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Is insurance the only retail sector where the value proposition is ignored?



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In large part because of his own background, Chaplin noted that the firm’s emphasis is on exemplary staff training, combining a strong focus on academia with a first-rate training program, designed to bring out the best in every individual worker. Cowens is founded on the ambition of offering the very best service under every circumstance, he said, something which is only made possible by the way the firm treats its employees and the way it trains its employees.

“If our customers want something done, we will try and do that straight away,” he said. “And that goes through the whole business. I might be chief executive, but I would hope that if you were to talk to any of my employees throughout [the firm], they would all have customer satisfaction as their number one driver. The number one thing we’re bothered about is doing it right. And from a professional and compliance point of view, we have our regulatory framework put in place by the regulator but whether that was there or not, we would do it right anyway.”

This focus has served the brokerage very well in the past and has come into its own during the COVID pandemic, which Chaplin noted had seen exceptionally high retention rates across each of Cowens’ lines of business. The formal values of the group are those of integrity, trust and honesty, he said, but what these fundamentally come down to is the fact that the business is bothered about what happens to its clients.  

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“I’m bothered that’s it right. At Cowens… we all care,” he said. “We care about what people think about Cowens, we care about delivery, we care about reputation, we care about attitude… Making sure that you have a competitive insurance solution with the right security, the right conditions, the right claims [structures], all of that is doing it right and we try and do it right.”

This emphasis on the professional duty that an insurance broker owes to their clients is something that Chaplin believes that a lot of consumers do not have a great deal of clarity on or insight into. Simply put, he said, there are too many brokers that to one extent or another, ignore that professional duty. The industry as a whole, whether brokered or unbrokered, tends towards marketing and public messaging that concentrates on price rather than cover, resulting in a populace who are encouraged in this lack of education.

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“[Insurance] is the only retail sector you can possibly think of where the value proposition is ignored for the price proposition,” he said. “We at Cowens try to sell a value proposition. So I often say to people, ‘Well, you have a Mercedes, I can get you a cheaper car than that.’  Why would you not believe that applies to insurance? Because it does.”

Chaplin and his team’s commitment to enhancing the understanding of clients about the role of insurance and the need for a ‘value over price’ approach has been reflected in the growth that the firm has enjoyed recently. He noted that he has been very happy with the progress of all five of the main brands of Cowens Group and that all are advancing.

Taking the growth of its Xpress division, for example, he said, the business has grown from four people to 15 people in a year and progressed very well, with a high hit rate and a growth above forecast. This has happened very quickly and he anticipates this growth will continue in the medium-term and this business, alongside the group’s Survival Capability division, is expected to add further headcount to the team going forward.

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