At NFU Mutual, we always aim to give our customers the cover they need. And sometimes, that involves looking to the wider insurance market for support in delivering the best solution. That’s where our Wholesale Broking and Outplacement teams come in. Working closely with both the agencies in the NFU Mutual Agency Network and the wider insurance markets, they offer expert technical advice and find the best possible products to meet customer needs. As intermediaries for our agencies, they’re known as National Intermediary Services, or NIS within the business. And it’s a business area that’s rapidly growing; NIS is set to almost double in size over the next five years, so we talked to some of the team to find out what makes their work so unique.

Could you tell us what Wholesale Broking and Outplacement involves?
“Well, there are around 250 NFU Mutual agencies across the UK, dealing with a diverse range of customers every day,” explains the Head of NIS, James Pickering. “And sometimes, those customers need a certain type of insurance product or solution that NFU Mutual doesn’t ordinarily offer. And that’s when the agencies can turn to us.”

Essentially, he says, this means the team operates like any other broker. “The agencies are our retail network. We get the information from them, pass it on to the market and get terms back to them – although we prefer to say we get deals, rather than terms. In short, we provide services and products on a wholesale basis to gap-fill areas that NFU Mutual doesn’t cover itself.”

He goes on to outline the kind of cover this might include. “It could be a financial or professional liability risk. It might be marine, covering vessels and their cargoes. Or it may involve a customer who’s diversifying or expanding their business and NFU Mutual can’t accommodate an increase in capacity that is required. So, we work with the agencies to get the best solution for the customer. We’re part of that supply chain, so if we don’t do our job, they can’t do theirs.”

Apart from finding solutions in the market, James points out that the team also gets involved in testing new products for the NFU Mutual underwriting teams. “If there’s an opportunity to road-test a product with our network to see if it appeals to them and our customer, we’ll do that – it’s a sort of in-house R&D function which Is even more important as the Industry consider the impact of 'Net-Zero' on customers” And he emphasises that all their work is crucial to the wider NFU Mutual business. “It all ensures there are no gaps in the services or advice that we give to our customers. We play a key role in keeping the customer retention rate at around 95%.”

It sounds like you’re involved in a wide range of work!
“Yes, we are,” agrees James. “As we deal with new business, renewals and policy changes, some of the things we handle aren’t standard. You might have a farmer who’s decided to create an online food distribution business or even make wine! Or they might have a wind turbine to generate their own power, and then decide to create a bigger renewable energy business and sell energy directly back to the grid. This means the nature of the risk associated with their business has fundamentally altered, and we need to find the right product to give them the best cover. It’s about subject matter expertise, understanding the market, and getting the best deal for the customer.”

Kelly, a Supply Chain Manager in the team, says this level of diversification brings new opportunities: “The team deals with a lot of different products, so you have options to move into a specialism or remain a generalist – it’s up to you. And there are opportunities to branch out into the wider business, too.”

Kate, another member of the team who used to be a broker, adds that this was what attracted her to join NFU Mutual. “The opportunity to specialise was what I was looking for. Where I was before, I was doing a bit of compliance, a bit of risk, whilst also managing a team. Here I have a defined role, with clear aims and remits.”

For James, this diversity makes it an interesting time to join the team. “More NFU Mutual customers are specialising, becoming bigger and more complex. So, we’re handling more unusual requirements with diverse risks that require specialist solutions. This means we’re in a rapid growth phase – in fact, we’ll be looking to almost double in size over the next five years.”

So, how does working here differ from working in a brokerage?
Placement Consultant Steph says what makes it different for her are the opportunities for growth and progression. “I used to work in a brokerage and one of the big draws for me was NFU Mutual’s focus on personal and professional development. There’s an emphasis on coaching, mentoring and training, and you have regular one-to-ones with your line manager that are all about your career objectives. So, you have a clear growth plan, with the scope to develop. And because the team’s still growing, there are so many opportunities – new roles are being created all the time.”

Eloise, another member of the team, says the range of opportunities available helped her build the career she wanted. “I started in an admin role and had the chance to work in a number of different teams, developing my knowledge. Now, as a business development consultant, I’m out on the road, liaising with the Agents, providing training, getting feedback on our services, and sometimes visiting customers. It’s the job I always wanted, even before the company created it!”

For Annie, a Supply Chain Governance Manager, it’s the personalised approach to development that she enjoys. “Whether you want to move up, are happy to stay where you are, or maybe want to specialise in a specific area within your role, they’ll point you towards those opportunities.” Presumably, being part of a mutual makes it different too, does it? “Yes, the culture’s very different,” says James. “Our raison d'etre is not to make money for shareholders. We exist to give the best solutions for our customers. It’s our customers and our people first, rather than revenue first but in my experience having great customer outcomes and a motivated and loyal team always leads to achieving the financial goals one sets.”

For Annie, this gives the brokers more scope to provide a quality service to customers. “Because there isn’t that pressure to put profit first, we’re entirely focused on finding the best advice and solutions for our customers. And we have a ready-made customer base, so we don’t have a lot of the distractors that other brokers have.” “Although we don’t have shareholders, we definitely still need to be commercially aware,” agrees Sharon. “But coming from a corporate background, I could feel the culture was noticeably different when I joined. I think it’s because ultimately, we’re acting with our members best interests at heart which includes both managing our cost base and the outcomes we achieve, and our customers are our members. That made me feel more valued – that my work was more important to the business.”

Kareen, a Sales and Service Team Leader, says the culture makes a big difference to colleagues, as well as the customers. “It’s like being part of a family. We naturally support each other and help each other out, it happens so often you don’t need to ask – that support’s always there.”

For Sharon, that brings a real buzz to the office. “It’s like a noisy, interactive trading floor, which I haven’t always seen in other places I worked,” she explains. And she sums up the difference like this: “It means you have the best of both worlds – a very supportive culture, and a strong commercial environment.”

Interested in joining the team?
Find out more about the unique opportunities in our Wholesale Broking and Outplacement teams and take a look at our current vacancies.