Introducing Mark Feathers, our Regional Development Manager for the North East

Bloghead Feathers

At ERS we’re proudly broker-focused, and that means serving the needs of brokers wherever they’re based in the UK. To that end, we have a team of seasoned regional motor insurance experts throughout the country, making sure we give each one of our brokers the face-to-face support they need. We recently caught up with one of the team, Mark Feathers, to hear about the latest from the North East market…

Tell us about your role as Regional Development Manager at ERS?

I’ve been at ERS for 5 years now, having come from 10 years in an agricultural MGA and before that, a small broker. The fact that I’ve been an underwriter as well as in sales roles helps me really understand the pressures the brokers are under, and how I can best support them.

What does a typical day in your world look like?

I’m based in Otley, but spend my time travelling from Lincolnshire to Northumberland, meeting my brokers. People will buy from people, so the fact ERS invests in people like me to give that face time is I think a massive added value to our brokers. It’s all about giving them the dedication they may not receive from other insurers. Every broker, large or small, has an agenda and different priorities, and we can meet those varying needs due to a flexible approach to underwriting and recognising their regional challenges. There is a real camaraderie amongst my RDM colleagues when we get together to share learnings.

What differentiates the North East market from elsewhere in the UK?

While the size of brokers in the NE really varies, a key difference I believe to other regions is that we cover a huge amount of agricultural business. I have an agricultural business background, so I love this specialism, and can relate to the difference in farming approaches even within this territory. For example, Lincolnshire tends to have arable farms, meaning we cover a lot of big machinery such as combine harvesters; whereas in the Dales I am looking after quad bikes and off road vehicles to cater to the different terrain there and predominance of cattle, sheep and dairy farms. No two brokers are the same though, the markets and clients all differ slightly so I get to enjoy a variety of conversations every day.

Tell us about some of the major trends you’re seeing in the region currently?

I think a major trend is the volume of new brokers emerging over the last 2 years; either more brokerages have been set up or existing companies have appointed more reps. Additionally, the demand for local, independent, specialist knowledge is increasingly crucial – I’m seeing my clients swerve away from internet, the ‘click n buy’ approach, as they need more guidance around the conststantly evolving laws and regulatory changes in our specialist sectors.

For example, a big change recently is that agricultural clients often need their vehicles to be registered for road use; this is a huge change for clients and a broker needs to give that advice.

What are the biggest challenges in this role?

We’re not a budget insurer, rather we are here to do proper assessment to give our brokers’ clients the right cover. Competitors on the other hand will always undercut, leading with price, which can be attractive to some clients even though the cover will inevitably be lacking.

Is there anything that still surprises you about the industry?

I’m constantly surprised by the love for overseas markets that are unrated. Clients are often left without cover mid-term which is hugely stressful for the broker and affected client, so why put yourself and your clients in that position? ERS is about sustainability; we want to find brokers the right level of cover and we are guaranteed to be here for their clients next year!

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt along the way?

When I first started out on the road, I was advised to be true to my word. I live by this, and it’s a value shared by ERS. We do what we say we will do.

What is it that makes ERS stand out in the market and made you join the ERS team?

The passion from the ERS underwriters is incredible -they know so much about specialist vehicles – whether a classic car, commercial van or combine harvester! - and given this, can help me predict opportunities in their sectors. I was working with the supercar team recently and their knowledge is extraordinary! ERS really knows the markets and knows the trends.

The variety and depth within the specialist motor sectors that ERS caters to is second to none, and it’s a big part of why I joined. I love having the challenge of a more varied role – no two broker meetings are the same.

What’s the biggest opportunity for ERS in the year ahead?

Brokers are always changing – whilst it’s to look at broker consolidation as the big change shift, it does miss the fact that brokers that want to remain completely independent are changing and looking for new opportunities to grow their business. It’s important that we keep close to understand what the future looks like for each broker and how we can help and support them. That might be something as complex as launching a brand new product to maket, but it might be as simple as ensuring that all their team understand why ERS is the go to insurer for specialist risks and that they’re fully trained on our latest appetites and product details.

What would you say is the single biggest attribute or competency brokers look for in a motor insurer, and why?

Honesty & integrity. You must do what you say. If you understand what the customer wants, it will be a long term relationship. I’ve got 15-year relationships with some brokers, and certainly in my 5 years at ERS I have kept clients returning. You get to know your brokers personally, and then you’re working with friends rather than a faceless transcript.

What are your passions and pastimes outside of working hours?

I have 3 children and 20 chickens, so keeping my kids & poultry alive are major passions and pastimes! I’ve been known to bring a half dozen eggs to broker meetings on occasion!!

I’ve lived in the NE all my life, so as well as coaching my son’s football team, I do love a few country pursuits – fishing, bit of foraging…making a mean home brew wine!

If you weren’t in the motor insurance business, what would your dream job be?

I love supercars, so a job which meant I could afford to buy one of them!!

But more realistically, I would love to work for a mental health charity – there are some brilliant initiatives out there, like the Dementia Café in Bradford – I would love to help working in that sector.

Looking for specialist motor insurance? Find your local Regional Development Manager here.

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