Suffolk Director Magazine
helping you to run your business better

enterprise issue articles

Spring / Summer 2019 enterprise issue

Grabbing the Initiative

Grabbing the Initiative
By Iain Hatfield, Chief Executive Officer, PolicyBee

To have a chance of hitting the entrepreneurial sweet spot, first you’ve got to identify a viable gap in the market. Then you’ve got to fill it – weathering the inevitable squalls along the way, learning as you grow and always with one eye on the future.

That was the pattern when helicopter pilot Iain Hatfield started business insurance broker Blyth Valley from a shed at the bottom of his garden in 1998.

“I knew insurance could be done better,” Iain recalls. “And I’d spotted a niche for a broker specialising in professional indemnity (PI) for consultants, freelancers and small agencies.

“They’d been overlooked by other brokers. So, the idea was to shake things up by combining the expertise and personal service you get from a traditional broker, with the speed and convenience of the digital world.”

A close working relationship with insurance giant Hiscox quickly bore fruit. And in 2004, Blyth Valley became the first company in the UK to offer PI online via its own website, as well as developing and hosting the Hiscox UK Direct site.

Victim of its own success?

So far, so successful. In fact, so successful that with its book of business approaching the £7 million mark, Hiscox snapped up Blyth Valley just six years later.

Time to start again, then. And true to his faith in a digital future for business insurance, in 2011 Iain launched new online broker PolicyBee.

With most brokers still rooted in their traditional past, PolicyBee was founded on the core values of providing professional insurance that’s easy to understand and easy to buy online – all backed up by solid expertise and a friendly, open approach.

“I wanted PolicyBee to really stand out from the crowd,” says Iain. “To be bold and colourful, and to go about its business in a welcoming but truly professional way.

“That’s meant getting the blend of personnel right. So, of course, we’ve got a talented team of developers and e-commerce specialists. But we’ve also got a friendly bunch of insurance ‘know-it-alls’ who customers can speak to direct if they’re looking for extra advice.”

Ahead of the game

PolicyBee has grown steadily over the years. And although other brokers have since jumped on the online bandwagon, Iain believes his company remains one step ahead of the chasing pack.

Still focused on SMEs, freelancers, consultants and sole traders, PolicyBee has grown its product portfolio to include all types of business insurance for multiple professions. Plus, it now offers insurance for charities and community groups.

“I think the smaller guys sometimes get overlooked,” Iain comments. “People like to chase the bigger bits of business. But as an SME ourselves, we know just what kind of insurance smaller outfits and one-man bands need.”

Now 34-people strong, PolicyBee has recently earned Lloyd’s broker status, and also has an American cousin, InsuranceBee.

“It hasn’t all been plain sailing, and we’ve had our challenges,” comments Iain. “But the rapid pace of technology change and the possibilities offered up by artificial intelligence mean exciting times ahead for us.”

Iain Hatfield is CEO of digital professional insurance broker PolicyBee.  Visit policybee.co.uk or call 0344 222 5370.

Sue Wilcock