Johan Priem and his team at Primak recently celebrated the company’s three decades in the industry. He shares some of the key lessons from his 30 years at the helm of a successful brokerage.
In April 1989 Primak Insurance Brokers opened its doors for business in the Western Cape. The company recently celebrated three successful decades in the industry, building the business at a time when typewriters and paper were still in use in the administration department, which has since given way to paperless automation processes – Primak has been around for some time and co-founder Johan Priem has lived through many of these changes in the industry. “Long gone are the days that you could close a client by writing on a serviette in a restaurant,” says Priem.
“The one constant has always been insurance,” he notes. In its 30 years in the industry, the company has merged numerous companies under the Primak brand, and established sister companies, including Versma Management Services.
The introduction of administration capabilities many years ago enabled Priem and his team at Primak to create a platform for smaller brokers to get access to previously inaccessible markets and product suppliers. “By empowering others we created mutually beneficial partnerships and respect among our peers,” he says. Insurance will always have its obstacles, though.
An increase in regulation has introduced challenges to many in insurance, it being so timely and costly to implement. These regulatory changes have heavily impacted the smaller brokerages, often resulting in the loss of industry entrepreneurs, says Priem. However, many smaller firms are looking to partner or amalgamate due to financial constraints, which in turn creates opportunities for those with a solid infrastructure.
“The one advantage of the new regulation is that everyone in the industry is now forced to upskill and keep abreast of the latest products and services in order to remain competitive,” he says. Quality of staff appointments and training must remain a top priority for brokers who want to succeed, and this has been one of the key factors in Primak’s longevity.
Efficient service delivery and sound stakeholder relationships have been the cornerstones of the company’s success, explains Priem. “Throughout the years we have invested in skilled and well-respected staff,” he says, “but we have focussed on a long-term strategy with our partners instead of getting side-tracked by short-term profits.”
Brokers and insurers have to remain adaptable in this environment, warns Priem. Evolve your business by keeping up with market and regulatory changes and adapt accordingly. “Growth is one of our key objectives and bringing other companies into the Primak business has helped us expand our footprint across the country,” he explains. “Growth rapidly followed as a result of us diversifying our business from providing only broking services to being in a position to provide administration services,” says Priem. “To this day, referrals form an intricate part of our strategy and is one of the big measures in our company.”
Challenges and opportunities
The insurance industry has a slew of challenges to contend with, ranging from economic pressures to the seemingly endless regulatory changes. Other challenges also include climate change, stringent underwriting measures, product innovation and technological changes, which all play a crucial role in the future of this industry, explains Priem. “But brokers need to recognise these elements and ensure we deliver the best service to our clients at all times,” he stresses.
“These changes have forced us to employ highly-skilled and able staff to answer these needs and ensure we support our broker infrastructure. Direct insurers have had an impact on the personal lines business, but we overcame this hurdle by focussing on commercial and other specialist lines of insurance,” Priem says. “Again, adaptability is key.”
“I truly believe there is a future for the broker in our market, as long as we continue to strive to deliver personal service and build on our strong relationships with our partners in the industry,” Priem says. “Much has changed but the role of insurance remains the same,” he says, “to add value to and protect our clients.”