Introducing Chris Denton, our Senior Underwriter for Agriculture

Bloghead Cdenton

Agriculture is one of our three core specialisms and we’ve made a big investment in both our team and our product offering over the past few years to ensure we’re offering a stand-out product to meet a wide variety of Agriculture needs. We recently chatted to one of our senior team members, Chris Denton, to learn more about what he enjoys most about his specialist role and the major trends within the Agriculture sector right now, and why he’s continually amazed by the resourcefulness of farmers…

Tell us about your role at ERS?

I joined ERS three years ago as an underwriter based out of our London office. Today I’m one of the lead points of contact on our team for everything from quoting for business to claims referrals.

I’ve always worked within the Agriculture sector. I grew up in a rural area and so it’s been a part of my world from a young age – though I couldn’t claim to have foreseen a career in Agri insurance when I was little!

Walk us through a typical day in your world.

My role is very varied so not one day is typically the same, from balancing the immediate underwriting needs of our team whilst also ensuring I’m getting out to meet brokers and their customers. This is crucial in helping us to understand their pain-points and what they’re looking for from an insurance partner, so I make it my business to get out of the office regularly as well as attending relevant Agriculture roadshows and events around the UK.

How has your role changed since you first joined ERS?

The role has changed a lot, particularly since we set up a dedicated Agriculture team in Swansea in 2017 to serve as first port of call for enquiries, claims, renewals and more. I have to work as part of a wider, geographically dispersed team – especially as we also have remote traders elsewhere in the UK too – and I do my bit to ensure that the team is functioning as one at all times.

Tell us about some of the major trends you’ve seen during this time.

In our sector it’s hard to look past Brexit and the inevitable, albeit uncertain, changes to the Common Agricultural Policy that will ensue once Britain leaves the EU. One thing I’ve noticed is that farmers are now diversifying, either in the nature of their business or how they run their business, to try and pre-empt CAP decisions. In some cases, this means a shift towards more sustainable operations – such as using solar power; in others, it’s expansion into areas such as eco-tourism.

Eco-tourism is something we’ve seen growing substantially, with farms investing in lodges, yurts or full-blown holiday homes to cater for outside guests. It’s still a side-business rather than a replacement for their primary income streams, but it’s potentially lucrative nevertheless, and we’ve responded to this trend with the creation of our Leisure and Recreation product, which caters for some of these farmers’ more diverse risks and interests.

Is there anything that still surprises you about the industry?

Some of the machinery we’re seeing now takes your breath away. For example, giant GPS-enabled combine harvesters that can be programmed to work without a driver. It’s crazy to think how quickly these machines are evolving as GPS gets more and more precise, and it’ll be interesting to see what impact these developments have on the number of claims we receive.

Ultimately, not a day goes by in my role without hearing about some new or surprising solution to a specific farming challenge. Farmers are resourceful and possess a relentless focus on getting the job done, irrespective of the circumstances that befall them.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your career thus far?

Follow your nose and keep a level head. One mustn’t be too surprised when working in the Agri sector. Farmers are incredibly ingenious, mainly because they’re constantly having to think on their feet and adapt to new situations. The best way we can support brokers’ farming customers is by trying to behave in a similarly agile and responsive way.

What is it that makes ERS stand out in the market?

We have a head-to-toe, seamless proposition, with an entire team now geared specifically around supporting our Agriculture brokers and their customers. This level of support is a big draw in the market.

Beyond that, it’s the cover itself that stands out the most – we’re more flexible than other providers in what we can offer and we’ve worked hard to develop a product that’s genuinely the Rolls Royce of Agri cover.

What are the biggest considerations for the Agri sector over the year ahead?

This summer has again brought adverse weather conditions that are likely to affect farmers’ harvest prospects. It’s the second year running that we’ve experienced quite extreme weather and this may well be a trend that’s here to stay. If so, the risks of machinery overheating and/or fires are likely to increase in the run up to harvest each year – a big problem at such a vital point in the calendar.

Outside of working hours, what keeps you occupied?

My two big passions are playing rugby for my local club and food. The two are more related than you might think.

And finally, if you weren’t in the insurance business, what would your dream job be?

I’d want the job to relate to my passions, so maybe it would be a career as a professional rugby player. I’m not sure I’m discerning enough to be a restaurant critic. I have what’s best described as an uncomplicated palette!

Contact Chris or one of the team for all Agriculture enquiries: agriculturequotes@ers.com | 0345 600 2284

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