Be Inspired Series
Caroline began her career in Zurich Insurance and worked her way up to regional manager for Northern Ireland. She joined Autoline three years ago and was recently appointed a company director
What does your job entail?
Autoline Insurance Group is a locally owned insurance broker and financial services provider with offices in Newry, Ballymena, Coleraine, Downpatrick and Dungannon. My job is to manage the day to day sales objectives of each of these offices. I deal primarily internally with the personal lines and commercial teams, as well as having a significant input into the marketing department.
It is my job to ensure we are meeting company targets and objectives.
I tend to spend about half of my time in the head office in Newry, but the rest of my time is spent with our teams in the regional offices across Northern Ireland.
What changes have you seen in the insurance industry over the years?
Being in the same line of work for 30 years you see lots of changes. The emergence of new technology has been the most significant one. This has both tremendously helped and hindered the insurance industry. The internet is a fantastic resource for customers as it allows them to shop around and to know that they are getting the best deal.
However, at the same time we are often approached by people who have bought a policy online from an insurance provider who on the surface appear to be offering a good deal. When the policy holder runs into difficulty, not only can they usually not get to speak to someone, but often the terms and conditions in the small print leave the customer underinsured. We would always advise customers who wish to purchase a policy online to try to speak to someone to make sure they totally understand what they are purchasing cover for and what they are not.
During the recent particularly cold winter have you noticed an increase in claims?
Yes we have indeed. These have particularly related to burst pipes and household problems.
We have an in house claims department who can deal very quickly with this type of claim.
We have however heard horror stories of people who thought they were covered but were actually under-insured.
We always stress that everyone's circumstances are different. It is important to talk through your needs so that if something does go wrong during the winter you can get it sorted out quickly and efficiently.
Is insurance more of a luxury than a necessity during a recession?
People tend to think that policies like household insurance are a luxury because they are not compulsory in the same way that car insurance is. What we would point out is that while everyone is different, an average household insurance policy should cost in or around £210, while the average claim for an incident like burst pipes can amount to close to £8,500. This is a huge expense if you are uninsured.
We also like to remind people that flooding is becoming more prevalent in Northern Ireland.
If you do not have insurance and your home or business is flooded due to adverse weather you could find yourself being 'uninsurable' and you may never be able to get insurance for that property.
Commercial customers are much more conscious of being properly insured during the current economic climate. Most businesses wouldn't risk being subject to something going wrong, because the expense of sorting out a claim uninsured could cripple a small business at this time.
Is Insurance becoming a less personal industry as more and more people sort out cover online?
We try to do the opposite. Each of our offices are open to the public every day, and we tend to find people prefer to drop in and speak to someone face to face or even to have their details explained over the phone by someone in a local office.
We do offer online services but we find people are very clued in. They know that by shopping around and then speaking to someone about their individual circumstances they can be assured of getting the best deal.
Many of our commercial customers are busy SME's so we often make appointments to see them outside of normal working hours so that they feel they are getting a personal service from a local company who understands their needs.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to do what I can for charity. I recently took part in a 'Jailbreak' for TinyLife and I have done an abseil for the local Hospice.
My passions are my family, my dogs and my garden -- in that order.
What is your biggest luxury?
I am happiest when I am at home spending time with my family, but I do really enjoy going on holidays. Last year we went with the family to the Maldives which was a fantastic treat.