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Reaching a helping hand to the rest of the world

Reaching a helping hand to the rest of the world: David Heppard, head of international at IHC, talks about the importance of our global partnership network.

Our horizons in today’s world are wide. We are seeing companies increasingly opening up branches overseas, the better to take advantage of enhanced trade opportunities and an expanding reach. And, of course, the world’s ever-advancing communication tech just breaks down those country borders even further.

Brexit, of course, is playing a fascinating role in that global mix. Whatever happens on October 31 – at the time of writing, we are looking at either a deal or no deal – it may also mean that companies which were trading in the UK now reach beyond our seas to other climes, perhaps taking British employees with them.

So, what does that mean for employee benefits? How does a person’s benefits package stack up when they were based in London but are now moving overseas? Does it equate to the same thing, or will foreign providers provide a better or worse service than that they would have expected back home?

Equally, for companies which have offices in this country and overseas, how possible is it to provide parity of service for those who work in the UK and those who don’t?

It’s an interesting question, and rather a complicated one. After all, just as a starting point, the state provided services a person can expect to get will range enormously from country to country. That, in turn, means that in other parts of the world there is more or less take-up for private insurance – depending on what is available at state level.

Over the past few years at IHC, we have focused much more on our global operations, starting out on our international pathway long before Brexit was voted for in 2016. We wanted to investigate and come up with good solutions as to how we would deal with our clients who asked for help with employee benefits across the globe.

It’s pretty much universally true in commerce that a personal approach based on great relationship-building is at the heart of all good business, which is why we now have up to 30 brokers based across the globe to help us achieve the best results for our clients.

We like to have one broker per country in which we operate, all hand-picked by our team here at IHC. This includes procuring good recommendations as to excellent broker practitioners, doing background checks, investigating existing customers and their websites, as well as the insurers they are dealing with.

But it goes deeper than that. First impressions are so important, which is why something as simple as monitoring how long it takes a potential new broker to get back to our emails is a key part of our selection process.

Even when a broker has impressed sufficiently through all of our rigorous background checks, they will then undergo a trial period with us, during which time we will assess their client feedback, as well as check the references with which they provide us. Even when we have taken someone on to our books, we will review each of them every two years to ensure quality and consistency across the globe. With all of our brokers, we establish a service level agreement so we can measure their performance. Anyone falling short on any of our customer service or targets will then be easy to spot.
Operating on this global level certainly has its challenges. It’s worth pointing out with Brexit looming that finding brokers within the bounds of the EU is an easy process – outside, it gets much more complicated: staff here at IHC must embark on deep-level fact finding about everyone we deal with, researching such things as lists of directors for companies, checking accounts, conducting credit checks and looking into any court cases.

For us, at IHC, our primary focus is to achieve the very best we can for our clients: a smooth service that takes into account the vast differences in provision from country to country. For example, one of the things we need to ensure is that all the firms we work with provide pensions: not all employee benefit brokers do. In the future, we would like to introduce agreements that follow UK law.

It’s all about sourcing excellent partners operating at the top of their game within their country of operation, so they are able to meet in-country cultural requirements for the benefit of those we are all ultimately working for: company employees.

After all, today’s world is a global world. We need to help companies expand their business by helping them offer superb staff benefits wherever they choose to operate.

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