Introducing Tommy Ecott, one of our Senior Fleet Underwriters

Let’s start with your career to date. What first led you into insurance?

I’m one of those peculiar people who always intended to work in insurance. My dad worked for a broker, and as I was growing up I saw him taking out clients, going for dinners and living what appeared to be quite a glamorous life, so I wanted a piece of the action, however, I ended-up in underwriting so that hasn’t really happened yet!

My first insurance role was regionally-focused service underwriting, which was great experience for me. Then I got lucky, as unbeknownst to me, the day I was having my interview at ERS my office was being closed down. It was a big relief to get that ERS job six years ago.

Were you working in the fleet team from the outset?

I actually began as a fraud investigator which was really interesting, spotting individuals taking out insurance for the sole purpose of committing fraud, ghost broking and that sort of thing.

As the wider business was restructuring, I was given the opportunity to take on a more senior role, before transitioning into fleet around four years ago. As a senior underwriter, I still do a lot of trading, but I’m also tasked with more analysis, more broker engagement and more collaboration with our product managers around the strategic focus of our business. It’s a nice balance.

What does a typical week in your role look like?

It’s a mix of trading and business development, so it can be quite varied. I love spending time with brokers and developing those relationships, so it has been very frustrating not be able to get out and meet our broker partners during the pandemic. However, it has left more time for me to focus on performance analysis, looking at our book and learning, so that we can keep on improving.

2020 was a strange year. Tell us about some of the recent trends you’ve observed in the market.

New business has been tough at times. A lot of policyholders have wanted to sit tight and avoid any upheaval, while on the flip side many other businesses have been struggling and hence they’ve been looking for the absolute cheapest deal.

The market has felt a bit like a Black Friday sale lately – there’s so much opportunism and short-term thinking.  A lot of competitors don’t seem to be factoring in the pandemic into their rating, which is going to come back and bite them in the future. Rates that should have been factored in this year have been deferred, which will cause knee-jerk reactions further down the line once their performance is suffering.

At ERS, we don’t do things for short-term gain, and I think brokers will look back in years to come and recognise that we were the partner that remained consistent and in it for the long-haul.

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

I’d say it’s the depth of our expertise.  We have a team of experts who understand the market and brokers will always get a human on the end of the phone.

Relationships are the core of our business, they really matter, and this is something that my Dad instilled in me when I was growing-up. He told me that insurance is a very small industry so you should never burn bridges, even if you’re upset at how something has panned out.

Is it possible to predict what this year is going to have in store for the business?

Given the turmoil and uncertainty we’ve seen over the last 12 months – from the pandemic to Brexit – it’s been hard to know what’s going to happen next week, let alone for the rest of the year. However, we’re a pretty agile and dynamic team. We always react quickly to external events, and we’ll always seek out everyone’s opinion on an issue so that the whole team is bought into our response.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

Maintaining the strength of our relationships with brokers even at moments when we aren’t able to give them everything they’d like. That’s why it’s really important to break down the detail and show them the logic that’s guiding us. We have a technical underwriting model underpinning the process, of course, but ultimately so much of what we do involves using our experience to think on our feet and underwrite in our heads, using the model to backup these decisions.

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

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. I think people are sometimes too quick to play it safe and agree with the last opinion they’ve heard, whereas at ERS, we’re always encouraged to bring new ideas to the table. I think a lot of our success is because we don’t rest on our laurels, while it probably helps that we aren’t a massive organisation. In some of the big companies, the culture isn’t quite the same. You’re a small cog in a big machine and your voice doesn’t necessarily get heard. Our culture is a big reason why a lot of my colleagues have been with ERS for a long time now.

What are your passions and pastimes outside of working hours?

It used to be going to the football and doing a lot of travelling, so I’ve had to find some new hobbies since the pandemic. I’ve started doing a lot of DIY, going for cycles and walks, and generally appreciating the simpler things in life.

The one thing I’m looking forward to more than anything this year is my wedding, which we had to postpone due to Covid. We decided to push the event back an entire year, which seemed ridiculously cautious at the time, but now looks like it might have been a very good call.

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

I’m massively into my sports so this would be the logical direction – maybe a racing driver, or the ultimate, turning out for Luton Town. In my mind, I’m still thinking I have a chance to make it as a footballer, but I guess it’s becoming increasingly unlikely!

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