Protect Line is an award winning UK life insurance and critical illness brokerage based in Poole, on the south coast of England. The business is unique in its “customer first” approach to non-advised fee free protection distribution. The business is rated 4.9 out of 5 by over 32,000 satisfied customers on independent review website Trustpilot.
Husband and wife team Jo and David Brewer founded Protect Line in 2009 and started trading in 2010. The couple had both grown up in the retail banking world and had just come through the 2008 global credit crunch.
Both Brewers have a passion for helping people to develop themselves and for personal financial protection thus Protect Line was born.
Why was Protect Line created? What is its mission?
Protect Line has a very simple mission which has not changed since day one. The business is driven to helping to close the protection gap in the UK by making life insurance easier to understand and easier to access. The business owners believe the best way to do this is to educate families in their need for cover and what’s available to them.
What are its USPs?
As a broker, Protect Line sit’s in between the insurance provider and the customer. There are lots of brokers and financial advisers that operate in a similar way. What makes Protect Line special is its people and its culture.
Many call centre type of operations target individual agents to reduce their average call time. Protect Line encourages the complete opposite. The firm believes that to genuinely help families, the agent needs to get to know them, understand their needs, responsibilities, desires and fears. The business also encourages a friendly informal tone which is less common in the financial services sector.
The companies 32,000 5 star reviews and countless awards speaks volumes for the success of this culture.
Can you share the story of Protect Line’s journey – from concept to where it is now?
Protect Line has never had any external investment, it’s always been funded directly by Jo and David. For this reason the business started small, very small! In 2010 the business employed just 4 people (2 of which were Jo and David). In 2021 the company has over 270 employees spread across it’s Dorset headquarters, London office and remote working positions.
The growth of Protect Line has been totally organic and most managers have been “home grown” according to David. Brewer goes on to say, “We’ve had plenty of up’s and downs and we’ve had to learn lots of lessons the hard way. Starting any business is usually a challenge but life insurance in the UK is a high turnover, low margin model which can make it more volatile than other businesses”.
The brand has developed from a small business covering a handful of families each day to a place where they’re helping to insure over 4000 families a month.
What is the secret to Protect Line’s success?
Careful recruitment of people with strong values, grit, determination and a hunger to learn has been a huge part of Protect Line’s successful formula. Owner Director, Jo Brewer told us “A business like ours is all about its people. We take recruitment very seriously. It’s not only about finding the right people either. We’ve invested massively in ensuring people are managed like adults, given the best tools to do their job and given support wherever they need it. We’re constantly evolving our training and asking ourselves if we can do more.”
Who are the key personnel and can you tell us a little about their contribution to Protect Line?
Chris Frost – Head of IT
Chris Frost, or “Frosty” as he’s known at Protect Line has been with the business since 2010. He joined to help with some admin tasks but before long his true skillset was clear. Frosty was tasked with building a bespoke CRM for the fledging business, an unusual approach by such a small business but one the owners credit a large part of their success.
Since then Chris has helped the business build and maintain an enviable system with high levels of resilience and security with low overheads. The CRM has had continuous development and is now the core system used by everyone at Protect Line.
Chris Reed – Head of Business Development
Chris Reed, or “Reedo” joined Protect Line in 2011 from the banking industry. Chris joined as an agent on the phone. Since then Chris has worked in training, as sales manager, head of sales and now works on developing and improving the wider business. “Reedo” has helped the business find and implement tech solutions and started new teams and departments to help Protect Line expand.
Chris’ hunger to learn, grow and passion for the business has helped him grow with Protect Line. Most recently Chris has started a marketing department and is working on bringing more lead generation in house.
Emma Jones – Head of Finance
Emma came to Protect Line in 2012 with a wealth of experience behind her. Up to this point Jo and David had carried complete financial responsibility for the business. In 2012 they decided they needed a safe pair of hands to help look after the company finances. Instead of outsourcing this, they were passionate about getting someone in house who could then really learn the business. Emma has not disappointed. Since joining she’s built up a finance department but also been instrumental in digitalising the HR system and building a Reporting and BI function.
Nas Barnes – Head of Sales
Jo and David were not out looking for Nas’ skillset in 2016 but as soon as they met him they knew he could add value to the business. Nas has an accomplished CV and has been part of a number of growing insurance brokerages in the General Insurance space.
Nas joined at a point where the business was expanding quickly and his skill and experience helped further energise this process.
What are its most successful innovations?
Protect Line’s CRM is far more than a palce to enter customer details. It offers every staff member at Protect Line all the functions they need to complete their job. It even has a built in smart dialler system that was developed and refined 100% in house at Protect Line.
The firm have also been early adopters of Speech Analytics technology. They’ve worked with the software provider to develop the product to a point where they can now proactively identify customers who are most likely to cancel, potentially vulnerable customers and automatically identify skill gaps for agents. These developments have helped keep the businesses model scalable.
How has the brand been promoted over the years?
In the early years Protect Line did not actively promote their brand at all. As the middle man in the transaction, most customers remembered the household name of the insurer over Protect Line. However, as the years passed Jo and David started to realise, their customers give rave reviews, without any incentive. What they’ve built is a business that’s promoting itself, organically.
In the last 18 months the firm have promoted themselves more, mostly by offering more information to customers, for free on their website. Protect Line have also been recognised by a number of awards providers including winning “Best Overall Insurance Broker” in the 2020 Insurance Choice Awards.
In 2021 Protect Line now have active social channels across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. They also now run adverts showing the brand name across the web.
What are the biggest challenges and how have they been overcome?
Finding the right people to continue to grow the business has always been a challenge. We invest in an in depth recruitment process and hire 90% of our successful applicants through their in house recruitment team. This process takes time and man hours but it’s something the business is passionate about maintaining as they believe it’s a core ingredient in keeping their culture strong.
What are the brand’s biggest successes?
The brands mission has always been to help reduce the protection deficit. The firm is full of motivated and ambitious people who don’t often stop to congratulate themselves or even recognise the huge impact they’ve had. In 11 year Protect Line have covered over 220,000 UK families which is something they should all be proud of.
What are the founders most proud of about the brand?
Besides protecting close to a quarter of a million UK families so far, the Brewers say they’re proud of the feedback they get from visitors. Simple gestures like staff proactively offering guests drinks or simply smiling as they walk past shows how deep rooted their culture is. David goes on to explain “we’ve been to a number of Protect Line weddings, seen people purchase their dream homes and others spoil their families. It warm’s Jo and my heart to see our staff progressing their lives at the rate they do.”
What eco/sustainability initiatives does the brand have?
Protect Line have reinstalled all the lighting and Air Conditioning systems in all of their offices, they have also convinced other neighbouring businesses to adopt a better recycling regime. In a world where climate change is ever more of a concern the brand is looking at a number of eco initiative’s that they hope to implement soon.
Can you tell us about any key charity/philanthropic initiatives/efforts the brand has?
Winston’s Wish, a charity based in the UK offers supports bereaved children, young people, their families and the professionals who support them. Protect Line have regularly supported their chosen charity by holding events such as Skydiving, sponsored walks to a bath full of baked beans. Some of the staff also volunteer a proportion of their wages to the charity.
Protect Line’s most recent fundraiser was held during lockdown in early 2021
What’s next for the brand?
While the business is 11 years old, the brand is still in it’s infancy. Protect Line have a voice in the industry and plan to use it to encourage insurance providers to continue to innovate. “The public were never taught about life insurance in school” says David, “our role, as we see it, is to ensure we’re making protection accessible to all those who need it” he continues.
Can the founders or senior personnel share 5-10 key pieces of advice for success?
Stay true to your core beliefs. Authenticity is clear for people to see. Others may seemingly progress quicker but you never know what’s happening behind the scenes. Besides, if you want to sleep well at night, you need to be true to yourself.
Empower your people but never take your eye off the day job. You know your business better than anyone else, it’s important to not micromanage but this does not mean stepping so far back you lose touch with your business. Strike the right balance.
Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are strong in these areas. You have to be honest with yourself, you cannot be an expert in every area. Find people who are naturally skilled or trained in these areas and hang on to them.
People are the most valuable asset in all businesses. It doesn’t matter what your business does, without people it doesn’t function. Never underestimate how powerful it can be when you offer genuine support to those around you.
It pays to have an honest and open relationship in business. In 2021 so many businesses are frightened about losing their edge or USP. In reality we’re often as dependant on our suppliers as they are on us. Be brave and be open and honest. That way everyone can learn and optimise.
What are their favourite motivational/leadership type quotes?
We make our own! Over the years many funny statements have been said. We write them down and then every once in a while we get a local artist to come and write them on our walls.
Protect Line – https://www.linkedin.com/company/protect-line-insurance/
Jo Brewer – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jo-brewer-8b1b5929/
Chris Reed – https://www.linkedin.com/in/-chris-reed/
Chris Frost – https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherfrostitpro/
David Brewer – https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-brewer-8702a02a/
Emma Jones – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-jones-b7398544/