When writing for intouch, I would normally comment on something topical to do with the housing market, but as our company has recently reached its 20th anniversary, I can't help looking back over the past 20 years and reflecting on how we've reached this significant milestone.
When we started out in 1994, we were told that nearly all new businesses fail in their first year and most of the rest would be gone by the third year. If you consider that it was just me and my business partner working out of a tiny attic office in a London back street, you could forgive us for feeling a little daunted.
What we were confident of though, was our ability to provide the best service that the legal indemnity market had ever seen. Back then, the market could best be described as a dinosaur. It was dominated by two very large composite insurers with small underwriting teams, and solicitors would frequently have to wait a couple of weeks to get a reply to an enquiry. The minimum premium was a hefty £250, and no matter what the title defect was, it was made to fit one of a small number of stock indemnity policies available. It was a market that served the provider, not the customer.
From the beginning, we aimed to change this. We guaranteed a 24-hour turnaround on all enquiries, a minimum premium of £175 (some covers are provided now for around a tenner!) and a flexible attitude to both underwriting and the covers offered. This approach proved a hit with conveyancing professionals, getting Countrywide off the mark, and starting the transformation of the legal indemnity market.
However, these early achievements weren't simply a case of good fortune. As our Managing Director David Kirby will tell you, success doesn't happen by itself, it requires hard work and determination to make it happen; and having got a foothold in the market, we were not about to rest on our laurels.
Where previously, legal indemnity providers were neither seen nor heard, we put a lot of stock in marketing (as we do today), seizing every opportunity to promote our business and establish ourselves as the number one choice. We also listened to our customers and responded to their needs, adapting our policies to suit changing market conditions. And, very early on, we invested heavily in new technology, which helped us to improve our service standards; a commitment that we still adhere to today.
At the heart of our success, though, are our staff. Our deep-rooted philosophy is that everyone at the company shares in its success, and over the years, our dedicated staff have enthusiastically embraced this ideal. Thanks to their great attitude and desire to help our customers, they have all contributed to establishing and maintaining the market-leading service standards that have got us where we are today.
I realise that for anyone outside our company, this milestone won't mean a great deal. However, our long-standing values are hopefully something you can appreciate, and it just leaves me to say thank you to each and every one of you for your support over the last two decades. We look forward to serving the profession for many more years to come.