Written by Anna Game-Lopata — ANZIIF Writer | 5 Dec 2018
From humble beginnings Eamon O’Connor and his team have achieved exceptional growth based on robust relationships, hands-on client support and a forward-thinking culture.
O’Connor Warren’s achievements have been rewarded at the 2018 New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards in the category of Small to Medium Broking Company of the Year.
The Steadfast affiliate has eight full-time staff and maintains a flat structure that, according to O’Connor, ‘elevates employees’ level of responsibility in the business and removes excess layers of management’. ‘Our structure also improves co-ordination and speed of communication within the business,’ O’Connor says.
TARGETING NICHE MARKETS
O’Connor Warren’s client base is spread throughout New Zealand with 90 per cent located outside its home region the Bay of Plenty. ‘We target particular industries, such as transport and construction,’ O’Connor says. ‘We travel regularly, are nimble and accessible, and we touch our clients consistently through various media platforms, such as Transport Talk magazine articles and weekly e-bulletins.’
O’Connor Warren’s growth statistics are unparalleled, a fact supported by Steadfast data. ‘We have not relied on acquisition of other brokerages to achieve our success,’ O’Connor says. He adds that unless a client has liquidated or sold, it is rare for the company to lose an account.
TROUBLE-SHOOTING WINS FRIENDS
O’Connor says locally, the company’s achievements reflect strong relationships with designated business development managers (BDMs) with whom engagement occurs on a daily basis. ‘Our point of difference is that we have a direct line to the heads of underwriting and broking at major insurers, which allows us to get deals done,’ he explains. ‘This is a major advantage to our business and has had significant impact on our ability to win and retain large business against our competition.
In addition, O’Connor says his people openly promote the company’s claims trouble-shooting strength to clients and consistently share good news stories around the settlement of difficult claims internally and externally.
‘Word of mouth and reputation are our strongest sales tools,’ he says. ‘We are recognised trouble-shooters for businesses having problems with inaction from their brokers, and we receive regular calls requesting our help.’
PROMOTING CONTINUOUS LEARNING
Also critical to O’Connor Warren’s advancement is its culture of learning, where staff study together and encourage each other. ‘More than ever, ongoing learning is proving to be the edge employees need for their career growth,’ O’Connor says.
‘Our culture of continuous learning sees our staff happier and highly motivated. Two staff are working towards diplomas, while four have already qualified and all staff exceed the CPD points required as part of ongoing education. ‘This includes but is not limited to ANZIIF studies, webinars, insurer-led sessions and Steadfast development days,’ O’Connor says.
FOCUS ON RETENTION
O’Connor says the business measures staff engagement through supervision meetings and internal reviews. ‘We are constantly obtaining feedback from our staff to ensure they are happy, and we treat them all as part of our extended family.’
Formal reviews occur on at least an annual basis. ‘We also adjust remuneration based upon performance, not just at anniversaries,’ O’Connor says.
The team discusses and identifies prospects and formulates a plan to ensure each prospect is converted. ‘We do this as a group and monitor each account executive’s progress.’
HAND-PICKING THE BEST TALENT
O’Connor adds that he is acutely aware that there is significant competition for staff in the insurance industry and a lack of young people coming through.
He says, like Australians, New Zealanders lack a proper understanding of the opportunities a career in insurance can offer.
‘To combat this, we launched our Internship – Junior Broker program. The cornerstone of this program is the identification of motivated, intelligent candidates that connect well with people. ‘While these traits can be difficult to pick, we are guided by schools and universities to ensure we employ the best,’ O’Connor says. ‘We work with our region’s secondary schools and universities to open lines of communication and educate students, teachers and parents on the benefits of an insurance career.
‘We are also involved in the Gateway Program, exposing students early to insurance as a career option.’
O’Connor says each year, the business presents to groups of Year 13 students, teachers and parents across the region ‘while selfishly scouting for the best students to apply (for an internship)’. As a result, staff numbers have been increasing, with the majority of new recruits under the age of 30.
‘We have unearthed some extremely talented young brokers of which we are very proud,’ O’Connor says. ‘Our success can be attributed to many things but is underpinned by our policy of hand-picking motivated young staff.’
KEEPING INFORMED AND ABREAST OF CHANGE
O’Connor says New Zealand has become increasingly exposed to potential insurance losses. ‘The pressure is building to ensure future profitability.
‘We have one of the worst flood loss projections in the developed world, but it is our earthquake exposure and relatively small premium pool that drives our market cycles,’ he says.
The message O’Connor Warren takes from consumers and clients is clear. ‘They demand to be kept informed with clear information and advice around our industry. ‘They want improvement. Many recall service standards they used to get and crave again.’
‘Put simply, from the day our doors opened in 2013 we made clear promises that O’Connor Warren would be the best we could be.’
INDUSTRIES WORKING TOGETHER
Having previously been runner-up, O’Connor was delighted and immensely proud to this year accept the trophy for Small to Medium Broking Company of the Year.
As well as his team and wife, Anna, who is the company’s operations manager, O’Connor is quick to thank the transport industry. ‘Our business has been built on the back of advising and supporting the transport industry and this award is a recognition of that,’ he says. ‘If it weren’t for the transport industry, we wouldn’t be where we are today.’
Picture: Eamon O’Connor accepts the Small to Medium Broker of the Year Award at the 2018 ANZIIF New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards.