We’ve made big investments to our regional underwriting capabilities in recent months to give brokers better access to our products and expertise, particularly during this difficult time. Our new hire, Millie Lamden-Kerr, carries a wealth of experience serving brokers across South West England. We caught up with Millie to hear more about how she’s approaching the new role and how rural businesses across her region are continuing to diversify…

Walk us through your career to date.

I began my journey working in claims at Ageas and, as I learnt my trade, I became more and more curious about underwriting and how it worked, so I moved into underwriting for rural businesses at FarmWeb. I then worked for Rural where I was a motor underwriter and trading underwriter from home and spent some time working in sales. Sales was great for getting to know the brokers better, but ideally, I wanted to combine a relationships-based role with an underwriting role – giving me the ability to do what I say I’m going to do. That’s why the ERS position appealed to me so much.

What can you tell us about your new role and remit?

I’m based in Cheltenham and I’ll be looking after the South West region, alongside Matt Evans who covers South West and Wales. I know Matt from my time at FarmWeb – he taught me a lot about underwriting prior to his move to ERS. I’m looking forward to teaming up with him again following several years of working as friendly rivals!

What do you think makes ERS stand out in the Agri market?

We have a massively diverse underwriting appetite and can facilitate many different risks for all types of rural businesses, from farming contracting to landscape gardening. This is critical given the amount of diversification we’re seeing in the sector, particularly in the South West.

Glamping in particular has grown bigger and bigger in the region, with farms providing glamping pods, shepherd’s huts, and even full-blown caravan sites for holidaymakers. I see more farmers moving into this area and facilitating staycations given that Covid-19 will be around for some time to come.

ERS has been able to move with the times and is really well placed to support brokers with customers that are diversifying. As a motor-only insurer, we can concentrate on being the best at what we do, rather than worrying about other aspects of rural business operations.

What will a typical week in your role look like?

It will involve going out and visiting brokers and turning quotes around as quickly as possible – even if this means having to sit outside with them! When circumstances allow, I will look to spend more time underwriting in-house with these brokers, as it’s the best way to build relationships. But it’s all about what each broker prefers. I like to turn around quotes there and then and I like to be instantly contactable, getting brokers what they need as quickly as possible.

Why is speed so important in the agri sector?

Farmers are incredibly busy and often don’t get around to looking at things like insurance until the last minute. This is particularly true right now as brokers have been unable to go out and pay site visits, which in some cases has meant policy renewals going under the radar until the 11th hour. It really pays to respond to brokers straight away, even if we’re not able to provide exactly what they’re looking for.

What’s the biggest challenge with starting a new role during the current pandemic?

Learning the IT system remotely is probably my biggest challenge. I don’t have any problems working from home – I’ve been doing this for years and I love the work/life balance, but I’m not used to learning the tech outside of the office, so I’m just praying I don’t click a button and break something.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for ERS in Agri over the coming months?

Across the board, I see plenty of opportunity to work both with current brokers and new friends in the market. The South West forms a huge part of the overall UK Agri sector, and it’s a great opportunity for me and Matt to work as a team in the months ahead.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?

Relationships are key, whether it is colleagues, brokers or other people in the industry. Everyone knows everyone, and I like to think I have built up some good friendships with brokers since I started my career. Communication, trust and rapport are key and I like to find out how I can help, what they struggle with and really get to understand their business needs.

What are your passions and pastimes outside of working hours?

I like spending time with friends, and going for walks with my crazy spaniel Buddy. Most brokers have heard Buddy on the phone at some point.

I’m at my happiest when I’m sunbathing in Lanzarote – it’s my home away from home and I’ve been going there since I was a baby. I even said my first word while sat on a Lanzarote beach.

If you weren’t working in Agri vehicle insurance, what would your dream job be?

I would love to be a food critic. Can you imagine going out to fancy restaurants, being paid to eat and then to tell everyone how much you liked the food? That sounds ideal.

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