The local company giving back to the community

…Creating jobs and helping support charitable projects

all things businessIn what was once a hub for the industry, it is refreshing to see that one Northamptonshire insurance broker is continuing to thrive and grow, while also putting something unique back into the community.

With its head-offices at Thistledown Barn in Sywell, Farmers & Mercantile (F&M) is one of the largest independent insurance brokerages specialising in farming, estates and smallholdings across England, Scotland and Wales. In 2009 it also introduced a dedicated engineering inspection division, servicing the plant and construction sectors, as well as agricultural machinery.

But it is F&M’s ethical roots in which it differentiates, not only delivering benefits to the community, but also making for an inspiring, unique and rewarding working environment that is continuing to grow.

Ethical focus

Employing a team of 32 from the Sywell head-office on Holcot Lane, Farmers & Mercantile is unique in the farming insurance sector, in that it is part of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, this year named the UK’s fourth largest corporate donor to charity, by the UK Guide to Company Giving, 11th Edition.

This means that while F&M operates with a commercial purpose, it is owned by one of the most ethically focused trusts in the world. In 2016, Ecclesiastical donated some £20.4 million to its charitable owner to invest independently into communities. Funds have been used in a variety of schemes including homeless charities, youth and heritage projects.

Strong heritage

Of course, without a successful business model there would be no funds to return to the community. F&M truly has been a local success story since its formation back in 1996. From the very start, founding director Nigel Wellings had the aim to offer an alternative independent insurance service, and this stands true today.

The business has built a strong heritage over nearly 21 years with solid backing and expertise working with UK regulated insurers. From large scale farm operations, right down to smallholdings over just a couple of acres, it provides independent services for arable, livestock and estate insurance.

The independent broker also has privileged access to specialist products for renewable, rural and diversification projects. It even has its own in-house claims department, meaning all clients benefit from a dedicated claims manager, avoiding delays and impersonal call centres.

Team Ethos

In accordance with Nigel’s initial objectives, the successful approach of the business is based around the core values of practical farming knowledge, combined with insurance expertise. Some 95 percent of F&M’s business is geared to agriculture, and all of the on-farm advisers have extensive farming insurance experience, with the majority also coming from a farming background.

“Our focus is not just on the product, but the experience of our team,” explains F&M’s underwriting manager Barbara Adnitt. “We want to demonstrate there is a viable alternative that can offer real benefits with a personalised service, with brokers fully conversant with the farming industry.”

This focus on personnel is echoed across the business, in all departments.

Alexandra Wellings, F&M’s managing director, says, “We feel our team, and our personal approach, is our biggest asset. To make sure we stay ahead of the game we provide on-going training to our entire staff, calling in every department within the business to undertake regular professional development.

“As we continue to expand and serve a growing client portfolio, we are always looking for the right people to join our success story. We will always welcome enquiries from ambitious individuals looking to develop a career within the insurance sector, particularly those with some kind of farming background.”

Career prospects

One new recruit to the business, already making headway and benefitting from the support, training and opportunities available to him is 33-year old trainee account executive, Will Bowley.

“I have been with Farmers & Mercantile for four months now,” explains Will. “When I arrived, I had restricted insurance experience, but I have been given the tools to really ‘learn on the job’, surrounded by highly knowledgeable and friendly colleagues.

“I was brought up in Northamptonshire and this role has given me the opportunity to move back into the area. Although I would say I have a rural, rather than farming background, this hasn’t hindered me because, as long as you are willing to learn and ask questions, Farmers & Mercantile is somewhere you can really progress. I really see a long and enjoyable career here and very much appreciate the opportunity.”

Continued growth and a nod to the future

Farmers & Mercantile continues to expand, while still boasting one of the highest customer retention rates in the industry. As well as the Northamptonshire head-office it employs a total of 58 staff with further offices in Ayrshire, Shropshire and Yorkshire.

While the business grows, in never deviates from its core principles of providing the most competitive premiums with the widest cover available. Over the past decade, F&M has saved farmers many millions of pounds compared to the premiums they were previously being charged.

As rural businesses and farming enters unchartered territory with new legislation and the introduction of technologies such as drones and guidance equipment, F&M’s personal approach will be a welcome constant to many in the rural community.

Visit www.fandmgroup.co.uk, email info@fandmgroup.co.uk or call 01604 782782 to discuss your insurance requirements or enquire about career opportunities.