Delivering insurance programmes tailored to specific needs for thirty years, Guardian offers quality cover sourced from secure insurers, tailored by experienced qualified brokers with extensive broking and insurance knowledge.
South Australia based Guardian Insurance Group is the insurance broker with a money-back guarantee and a promise to act in the best interests of the client, provide advice and guidance to enable clients to make informed decisions on risk and insurance protection, provide full and accurate information, and ensure the validity and accuracy of all documentation. Group Owner Evan Jackson spoke to us recently about his personal journey in insurance services, the firm’s commitment to providing clients with the very best customer service, and his pride celebrating the 30th anniversary of the firm.
“Guardian was started on the 21st August 1991,” Evan says. “Prior to that I was with Zurich Australian for fifteen years, fell out of love and decided to go into business for myself, and that’s when Guardian started.”
The company has changed a lot over the years, starting out of a need for income but evolving into a company of values shared by staff and customers alike in order for the business to grow.
“We started as Evan Jackson Insurance Services. I was an agent, starting from scratch on the dining room table at home. As we grew I moved into a serviced office, and got to the stage where I needed to employ a part time person, then number two came along.”
This growth continued steadily until the number of leads being generated meant the firm needed another account executive, a role which was eventually filled by Evan himself. The next step was to buy and renovate the company’s first building.
“Four years later we had something like 8 or 9 staff and outgrew the building we were in, which was basically a house, and moved into 350sqm of office space and developed a business that was very much an extension of Zurich to a degree, because that’s where I came from and all my values were built around the way Zurich does its business.”
From there the company grew and grew. Today it employs 26 staff and handles not just general insurance, but also has a financial planning arm and is in the process of developing both a legal services arm and a finance brokering arm.
“[It’s been a] great journey,” Evan says. “Thirty years has gone in the blink of an eye. It’s a bit like playing sport, playing football – you run onto the pitch, you don’t look at the clock, you just play the game.”
Protecting clients’ financial wellbeing
One of the company’s founding principles is the power of great customer service, where the values of putting the client first and treating them exactly how they would want to be treated are paramount.
“The one thing I’ve found over the years is that we needed to be dealing with people that shared our values, because birds of a feather flock together. It was so much easier for us to deliver, because we actually offer a money back guarantee on commissions and fees – and to the best of my knowledge we’re the only brokers that do in the marketplace.”
The firm has never yet had to activate this guarantee for any customers, and it has of course lost a few over the years, for a multitude of reasons. The most important thing is to deliver a tangible, measurable and sustainable service to customers.
“If we don’t offer a service that is measurable, then the measure can only be price, and we’re just not that sort of brokerage. We aren’t a brokerage that relies on being the cheapest in the market. We’re competitive in a lot of spaces – it’s a bit like you buy a cheeseburger, or a cheeseburger with the lot. We’re a cheeseburger with the lot.”
This approach is evident in the structure and integrity of the firm, which has a claims department that acts independently of the account executives to handle all claims on behalf of Guardian’s clients.
“When people come to assess us, it’s not just about price, it’s about how do we handle and protect their financial wellbeing. What’s important is that they feel like we form part of their organisation, and vice versa, so it’s a two-way street.”
The days of any firm being just an insurance broker are long gone. Pure brokerage is no longer enough for most clients, with firms like Guardian constantly being dragged into legal matters and business issues.
“Particularly during these tough times with Covid and bushfires, when people are being dragged from A-Z and they’re looking for support. The tough times are the times that expose people for their real business acumen worth to their business. There are people during Covid that have done exceptionally well and there are people who have just been devastated.”
As a broker, Guardian needs to do more than just offer good prices. It has to be about supporting clients through tough times and helping people stay on or get back on their feet financially.
“We’ve made sure that we’re advising on what’s happening in the courts in relation to Covid and possible claims on their business interruption insurance. It’s making sure that clients receive the full benefits of their policies. The one thing above all is that we need to be absolutely honest about the state of play.”
Most of Guardian’s clients have business interruption insurance, and the firm is very confident about the adequacy of clients’ sums insurance or cover, which is rigorously reviewed every year to make sure it is robust.
“At the same time, you can’t be complacent, and you’ve got to help these people through these tough times. That’s what we get paid to do. We don’t get paid just to provide a price. We’re there, and we make sure we’re there, to help them through the ordeal – good, bad or indifferent.”
The pandemic, despite being easily predicted, managed to catch people in the industry by surprise and cause more issues than it perhaps should have done. Evan feels that financial services in particular should have come to terms with it.
After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, a fund was put together for terrorism, where every insurance policy puts aside a certain amount in case of terrorism, money that is still sitting somewhere designated only for an act of terrorism.
“It’s a shame that fund hasn’t changed to a ‘catastrophe’ fund rather than something specific to terrorism. I think everyone should’ve got together, including the banks, put some money on the table to help these people. There are all these legal matters going on in the background [that] are going to cost a lot of money, in the excess of $2m or $3m.”
In addition to the financial costs, there are arguments around how valid the claims are and whether they meet certain terms and conditions. In the meantime, people are suffering, with some businesses not able to survive the wait.
“They can’t afford to continue their business, or they don’t have the correct cover in place, or the banks aren’t supporting them. Everybody is running around deferring payments, but there is a mountain of payments for some people down the track which will not be met.”
As an industry there is a need for financial services to step up and help the market that feeds it. Evan knows that the industry doesn’t exist without these clients, as it is a two-way street.
“They’ve relied on us; even the banks have relied on us. I just think if we had money in a tin somewhere for terrorism, why didn’t the government and the industry say let’s use this to give some relief to business owners and the like.”
The Covid assistance that has come from the government is all well and good, but it will eventually have to paid back through taxes. Evan doesn’t think the banks have offered much financial assistance either.
“I can’t see they did too much, other than defer payments. It’s important that we protect our ecosystem. It’s a bit like tuna fishermen – if you don’t protect the species, then how do you continue to exist?”
The level of protection provided by the industry cannot be understated. During the GFC in 2008, it wasn’t really the banks that were the issue, but the insurers. Banks can’t survive without the support of insurers.
“They provide funds to buy property,” Evan explains, “but they want that property insured. We’re very much an integral part of the business landscape, and I’m very proud to have been part of that.”
After thirty wonderful years of service, Evan recognises the importance of clients to the growth of the business. Even to this day the firm continues to be inundated with leads and referrals for new clients.
“Our clients are tremendous people, and they’re the best corporate brochure that we have. With the volume of clients we have, it’s impossible for me to keep them all happy. My staff are in effect an extension of myself, and I act as a client advocate within the organisation.”
With fully qualified staff working hard to provide the best service, and the support of underwriters such as Zurich, Allianz, CGU and QBE, Guardian Insurance has been able to put clients’ financial safety at the forefront of its business.
“At this stage of my career – and it’s fifty years I’ve been in insurance this year – all the wonderful relationships and friends that I have, and people that I’ve met over the years, I would never have been able to do that without being involved with where I am now. It’s a wonderful thing for me. I’m proud of what the industry does for the community at large.”
After thirty years of service, a number of years of impressive growth means Guardian is set to continue in the industry for some time to come. Find out more about Guardian by visiting www.guardian.net.au.