between the customer and the insurance industry, as a result of the poor service that has been received, particularly when it comes to sorting out claims and queries. Undoubtedly, many of the issues in dealing with calls quickly have been caused by working from home regimes. How much longer will employers tolerate that?
And let’s just consider some of these employers. The large consolidators who have been gobbling up brokerages tend to have US ownership. If their US peers – the world’s most respected companies – are ordering employees back to the office and believe that is the optimal strategy, how much longer before the consolidators do that too, here in the UK and fire off instructions to insurance account execs?
Loss of account exec freedom
There is a big issue. Those employees who have relished not undertaking the commute, who have found a better work-life balance, who may have moved some distance away from the office, or who have grown used to personal freedom surrounding their work schedule, may now be heading for a huge shock.
Some, whose original employer has been bought out by a consolidator, may not even have ever encountered the office culture of that new ‘boss’. Others may never have actually worked side by side with a colleague.
Will the WFH bubble burst in the UK insurance industry?
We believe that the working from home bubble in the UK is about to burst. Like it or not, we do take our lead from what happens over the Pond. The insurance sector – like many others – cannot continue to operate with declining productivity and output. If many businesses start to order employees back to the office, there will be even more intolerance of poor service from insurers who do not. Add to this the pressures of meeting FCA standards on consumer service and how can the insurance sector possibly hold out against the tide that is turning against working from home and even hybrid working?
The account executive office return escape route
There is a silver lining for insurance account execs, however. Those who have started their own insurance brokerages, to work in a highly dedicated way with their clients, free from call centre regimes, meetings and dictates, have mastered the art of working from home. Even the experts agree that the only really positive working from home model is that which relates to small businesses and freelancers, who do not need to be exchanging ideas with colleagues, fostering creativity, building teams and absorbing office culture.
Our Appointed Representatives have not been seeing drops in productivity and income but have been thriving, doing it their way – and often from home. The latter is entirely their choice but the option to work from home is a very real one.
They have all their administration, accounting and compliance handled by our head office team and can have a one-to-one dialogue with their account handler whenever they need to. They access our cutting-edge Acturis IT systems remotely and can run their businesses from anywhere, even abroad. They are even provided with sales leads and campaigns that have been tested by our own in-house direct sales team.
They can get together with other ARs at three formal events a year but also meet up at more informal briefings and training sessions, at other times. They can even take holidays and allow our broking team to run their businesses, whilst they take some time out. This is a model of working from home that works.
Why the time is right to be your own insurance brokerage boss
So our advice to any account executive worrying when the edict to return to the office will come is to make the move to become their own boss now. The market is crying out for dedicated local and niche brokers, who will work closely with their clients and best serve their interests. Gauntlet has spearheaded the local broker renaissance and given local brokers extraordinary buying power, so they can deliver not just first-class service but compelling and excellent cover and premium options. Not one member of our AR network is worrying about the ‘what if?’ issue with regard to returning to the office.
Now is the time to act. Clients are shopping around and looking for their best option. They are totally disillusioned with big players. They want a return to how things used to be, when they could get quick answers and instant service. They want their dedicated broker back by their side and they want to be treated as individuals, not numbers on a spreadsheet. The opportunity is huge.
The routes an account exec can take
Don’t delay and wait for the almost inevitable to happen. Even if you don’t have the savings or financial safety net to allow you to set up and build up your own business instantly, we have our new and groundbreaking Gauntlet Brokerage Builder option. This will allow you to build your future broking business whilst still being employed.
You will join Gauntlet as a Broking Partner Designate and spend 22 months getting all your ducks in a row, ready for your new brokerage’s launch. You will be market ready from day one and will have de-risked the whole process. It really is ‘try before you fly’, enabling you to test the water, create sales strategies and bring your clients on board, way before you officially hoist your company flag.
Alternatively, if you are able to just go for life as an independent broker right now, then you can do that and join through our traditional Appointed Representative route, through a system we have fine-tuned and optimised over the past 14+ years. This will give you the best commission split option and allow you to instantly be your own boss, choosing who to work with and how to run your brokerage.
How a directly authorised broker can also work from home
Then there’s another option relating to working from home. If you are stuck in an existing insurance brokerage, in an expensive office that is eating up your income thanks to its overheads, you can make the move and become a working from home insurance broker. By doing what others like you have done and de-authorising (ceasing being directly authorised and becoming an Appointed Representative instead), you can offload all of the non-core activities that tie you down, as well as shedding the majority of your costs.
Those who have de-authorised, through our Gauntlet GDF programme, have suffered no loss in income and are actually generating more business than previously, as they now have time to sell, rather than frittering away the hours on FCA reporting or accounts. They also have our first-class buying power and access to agencies behind them, which is making a huge difference.
Don’t let the turning of the tide on working from home catch you out. Now is the time for us to show you just how buoyant you can be, as a dedicated insurance broker operating within the Gauntlet Appointed Representative Network. Call Nigel Law on 07774 690436. All of our AR information is at www.gauntletenterprise.com and you can see how we help generate leads for our brokers, by visiting www.gauntletgroup.com
You really can continue to work from home, if you back your own talent and ability and decide that being your own boss has numerous advantages, even beyond not going into the office.