|When you don't get any better you stop being good|
The largest Czech-Slovak insurance broker for companies and entrepreneurs. 23 years on the market. 54,000 insured events resolved annually. Nearly CZK 7 billion in mediated insurance per year – this is RESPECT, a.s., established 23 years ago based on the model insurance brokers who were usually part of the team of every business in the world. A few foreign insurance brokers were operating in the former Czechoslovakia and later Czech Republic, but there was practically no Czech brokerage company. That led to the decision taken by Ing. Zdeněk Reibl, MBA and his partner Tomáš Urban to establish the Czech insurance company RESPECT, a.s. that would adapt to meet local needs while following western trends, in particular in its approach towards the client. And it succeeded.
You won the Broker of the Year award in both 2014 and 2015 – 1st place. Congratulations on your success. What is the recipe for being a successful insurance broker in the Czech Republic?It flatters us to have been awarded the first prize in the category Broker of the Year two years in a row in such a prestigious and generally recognised industry competition. We very much appreciate it, but we know that even greater and harder work awaits us, and that we have to keep working on ourselves. Dalai Lama once said that pessimism leads to failure and I believe that to be a broad truth. Everything starts with optimism and hard work, the rest inevitably falls into place.
The jury comprised of experts from various insurance companies assessed for example the quality of supplied materials to insurance companies, the level of communication between us and the client and between us and the insurance company, corporate culture and many other aspects, on which we place great emphasis in RESPECT. This also relates to high demands we put on our colleagues working in the company. However, the biggest rewards for me personally are satisfied clients who feel they are in ‘good hands’ thanks to our service and products, and of course our colleagues who enjoy working in RESPECT and are proud to be a part of the team and the RESPECT Group brand in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
How were the early days of doing business - insurance brokerage, in the former Czechoslovakia?
We were full of vigor, ideals and a desire to prove that if it works abroad, it simply must work at home. We drew inspiration from the London brokerage firm Minet. In 1993, we began in an apartment with just one car, a landline and registered capital of just a few Crowns. Our sole communication tool was Yellow Pages, we were our own marketing and we had a great desire to change the market and the way businesses think. Of course, we ran into barriers such as "insurance brokerage service is pointless, because clients could obtain the same services directly through the insurance company, so why should they need a broker?" However, the mood in the company quickly changed, people began exploiting opportunities and doing business in any segment with any goods – this was associated with inherent risks that nobody knew too much about and that needed to be resolved in time, to be insured or at least partially managed. It became important to be informed and have the flexibility to always be there by the client's side; this was a key breakthrough and the added value of an insurance broker. When you are dealing with an issue, an insured event, which disrupts you and threatens continuity of your business, you want to resolve it immediately and not wait till ‘some’ institution opens its doors for business so you can go in and start arguing. Back then we sensed that flexibility and time would be decisive.
What is RESPECT Group like today?
Besides having earned the Broker of the Year award for 2015, today we also rank among the TOP 5 insurance brokers for B2B in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We have an enormous yet compact team of brokers who remain on a constant learning curve in terms of the insurance market and provide flexible services to clients’ businesses. They expect the unexpected, and this is especially important for setting up insurance programmes which are like a hand-made product. They are never the same because every business segment is different and therefore requires a custom-designed insurance programme. We were ahead of the times in many ways in relation to our motto and consequent changes introduced by the new Civil Code. Since our very start, we have been advocating acceptance of personal responsibility for the work we do in accordance with our motto: "We accept personal responsibility for insurance quality". The work of an insurance broker is hard; one must be prudent and have attention to detail. Simply put, it has to be someone with a strong personality. We also know that a successful company changes before it has to, so we have ‘rejuvenated’ our logo this year and revamped our corporate identity, in part because we are entering the third decade of the company's life, and because it is necessary to constantly improve and develop ourselves. Gradual consolidation of individual companies and branches of RESPECT into the holding group and under the RESPECT Group brand brings even greater flexibility and possibilities for our clients regardless of where their companies are located.
In 23 years of work on the insurance market, you have been able to build a strong premium brand. What products are businesses most interested in?
Naturally, the greatest interest remains in products without which no business could function - insurance covering assets, fleets and last but not the least, personal liability insurance. Beside this, however, in light of the often very specific lines of business, specialised products are also coming on strongly, such as credit insurance and D&O. In 2015, we saw a rising demand from clients in covering cyber risks; nowadays it's not enough to only have a password. Cyber risks threaten company data in computers and mobile phones alike, and are just as real as e.g. damage to property or health. And with the rising digitalised age, risks will only increase. We could go on and on – everything can be insured and risks appear in all areas of any business. We always search for simply the best solution for our clients based on their true needs. Our undeniable advantage is also the fact that we do not need to limit ourselves only to the possibilities of the local market, but thanks to our long business relationships, we have forged partnerships abroad as well, where in certain areas, the offer is somewhat more diverse than it is here right now.
What makes you different from the other insurance brokers?
Definitely the fact that we are a Czech family business with a tradition, which however does not lose its drive abroad. We are the only corporate broker representing the Czech and Slovak Republics in the worldwide broker network UNiBA, and we are capable of acquiring insurance through locally established partners around the world. Within our company, we have also established the RESPECT ACADEMY, a unique education system for our clients, with whom we share the latest information and news from the world of insurance and insurance products. We also discuss with them examples of solutions to insured events based on practice, thus enabling them to share experience among themselves.
Where do you see RESPECT in 10 years?
Thanks to our long-term planning, vision and strategies, I believe that we will remain one of the top insurance brokers, and a sought-after and traditional partner to our clients. I always say with slight exaggeration that RESPECT was here, is here and will be here for another 100 years, and this is one of my secret wishes. To achieve this, we will need to be continuously fortunate with our employees, good partners in terms of insurance companies, as well as with high-quality competition as thanks to them, we are always trying to move ahead and come up with innovative ideas.
PragueConnect.cz in cooperation with Czech & Slovak Leaders Magazine - Prague, 19.10.2016