Insurance weathers recession
THE recession has had a massive impact on all types of business in Ireland in recent years. The insurance industry is no different. However, having weathered the worst of Ireland's economic collapse, Dermot Crookes of Stuart Insurances in Castlebridge feels that the signs are positive for 2014.
Having worked for a large insurance provider in Dublin for a number of years, Dermot decided to seize an opportunity and branch out on his own back in 2005. 'I was working in Dublin for another broker for years,' said Dermot. 'Back in 2005 and opportunity presented itself and, through the acquisition of a local broker in Bunclody, I decided to set up my office under the banner of Stuart Insurances, which has been trading since 1978.'
Dermot had been living in Castlebridge for over 10 years and decided to create a purpose-built office space just around the corner from his home – and Stuart Insurances South East was born.
'Our main focus here is small to medium Irish businesses,' Dermot explained. 'We consider ourselves business brokers. We do, of course, provide car and house insurance and that type of thing as well, but the majority of our work is with businesses such as factories, pubs, supermarkets and shops.'
With Stuart Insurances' focus on small- and medium-sized businesses, the recession was bound to have some effect with a lot of these types of businesses closing up. 'Absolutely it has been hard with the recession,' Dermot said. 'We would have lost a lot of construction businesses and that type of thing because they ceased trading. What I will say, though, is that in the last six months we have seen a sustained recovery. Business did suffer, but we're starting to get more and more calls and queries at the moment and I'm very optimistic for 2014. We've even been getting calls from people in the construction industry that maybe we hadn't heard from for five or six years.'
According to Dermot, the thing that sets Stuart Insurances aside from the rest is the focus on providing an efficient and personal service. 'I think the personal approach is key,' he said. 'For example, for a lot of the businesses we look after, we would also sort out the customer's car insurance, house insurance, travel insurance and things like that. Basically we are a one-stop shop for all insurance needs.'
One area in which Dermot has noticed particular growth at the moment is the agricultural sector. 'We have more than 100 farms on the books at the minute and it's growing all the time,' he said. 'I know that a lot of farmers tend to dislike change, but I think slowly but surely we are getting a name for ourselves in that sector. We have access to new markets for farm insurance that have only come out in the last 12 months so we can offer great value.'
Dermot and his team seem to have taken the worst that the recession can throw at them and are looking forward to progressing and growing the business in what they are hoping will be an extremely productive 2014.