Posted on Thursday 19 September 2013 by Ulster Business

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Abbey Bond Lovis directors Gary Crabbe, Maurice Boyd, Andrew Stevenson and Stephen Carlisle, photographed at The Terrace at Robinson & Cleaver in Belfast.

When a company reveals plans to move to a bigger office, you can normally take it as read that business is going well.

That's certainly the case for Abbey Bond Lovis, the independent commercial insurance broker, which has been steadily gaining a larger share of the corporate market over the past few years.

The growth in business enjoyed by the firm has seen its staff numbers rise to 114, giving it the largest on-the-ground workforce of any commercial insurance broker in Northern Ireland. That growth has led to the need for further physical expansion and the company has taken the bold step of committing to move from its current Head Office to new premises, the former NSPCC building in Jennymount Business Park in Belfast.

Maurice Boyd, Managing Director of Abbey Bond Lovis, says staff will move into the new site in around six months after an extensive refurbishment of the offices.

"The move will give us double the space we have currently, allowing room for growth. It is a bit of a statement of intent from us, to show that we're here for the long term and that we intend to remain serious players in this market," he told Ulster Business.

The new glass fronted offices will give the company its own reception to greet clients, meeting rooms for client reviews and, by remaining outside the city centre, will also have the added benefit of providing them with free parking.

Abbey Bond Lovis has enjoyed success since being founded in 2004, working with many high profile clients. Boyd says the broker remains focused on winning business from more of Northern Ireland's top companies.

"We continue to look for growth in the corporate sector. In addition, we remain strong in terms of clientele in the SME sector and are equally committed to this important area of our business. But we see more rapid growth in the corporate sector, those top 100 or 200 companies who might traditionally have gone with a national broker," he said.

REGIONAL REACH

One of the key selling points which Abbey Bond Lovis believes sets it apart from its competitors in the commercial broking sector is the availability of its services in key regional hubs.

As well as its head office in Belfast, the firm is investing in its offices in Mid Ulster and the North West to ensure all the resources it has centrally are on offer to clients around the province who want to speak with their broker closer to home.

The decision to invest in these regional offices came about after the senior leadership team undertook a strategic review and analysed the market to see if it could improve its service offering.

"We don't believe a centralised approach is the way forward so what we have done is put a director in these offices to ensure there's a senior presence to drive the business forward. It is a strong commitment to the local area and it means that whether you are a large corporate business or a smaller regional customer, you'll get the same service from each office" said Maurice.

"It is a big change and a big challenge but it is another area that sets us apart from our competitors. We can do all we need to from the regional offices without someone having to come to Belfast. We're offering a corporate and SME service but with local representation."

Abbey Bond Lovis intends to double the size of its Coleraine office and is already recruiting new staff under the direction of director Gary Crabbe.

The Armagh office, headed up by fellow director Stephen Carlisle, has just undergone a similar review and will be adopting the same approach to linking regional and local business.

Showing how confident he is in the strategy, Maurice says the company plans to look at the possibility of expanding to other regional centres in the near future.

"I wouldn't rule out an office in another location as we believe this approach will really work for us," he said.

SERVICE SKILLS

Maurice Boyd is hopeful that Abbey Bond Lovis' investment in its offices will show both the wider business community and its own staff that the directors are committed to driving the business forward.

It's a company that also invests in its staff, with bespoke individual training plans in place for every staff member, from receptionist to Managing Director.

The MD says a lot of the training revolves around the softer skills needed to make sure the company is looking after its customers.

"As a business grows it is easy to take your eye off the ball. We're determined not to do that," he said.

"You have to work hard to build relationships with clients and potential clients. Northern Ireland business people are cautious by nature so we're focused on developing deeper relationships with people across the province."

Boyd stresses the company's independence, which means that unlike rival brokers owned by big parent companies, it doesn't have to get decisions approved through London or Dublin or further afield.

"That's important because we can make quick decisions for our clients' business and our own. We're very fast moving and clients like that," said Maurice.

"When it comes to insurance, yes, price is important, but clients equally demand quality service. We're committed to delivering that quality."

 

 

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