The story of how Pangea Insurance Brokers (Pangea) first came to life belongs to a pre-COVID world. The director of the new broker in Southampton, Michael Piper (pictured above left), traveled with his business partner Steve Goulter (pictured above right) on a ferry to France in 2019 to go on a charity bike ride when the discussion of the idea of the Facility turned to an independent operator.
“We discussed the [pros and cons] and talked about them a few more times. And then we came back from France on Sunday and on Monday I started talking on the phone and the next week we had a meeting with some networks, ”said Piper. “By December we had put our plans into action and by January 2020 we were past the point of no return. So we’ll look back in the years to come and see how we came up with this idea. The answer is: « In a cabin with two beds along the canal ».
Pangea, backed by Marsh Networks, is a standalone entity to its sister company Pangea Life, of which Goulter is the managing director, Piper said, building on the duo’s ambition to create a one-stop shop for brokerage requirements. Between the two companies, the Pangea brand can offer anything insurance-related, from life insurance to general insurance to personal insurance, and both companies can benefit from each other’s brand equity.
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The insurance sector is familiar to Piper, who entered the industry at A-Plan at 16 and worked his way up to claims handler before joining Portmore Insurance Brokers and later becoming an Account Executive. In 2018, Gallagher acquired Portmore, he said, and he knew he wanted to be part of an independent local broker again.
« I love insurance and it may sound nerdy, but I enjoy interacting with customers and learning new things every day, » he said. “And when I get to work, I really want to enjoy what I’m doing. When brokering, you get to know your customers on a personal level and get to know friends in the process. I hate unnecessary bureaucratic hassle and firmly believe that the customer comes first and everything else comes second. People pay us [a considerable amount] money a year as a premium and expect claims to be paid. That’s what we’re here for. «
Piper is a passionate advocate of the role independent brokers play in local communities, and this is an integral part of the ethos he will use to drive Pangea’s growth. It’s not a hard-to-sell business, he said, and it’s not about serving customers who will only stay with Pangea for about a year. By only involving team members who share this ethos and want to get to know their customers’ businesses from the inside out, Pangea hopes to find customers who are looking to build long-term relationships.
« And the truth is, if you have a claim, if you don’t know exactly what your client’s business is, you’re stuck, » he said. « It’s really about getting to know your client on a personal and business level. I think brokers are so successful. » And [I know about] brokers who were tied to them in the 70s because they sell hundreds of policies a week and make tons of money, but then they lose policies every week.
« I want to get a steady flow of guidelines and keep looking after these customers and making sure they are happy at the end of the day. » I think the greatest thing is trust. Once you lose that trust, the client disappears. «
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Pangea’s current focus is on concentrated organic growth, he said and will continue to do so in the near future. Serious consideration is given if the option to acquire another business arises in the future, but such a purchase would have to be made by a similar broker with a common ethos. Piper said he has no intentions of simply buying a random ledger to grow, as an acquisition should be a carefully planned next step that makes both strategic and culturally sensible one.
Looking to the future, Piper found that while he knows people who build businesses to sell, and do so again a few years later. His own goal, however, is to establish a sustainable brokerage that will exist for his customers for many years to come. As two entrepreneurs in their early 30s, he and Goulter agree this is a long-term project and they commit to devoting their time and energy to developing the Pangea brand.
« Essentially, » he said, « the day I wake up and don’t want to come to work is the day I wrap it up. »