Workplace: The Preston insurance firm with a very unique net

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'John Garrard
Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'John Garrard

It was a special client request which led high street broker Mike Fish to set up a new unique business in Preston nearly four decades ago.

Mike had established his career as a broker specialising in affinity schemes but it was an approach by a client with paraplegia who was looking for assistance in finding driving cover, which encouraged him to take a new direction.

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance

His initial queries to companies left him disgusted with the discrimination within the industry with many offering extortionate premiums or simly not prepared to quote at all.

Undeterred Mike was determined to overcome the discrimination against people with disabilities in the insurance industry and set about designing his first bespoke cover.

Fish Insurance was born and later launched the UK’s first ever mobility and disability equipment scheme in 1986, followed by the first disability motor scheme in 1989.

By 1986 the company had shifted focus to become a pioneer in the specialist insurance market, and in 1998 Fish Insurance disposed of its general insurance business and made Independent Living Insurance policies its exclusive focus.

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'Amy Holland

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'Amy Holland

Today, the firm’s headquarters is based in offices at Walton Summit employing 56 people across five department taking responsibility for more than 80,000 policy holders nationwide.

Each of those customers has a specially designed policy to meet their unique and specific requirements.

The firm also has the backing of some substantial brand ambassadors from Britain’s Got Talent’s Strictly Wheels to double Paralympic bronze medallist, four time Wimbledon winner and 10 time grand slam champion Jordanne Whiley.

Jordanne was wearing a Fish Insurance shirt when she won Wimbledon in 2015, and the shirt now hangs in the Fish office.

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'Chris Peel

Photo Neil Cross'workplace feature'Fish Insurance'Chris Peel

John Garrard joined the senior management team as operations manager in 2008, when Mike Fish stepped down from running the business. John helped the company to develop new policies, streamline operations and grow the policyholder count from 60,000 to 80,000. He became managing director in 2013.

John, 34, who has a Cert CII Certificate in Insurance from the Chartered Insurance Institute says: “As well as overseeing the business, I am responsible for mapping strategic direction, negotiating with underwriters regarding new products and the improvement of existing schemes, along with delivering overall shareholder value. I also provide support and guidance to Fish’s Leadership Team.”

John, who as a youngster was a child actor in several well-known soaps, says he is now much more comfortable delivering products and not lines to give clients ‘peace of mind.’

“Seeing the business meet its objectives, helping the team develop as people and professionals and working with our values partners, but most importantly delivering products that give customers peace of mind is the most satisfying part of my role.”

Fish Insurance is now one of the UK’s leading providers of specialist insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions, disabilities or mobility issues. Its products range from specialist car and travel insurance, to cover for wheelchairs, mobility scooters, equipment and prosthetics. It also provides liability insurance to protect people who employ their own personal assistants in the home.

Some of the most important roles within the business are those front-line staff; Chris Peel,is a senior customer service advisor, who has worked for Fish Insurance for seven years

“I am responsible for coaching and developing new members off staff, as well as enhancing the performance of existing staff, and achieveing office sales targets.

“The most satisfying side of my role is the times when dealing with a new customer who is unsure to how many products we can offer here at Fish which then results in us being a one stop shop for all their insurance needs.

My typical day consists of: “Getting the teams’ work prepared for the day by distributing customer quotation requests, ensuring we are contacting our policyholders whose policies are due for renewal, and answering team member and customer queries.”

Marketing manager Amy Holland, 33, initially came to work for the company in the call centre. After studying for a foundation certificate in journalism and completing a diploma in digital marketing she took a job in the marketing team three years ago.

“My typical day consists of developing marketing strategies for new products, managing budgets and analysing new marketing tactics that can help engage with our customers.”

“What I really enjoy about my job is how varied it is! I can be involved in writing a detailed design brief for our graphic designer Craig, responding to comments on social media, a meeting with one of our charity partners to discuss marketing activity, updates to our website and creating copy for a partner’s newsletter or webpage… the list goes on!”