Interview with Cati Stoican
1. What was it like when you arrived at Safety Broker, what were your individual objectives upon your arrival to the team, and what was your strategy in reaching them?
My arrival at Safety Broker to me was like coming back home: on the one hand, it was the return to the brokerage activity, on the other hand, at Safety I have the opportunity of working with people I have known for years, whom I had worked with as part of other companies; moreover, my first steps in insurance were guided by Viorel in 2002, and all I do now is to practice the first steps the same teacher taught me.
Ever since I was a little girls, I have wanted “to be the first” at everything I do; the same desire and ambition accompanied me when I arrived at Safety: for us to become number 1. In order to achieve this with the entire team, I felt the need to set my own objectives, of which: the establishment of a corporate client supply department at the Safety Broker’s head office, consisting of people having experience in the subscription of insurance premiums, the development of a national training program, our presence in the top 3 companies as far as the underwriting of BOND-type contract warranty products is concerned. At the end of 2014, the aforementioned main objectives were achieved, and this was the outcome of a very well consolidated team of professionals. Our strategy in the reaching of objectives was a simple one, which I had learned during the 4 years and a half of my working as a kindergarten teacher: lead by example, be passionate about what you do and respect others: "Let him that would move the world first move himself.”, says Socrates; I believe in leading by example; in January 2014, I closed my first warranty policy, with a premium amounting to lei 563,595 which was an illustration that we can do it. I constantly asked for and received feedback, I believed in our projects and, perhaps the most important ingredient, I have always respected the others and their work.
2. How was Safety Broker different from the other brokerage companies in Romania at the time; what about the present time?
Safety Broker’s approach was different from the other brokers’: on the one hand, it was an active and creative company, with a system of values built on principles in which I believe; on the other hand, Safety was the right decision for me, given its philosophy and structure similar to that of an insurance company; this helped me integrate soon, so that I could focus on reaching my objectives, under the Safety strategy. At this time, Safety is a broker which quickly adapts its services and processes to the social and legislative amendments and realities, which are continuously evolving. I dare say that, given its team of insurance professionals, Safety Broker is a broker with a vision, having the necessary intuition to be an opinion leader in the field.
3. What does the Safety Broker quality standard imply exactly?
The Safety Broker quality standard was mainly imposed by our clients, whom we thank for their ongoing feedback. The profile of clients accessing our services has undergone slight changes compared to the previous years: they are more connected, more curious about what lies behind the documents they receive for signing. They want to know if the provided products meet their needs. Through its team of professionals, Safety Broker provides clients with comparative offers from minimum 3 insurance companies, as far as the price and, in particular, the insurance conditions, franchises and, especially, the included clauses, are concerned, which are extremely useful when an event occurs. We provide insurance placement services by way of customized packages, based on the identified needs, damages, including our own call center, as well as administration services, dedicated to our clients’ business objectives (here, I would like to mention the “exchange car” provided in the country’s main towns, assistance in the performance of risk checkout, including industrial risks, etc.). Together with our insurer friends, we have created products dedicated both to retail and SME clients, for instance, depending on their activity field. But perhaps the most important service we provide is to assist our clients when they need us, through our team’s presence in each town of the country, which made one of our clients say the following: "you are my safety net ".
4. How do you see your evolution on the national insurance market?
5. What is the biggest challenge facing the insurance brokerage market right now?
6. Can you give us some examples of customized services and products meant solely for corporate clients?
The management of corporate insurance products is complex and necessitates more attention and time for making the following steps: risk identification, risk assessment, the suggestion of proper solutions for the transfer of identified risks to insurance, involvement in the settlement of damages, etc. Because each corporate client has their own specific needs, we customize the insurance packages starting from the insurance companies’ products, to which we attach clauses and coverage limits based on each individual specificity, on their needs and the budget allocated to insurance. Here we could mention some clauses which we recommend to be included in the policies for big clients, such clauses providing the guarantee of their business continuity; for instance, the brittle goods clause, variable stock, the advance compensation clause, the no claims bonus, waiver from the proportionality rule, the electric phenomenon clause, accidental deficiencies and loss by business interruption clause; equally important are expenses which can be attached to a basic policy (with the fire-fighters’ intervention, activity relocation, re-design, expenses with experts). The business interruption section is a line we have set out to promote both among SMEs, and Corporate clients. The enterprises dealing with catastrophic property losses as a result of a major fire, earthquake, flood, noticed that the production process interruption generated far bigger losses than the damaged or destroyed property. This type of insurance protects the business against income losses caused by the temporary business interruption as a result of fire or another risk insured by the property insurance policy, including as a result of accidental deficiencies or damages in electronic equipment. The policy covers the operation profit which the insured should have obtained had the insured event not occurred. Furthermore, the clause covers the operation expenses which need to continue despite the temporary interruption of business: in such situations as the destruction of the premises where the Insured’s activity is performed, the policy provides the resources necessary to cover the utilities, the salaries and other payment obligations for the time interval when the property is under recovery. The advantages of this clause lie in the fact that it helps the injured company, suffering as a result of a fire, for instance, to be brought back to the position it would have held had the damage-causing event not occurred:
- recovery of the damaged property;
- achieving production capacity and level;
- re-establishment of the turnover.
The potential benefits of companies as a result of such a policy in the cases of material damages:
- they are able to pay their suppliers and employees, the leasing installments, etc.
- they get to keep their strategic clients and key employees;
- add value to their image before clients and business partners, ;
- financial stability, by ensuring the business safety and continuity.
7. What do you think are the secrets to selling customized SME and business corporate packages?
The secret is in advisory-based selling and team work in the case of big accounts the approach of such client types implies a lot of preparation from the team which manages the account, both technically, and in terms of the sales skills; in order for the transfer of trust to take place, it is important to know the insurance products well, to be experienced and to talk about it, to be with your client and raise their awareness on the existence of the need, to identify the need behind the need for the suggested solution to be customized, to hear your client so that you can understand their business (the work flows, in particular);
Our post-sales services are equally important:
- assistance in the case of an unwanted event or damages for instance, we have our own call center and damages department, dedicated to each corporate account;
- portfolio management services:
· amendment of policies by addenda,
· notifications of insurance policy installments due – sent to clients;
· notifications regarding the expiration of policies;
- the harmonization with legal requirements;
- IT systems allowing the development of reports adapted to the clients’ activity;
8. Can you describe the client loyalty programs developed as part of your collaboration with Safety Broker? Which of them was most successful?
During its 10 years, Safety Broker has permanently strived to design and adapt client loyalty programs; as a result, it succeeded to include in its current portfolio such clients which Safety Broker started its activity with back in 2005. The main programs during the 11 years of activity were the following: negotiation of commercial discounts with the insurance companies; granting of vouchers for the purchase of other insurance policies, exchange car, co-brand products, insurance protocols with special clauses;
The biggest success among the retail clients were the "cobrand" policies, which provided clients with added value compared to a company’s standard product: additional coverage and reduced damage resolution time; as far as the corporate clients are concerned, the following proved to be successful: the access of clients to artistic or sports events with us; the “exchange car” program; the appointment schedule set between the companies’ management for quarterly and yearly reviews of accounts and collaboration feedback.
9. How can this success formula be duplicated in subsidiaries or the franchise network?
Each area has its own specificity; however, the ingredients of success are the same at large: permanent training, portfolio diversification, client attendance with dedicated staff, organization of regional appointments for experience exchanges - which we all need. We share our experience, we permanently learn because it is a continuously dynamic field;
10. What is the secret of keeping a motivated sales force, and how do you intend to capitalize the team’s potential?
It all starts with choosing your staff: people are first of all motivated to do what they like; it is important to be the right person at the right time; the entire Safety management has the merit of giving each one of them the freedom to do what they like and what they do best as part of the company. The sales force will be motivated as long as you are close to them, i.e. by being open to efficient solutions, and not least, by your own example. Training is equally important, as it provides each one of us with the opportunity to develop ourselves on a personal level. I am a team player, and receiving feedback from the team, instead of simply providing feedback to them myself, is equally important.
11. What advice would you give to franchise managers in this respect?
I do not like to give advice, not even as a mother. Usually, I give potentially helpful alternatives and allow each individual to decide the extent to which they fit.
The alternatives we all sales people have are the same:
- regular calls to the client to discuss about the evolution of their business, so that we can identify any changes which could turn into opportunities of closing new policies;
- permanent customer support, particularly in the case of damages;
- promptness and seriousness = professionalism
- permanent product and sales training;
- the promotion of non-car products, particularly those products which all brokers have at hand: health insurance, commercial credits, warranties, liabilities;
12. Can you share with our readers a serious crisis situation which you experienced as a Safety member? How did you overcome it?
During my 4 years at Safety, I have encountered many crisis situations, some of my colleagues who will read this article will surely remember the difficult times we surpassed together. The one I am going to tell you about involves a request of one of my clients I have been working with for 9 years who asked me to issue a warranty, although his company is insolvent and can, therefore, not be insured. Following repeated appointments with the respective company’s management, with the special manager and the financial and legal departments, we managed to gather the data we needed to prove to the insurers that the client always met its contractual obligations, as they paid EUR 1.5 million worth-of contractual insurance policies with a damage rate below 1% of the portfolio. Moreover, we proved the insurers that, although insolvent, the company managed to obtain a profit that was higher than before. I made a file including all pieces of information I deemed useful in helping me negotiate with the insurers; thus, in December 2015, we succeeded in closing this policy as well, although it seemed impossible at first. The excellent preparation and relation with the insurers helped me overcome the situation described.
13. It is said that women are very good at creating a balance between their careers, their families and allowing “time for themselves”; have you managed to find the perfect balance between all these aspects; if so, how have you done it?
My family is my balance to me and the time spent with my family is the “time for myself”. At the office I feel like I am at home, only that family is much more numerous. I can say I am a lucky person (even if luck is something you create for yourself) to be able to say that I am surrounded by people I love.
14. What are your hobbies, what do you do when you don’t sell insurance, you don’t negotiate contracts, when you are not out in the field or you don’t cook? What do you do for yourself, how do you charge your batteries?
The one thing that makes me feel energized is my family. I love travelling, particularly with my family, I love nature, and I love listening to music (I go to concerts with my family and friends every year).
15. In conclusion, we would like to know if you have a personal wish you think about constantly, for the fulfillment of which you do not have the necessary courage or time though.
I would like to do a parachute jump, I do have the necessary courage, I only need to find my folks’ understanding for this to happen.