“I’d say accounts are the heart of the company.”
As part of our 2023 insights initiative at Romero Insurance Brokers, we will be highlighting team leaders across the Romero Group. Over 12 months, The Romero Group will showcase 12 important figures, each from different departments and different disciplines.
As the second in our Expert Insights Series at Romero Insurance Brokers, we sit down with our Accounts Manager at The Romero Group. Our Accounts Manager has been with Romero Insurance Brokers for seven years having recently been promoted to their role, from their previous position of Team Leader. A senior figure among managers at the Romero Group, they are responsible for managing the financial relationship between our clients. We talk about about how they approach handling a diverse team, managing members of varying experience levels, and their passion for growing and nurturing talent.
What are your roles and responsibilities?
“My main role is overseeing the whole of the accounts function, which consists of chasing all the clients who owe outstanding premiums. Ensure they are paid within our payment terms and passing that result onto the insurers.”
“The way it works is: A client is placed on cover by the handlers, be it Joanna Pullan’s department or Club Insure or NDML. They are then invoiced where it comes to me; chasing invoices or arranging instalments through a third-party finance company. We are seeing this need for assistance with cashflow much more from clients, especially after COVID. We contact the clients to work out a payment plan, putting them on three, six or ten instalments to pay that premium and pass it on to the insurer. Plus, within Accounts, we also reconcile all the insurance accounts.”
This moves us onto the topic of COVID – “Accounts went crazy during COVID. A lot of people thought payments wouldn’t come through, but the pandemic actually made us busier, and made us stronger. We were dedicated to putting the clients needs first. Clients would ring us, worrying, saying their business is temporarily closed and they’re struggling. We had to work out a payment plan for clients – liaising with third party finance companies – to get them some sort of payment holiday.”
“The third-party finance completely changed during COVID. They changed all the money laundering rules, all the diligence rules. It is much more strict now, with more in-depth credit checks, ownership checks – we’ve got a dedicated external team who only deal with our due diligence. Where once Agreements would get approved in a day, they now take up to a week.”
They catch themself, “I wouldn’t say this makes our job in accounts more difficult… perhaps more interesting. We’ve all took part in a big training session, alongside the handling teams, all about updated rules on compliance and due diligence. We have the FCA guidelines, we also have the KPI rules, always making sure we are in line with compliance.”
How has the team grown in your time with the company?
“When I first started, seven years ago, we were a team of four, with a Team Leader and an Accounts Manager. But now, the team’s the biggest it’s ever been – seven in the team now – the work has grown so the team has to grow.”
“We also work closely with the Finance team, and have crossovers with other departments – you can see how big the company’s is now just with how many people we need to deal with all the accounts.”
What are the expectations about managing workflow?
“We used the cloud management platform, EPIC and our own activity list. The main roles sit with me and our Senior Accounts Assistant. I delegate all the invoice chasers, all the credit activities, all the discount activities – we distribute work out to our team daily, and fairly.”
I ask whether their workflow has increased upon becoming an Accounts Manager this past year, they respond, “It has increased, but I like to think of myself as being in an advantageous position because I’ve done my job for four and a half years – as an Accounts Assistant, then Team Leader before becoming the Accounts Manager – so I like to think I know what the team’s going through when we have challenging times, such as when people are off and people have to cover. I’ve been there and I’m a little bit more sympathetic when people are struggling or finding things difficult.”
“Don’t get me wrong, the team have to be on their toes constantly – but it does help that I’ve done that job so I can relate. It means I only delegate to the team the things that I’ve also performed in the past.”
Do you personally train new recruits?
“We’ve currently got a lady who is in her sixth week in the Accounts department. Together we make a plan on what the new person is needed to cover and what they need to learn first. This is all post-induction which is covered by HR.”
“Firstly we put them on the Epic University course. Often new starters just want to get on with doing tasks – but familiarising themselves with EPIC, making notes, asking questions is very important. Then we start with basic training of their specific role where they sit with members of the team. It’s a bit like shadowing except they have a set of activities to do, sitting with them until they are comfortable.”
“Once they’ve shown they are competent in that area, we’ll grow them, giving them more work to do. It’s different to other companies where growth can be lacking. It’s why our retention rate in Accounts is exceptional.”
“It’s really important to go at people’s paces, see where their strengths are. Don’t pile a load of work on their desk and see them drown. We need to grow people. There’s a lady that’s started recently who’s a little rising star. She’s finished all the training now, we are moulding her by not moving her onto anything further until she is completely confident and has smashed one particular area.”
We ask our Accounts Manager for advice on how to grow a team member. “Go at their pace,” They say, “People need to understand not just what they are doing, but why they are doing a task and how it affects the rest of the company. What we do in accounts affects the whole business, everybody in the company. At the end of the day, we are the one’s collecting everybody’s wages.”
“I think once you become competent at a job, you can quickly become bored. But I always say in accounts, with anyone new starting: Don’t worry, no two days are the same.”
“We’ve sped people up, slowed people down – there is a lot of technical jargon so it can become rather complex. Everybody’s different, everybody learns differently, so it’s my responsibility to be flexible.”
How do you measure the success of your team?
“We have targets – we have individual objectives as part of appraisals, as well as departmental targets. Our aim is to lower the number of outstanding debtors, ensuring payment is repaid in under thirty days. If they default we need to be on it because we don’t want policies cancelling and clients at risk.”
Customer service is the main pillar of the company. The Romero Group’s motto is ‘Treating Customers Exceptionally’, and the Accounts team play a huge role in our client-facing model. We ask the Accounts Manager how they maintain the team’s high level of customer service and how it’s taught: “You don’t really know before you hire them if someone is going to be good at customer service. New starters don’t go on the phones until a month or two of training, and then they sit with a buddy, monitoring calls with other departments or clients. We find this alleviates a lot of tension.”
“My advice is always: Don’t bluff your way through. If you don’t know how to deal with a request, just be honest, take some details and it’ll get dealt with appropriately. At the end of the day, the customer is always right; kill them with kindness. We are your insurance broker, we are here to help you. If you’ve got an issue, it can be resolved, even if we can’t do it, we will find someone who can.”
Which part of being a manager do you feel has the steepest learning curve?
“It helps that we are a small department, we all sit near each other, we all help each other. Everyone is at different levels in terms of knowledge and experience. I am conscious not everyone is the same, and as a manager that can be challenging. It’s a matter of keeping an eye on everyone, making sure everyone is comfortable and works in unison.”
“We have regular 1-to-1s, monthly team meetings. It’s good to talk.”
What’s your top tip for running a successful accounts department and business accounts?
“Prioritising. Being organised.”
“I am such a planner, my time-management skills are amazing – I’ve always been like that, I plan everything, not just within work. I plan months in advance. I’m not one of those people who likes leaving things to the last minute.”
“You’ve got to prioritise, you’ve got to manage, because many things that come into accounts are labelled as urgent. As a manager, you’ve got to decide what really is urgent, and what to prioritise.”
Thank you to our Accounts Manager for the honest and detailed outline of their position.
At the Romero Group, we truly value our managers, as well as all our staff. It’s the experts we are lucky to have in the company that enables us to be the nations leading independent broker.
To read more of the insights series, see here.