Surrey-based Clear Insurance Management Limited was founded in 2001 with seven staff by City broker Howard Lickens, the company’s current CEO, so recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Howard’s vision was to create something different with a culture of informal yet professional relationship-based service, delivering comprehensive advice on risk management and insurance to companies and individuals. It was a well-judged concept as within five years Clear had become a top-100 independent insurance intermediary. This success was recognised with the award of the Insurance Intermediary of the Year 2008 accolade by leading industry journal Insurance Age.
Expansion continued and since 2009 Clear has made acquisitions that have led to the addition of three new offices away from its New Malden headquarters. One of these offices is situated in Eastcheap, at the heart of London’s EC3 insurance district, and the other two are in more rural locations in the Lincolnshire fens at Holbeach and the Surrey hills at Cranleigh.
“Whilst we can advise on virtually the whole range of insurances, our specialist teams are real experts in property, the professions and the high net worth sector. We work closely with property investors, financial institutions, solicitors, charities and many other businesses, especially those based in and around southwest London, where the Kingston Chamber of Commerce has always played an important part in our business growth. We have almost 100 people at our four sites, our annual turnover has hit £6 million and thanks to our organic growth and acquisitions plus an over 95 per cent client retention record, we are now a top-30 independent broker,” says Mike Anderson, the firm’s IT Manager.
Clear’s rapid expansion, including the initial development of its office network, has been heavily dependent upon the adoption of purpose-designed and cost-effective software systems. Mike Anderson is responsible for developing IT strategy and for making sure the technology ‘actually works’. Mike takes this brief seriously, ensuring that Clear scrutinizes all the options before investing in new systems.
“Like any intermediary, we have a lot of paperwork to handle and expansion inevitably puts office space under pressure.”
Mike Anderson, IT Manager, Clear
“We were determined to do something about this, not only for a multitude of cost and operational reasons but also because we have adopted a caring stance on the environment. Our paper is sourced from sustainable supplies, but we continued to use more than we would have liked and so created rising storage needs, though our ambition was to get close to running paperless offices.”
“When we began the search for the ideal computerised document management system to help meet our aims, we were conscious that the package of our choice would need to integrate perfectly with Open GI. Although we had some standard features within our core software, it did not go as far as we needed to truly benefit from going paperless. However we were introduced to Virtual Cabinet and were impressed that their team already recognised this fact and clearly had enormous experience of integration with other systems such as ours. Their Virtual Cabinet offer ticked all the boxes for us and it was reassuring to know that they already had many satisfied customers from the ranks of the top-100 intermediaries and smaller firms too.”
“So, after comparison with rival document management systems, the Clear directors accepted my assessment that Virtual Cabinet and the integration suite provided the features we wanted – and, mindful of my brief – I was confident that the technology would actually work, and work well. The winning combination of low operating costs, seamless integration with our other software systems and Virtual Cabinet's compelling track record and post installation support left us in no doubt.”
Virtual Cabinet is much more than just a document scanning system. It is a complete information management solution that stores, tracks and manages all office paperwork and allows information to be held and shared securely. As Operations Director Barry Packham, Mike Anderson and their colleagues at Clear recognised, major efficiencies can be gained, customer service enhanced, a clear audit trail provided and regulatory compliance strengthened. A quality document management system like Virtual Cabinet can strengthen archive security and allow the destruction of hard copies of documents in the knowledge that records may be accessed in a fast, efficient and compliant way.
“We also liked the way their people listened, understood our current and anticipated future needs and explained how Virtual Cabinet would meet them, what it would cost and how much we could save in a fairly short time.”
- Barry Packham, Operations Director, Clear
“As an ambitious, expanding company with the prospect of further acquisitions in the years ahead, we were also impressed by the Virtual Cabinet development strategy. If and when we acquire other businesses, we know we can roll out Virtual Cabinet to them and reap further efficiency savings.”
Virtual Cabinet is one of the leading document management solutions in the UK, and it enables all users to benefit from an affordable solution. For a very modest cost per individual user per month, Virtual Cabinet offers the essential features of expensive systems – and much more. As Mark Woolley of the Virtual Cabinet team points out, the benefits of Virtual Cabinet can be appreciated almost immediately: “Virtual Cabinet is an affordable, easy to use, highly effective document management system. It enables companies to control all documents, share information, increase productivity and archive securely – and with an instant return on investment. Immediate document retrieval is as simple as clicking a mouse! Of course, Virtual Cabinet has the versatility to operate with various other systems. What’s more, hosting works particularly well with Virtual Cabinet and this highlights the trend towards hosted solutions.”
“Another cutting-edge feature of Virtual Cabinet that interests Clear, is the Virtual Cabinet Portal. This is a cloud based mechanism for secure document publication, distribution, and digital sign-off, between companies and individuals. Fully integrated with Virtual Cabinet, the Portal allows users to publish documents to clients, in a simple, secure and audited manner. Further still its digital sign off feature allows clients to review and sign off sensitive documents preventing the need to post or email them. This elegant mechanism allows companies to significantly improve customer service and retain far greater control and visibility over the life-cycle of their documents whilst securing their clients’ sensitive information.”
In summary, the Virtual Cabinet document management system gives intermediaries such as Clear Insurance Management Limited, financial advisers and other businesses a competitive edge by enabling them to offer a superior level of client service. Authorised company personnel can access information whenever or wherever they may be talking to a client. Information is easily shared and personnel typically save six weeks per year, so their productivity rises. On top of all this, freed-up office space could potentially house another staff member comfortably, contributing further profitability.
The last word goes to Howard Lickens, who sees Virtual Cabinet as a key element in his company’s systems that will help it to build on the outstanding success of its first decade in business: “Clear’s strengths include our specialist knowledge in a wide range of sectors and our focus on long-term relationships. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for our diverse clients to protect their businesses and arrange the right cover. We have high expectations of Virtual Cabinet’s ability to facilitate even more efficient service delivery to clients from all four sites and to eliminate unnecessary paper handling and storage.”