The Commercial Underwriting Package team is part of NFU Mutual’s 400-strong Underwriting function. Based in Bristol and York, there are 16 in the team who look after the needs of our small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) customer base. So, what goes on in their team - and what do they enjoy about working for NFU Mutual? We spoke to some of our Package team to find out.

What exactly is package insurance?
Package insurance is a form of business insurance, it’s about protecting business owners, their employees and business assets. It’s a term used in the insurance industry and one that we’ve adopted at NFU Mutual to describe the service we offer our business customers with typically up to a £3million turnover. David Hannington, a commercial underwriter in the team, offers his take on package insurance. “It’s effectively taking broader commercial insurance and putting it into a box. It’s a more streamlined and condensed version of brokering. But at NFU Mutual I’d say we are less constrained with what goes into those boxes than other insurers I’ve worked with. We can look at what kind of risk and how we want to underwrite the business.”

Working with the wider underwriting team
For an underwriter joining NFU Mutual, one of our strengths is the size of the team and the depth of expertise within it. Lisa Magson is one of the senior members of the Package team and was there when it was set up just over a year ago. She’s been with NFU Mutual since 1993 so knows our business very well. “We have a lot of involvement with other underwriters across the business. If we decide something isn't quite right for a package policy, we'll speak to the new business team, explain why, and ask them if it's a request they can deal with. Even though some of the team are homebased, there’s a lot of interaction and we often see the rest of the team.” Joe Yeatman, who leads the team in Bristol and has been with NFU Mutual for nearly 10 years explains that the interaction goes both ways. “Like Lisa says, we work closely with the other underwriting teams, but the New Business team might come to us if they have something that would be a better fit on a package policy. Ultimately, it’s about the right outcome for the customer and their budget.”

Career progression and professional development
Lisa has seen the Package team grow from the start and with rapid development too. “We’ve been a team for just over a year and the leadership has done a great job. So many of our new team members have already gained higher underwriting authority levels, and that's an amazing accomplishment in such a short amount of time. For me in the last year, I’ve seen real progression happening.”

Joe also sees the career development potential that being in the team brings. “It can be a good way to get a grounding in underwriting because we cover so much, and we have to know so much of everything before specialising in one area. But away from the Package team, the business is really good at developing underwriters.”

Our customer base
By the nature of the SME customer base served by the Package team, the customers vary beyond the traditional mix of farming and agriculture businesses served by NFU Mutual - as David explains. “The team covers a lot of different things. Yes, we do get involved in farming but then farms themselves are diversifying into other businesses.” As Joe covers, our SME customer base is broad. “It’s that classic base of retailers, property owners, offices, tradespeople, manufacturing and wholesaling.” And Lisa has also noticed the diversification trend. “We are going to be hearing more about renewables as heating systems are replaced. In general, farmers are looking at different areas to keep a steady income. As the Package team we see all kinds of risks.”

Working with Head Office
The package products are fairly set, and the team has various levels of authority to make decisions. However, the Head Office team are there when they're needed. Joe explains how this works. “For the majority of the time it’s us referring to them because we're happy to get their input or we need something to be signed off because it falls out of regional authority.”

Lisa describes what she calls ‘free formats’, and how Head Office get involved. “These are the things that have to be applied manually to a policy, which we don’t have the authority to do. It’s a change to the wording based on what the customer may need or request.”

However, despite some cases where Head Office gets involved, Joe feels that there is still a great deal of autonomy in how the team works. “We’re pretty self-contained, I’d say less than 10% of our work needs to be referred outside of the team - that’s because we’ve got the in-house capability.”

Working with the NFU Mutual Agency Network

All the team agree there’s a lot of work done with the agencies in the UK-wide NFU Mutual Agency side of the business, who have a strong connection with our customer base.

So, what does this look like in practice? The agencies send referrals to the Package team via their IT system or with inbound calls. As Joe explains, “The team wants to make sure that the customers get the best value, and the right things are added to their package. The agency will ask for our thoughts or our authority to clear their referral. We do get a high volume of calls, which is the nature of the work, but we have a great working relationship with the Agency Network.”

Why the Package team?
As Lisa explains, it’s a dynamic team as well as offering career development. “You learn a lot about insurance in this role, working out which policy is suited to each type of risk. If you prefer a quick pace and variety in your work, I'd say our team is definitely the best team to be in.” David has worked in other insurance companies, so what's his view? “You get a lot more freedom in this role. Obviously, you work within your authority level, but you also have the freedom of bringing your own opinion and rationale on things too. We have the capacity to think a little bit more outside the box.” That rings true with Lisa too. “We'll always try and make something work where we can. That’s one of the good things about this role.”

What makes NFU Mutual a great place to work?
For Lisa, it’s the people she works with. Having been with NFU Mutual for nearly 30 years, she puts her colleagues above any other benefit. “We’ve got hybrid working and career progression, but what makes it for me is the people. Both in our team and in the offices, they're absolutely brilliant.” As a recent starter, David felt welcome too. “I was in my early forties, changing jobs but I didn’t need to worry if I’d fit in, everyone has been so welcoming. The other thing that’s great is the openness. You can feel free to have an opinion about something or discuss an issue. It’s a very welcoming and inclusive environment.” Joe adds his thoughts on the NFU Mutual culture. “I feel really empowered. It comes from the top. And, from a personal point of view, I’ll add in the development we have here. I came into the role nine years ago and said I wanted to develop, and they supported me to do that. There’s a really good culture here.”

Career development tips for new starters in commercial underwriting
Lisa goes back to the friendliness and approachability of the people at NFU Mutual and advises everyone to just ask anything they want. “It’s understandable to be nervous when you're new, but you really don’t need to be. We’re a friendly bunch. Just ask away and go for it. No question is a stupid question.” David holds a similar view, “Just ask questions and get involved in everything that's thrown at you, from a work query to socialising on a Teams chat. Just get involved in everything because it'll stand you in good stead for the longer term.”

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