Broker maintains valley focus
GEOFF Hall believes Ovens Valley Insurance Brokers’ clear focus on its core market – the people and communities of the three alpine valleys – continues to set it apart.
Two decades have passed since OVIB was established as a result of a merger between Mr Hall’s Geoff Hall and Associates and Graham Broster’s Myrtleford Insurance Brokers in 1997.
“We’ve always had a strong emphasis on being local and supporting the valley,” he said.
“The amalgamation of the two brokerages was a good move and we’ve since been going from strength to strength every year.”
Mr Broster retired about eight years ago and Mr Hall has subsequently encouraged new partners into the firm.
Current claims manager Jacki Cossor started with OVIB in 2008 and later became a director.
She has mid-year taken a step back, enabling Katie Paul to become a director after she was approached to join the brokerage – starting in Myrtleford in January.
Steven Prince, the other current director, came to OVIB in January 2016 after a career in business development management with Allianz and earlier roles with some leading regional brokers.
OVIB account assistants Carmel Ardern and Sarah Purss complete the OVIB team.
“The difference with us is that the client comes to us and we act for them,” Mr Prince said.
“We evaluate what they need, what their situation is.
“Whether it’s something straightforward or major, we can put a whole package together.
“We can place particular and extensive types of risk and can give our clients advice and recommendations across all insurance products which they need.”
Mr Hall said all claims were also handled in OVIB’s Myrtleford office.
“We process our clients’ claims here and we put those claims back through local suppliers,” he said.
“We also go to local tradespeople – builders and panel beaters – to carry out repairs as a result of claims and I estimate we inject up to $1.5 million per year back into local communities in this way.
“This is unlike a lot of other insurers who nominate where claim repairs will be carried out.
“With us the client we’ve arranged the insurance for nominates where the repairs will be done.”
Ms Paul said the OVIB’s personal and direct management of any claim demonstrated the firm’s worth as a broker.
“We run a claim from the start,” she said. “That’s our role.
“It can be a stressful time for some clients and one of our greatest assets is that we provide a dedicated claims service here from our Myrtleford office – not from a call centre in Melbourne or elsewhere.”
Mr Hall said any risk that could be insured could be considered by OVIB.
“As Steve has said, we act on the client’s behalf, as opposed to some of the bigger insurers which are companies acting on their behalf,” he said.
“They don’t always have the avenue to go outside.
“But, with us, if someone wants to cover a particular risk we might go to half a dozen underwriters that might source the risk.
“Their options and quotes come back and we make recommendations to our client.”
Mr Prince said areas of liability had become more complex in recent years which meant that OVIB’s work spread had become diverse.
“Five to 10 years ago our insurance might have been divided generally between one third farm, one third house and contents and one third motor vehicle cover, but it now it’s very dynamic,” he said.
“The market has become more complex in areas such as professional risk.
“There are a lot more consultants out there who need professional indemnity, and then there’s information technology liability and cyber insurance, where hacking poses a great risk in a business that handles, for example, sensitive client data.
“It’s a risk you can’t really see, physically, but there’s certainly more exposure to that now.”
Ms Paul said insuring risk in the tourist and visitor accommodation sector was another area of growth.
Mr Prince said OVIB was part of an extensive Australian “cluster group” of about 100 brokers which pooled insurance valued at about $3.5 billion and shared information about risk placement.
“This means that there is invariably someone who can cover a particular risk,” he said.
DIVERSITY: Ovens Valley Insurance Brokers’ directors Geoff Hall, Steven Prince and Katie Paul (front, left) with staff Jacki Cossor, Carmel Ardern and Sarah Purss have a clear eye on local needs.
STRATEGIC: Ovens Valley Insurance Brokers’ directors Katie Paul, Geoff Hall and Steven Prince are building the brokerage business.