Brett Stonham isn't new to the insurance biz. He's been in the game for more than 20 years so he's a bit of a whiz!
His long history with the insurance industry began when his brother had a swimming pool accident 24 years ago.
"Ross was an insurance advisor for AMP at the time," Brett says. "After his accident - which left him a quadriplegic - Ross encouraged me to get involved in his work and start looking after some of his clients. That's how I got to know Tyler Price."
The novice in the industry soon became a talented practitioner and two decades on - in April 2013 – he founded his own brokerage business.
Brett now has a client base of around 500 people and can't emphasise enough how important strong, long-term relationships are to his success.
"I'm delighted to be working with some of the same clients I had in my early days. As far as I'm concerned the best part of my job is making sure people get their claims settled and get their expected outcome. It's even better when I can get a result that clients were not expecting!"
He recalls one client saying there was no point in going to see him, as he had cancer, "but then we worked out he was entitled to $50,000 on an existing policy".
Then there was the glider pilot who had special requests that couldn't be handled through the normal process.
"It needed someone with experience to deal with head underwriters and sort it all out. That's where I come in. I'm the one who runs around organising the paperwork to make sure the whole claim process is smoother. Sometimes it can take weeks, but I make sure that the outcome works for my clients!"
Sharlene Brearley from Flatbush, Auckland is full of praise for Brett's approach.
Some year's ago when she was diagnosed with a melanoma, she wasted no time in getting the cancer removed but never thought about claiming insurance for the procedure. It wasn't until she had a conversation with Brett some time later that the possibility came up.
"Brett was our family's new insurance agent and when he was going through all the forms I sent him, he noticed there was something in one of our trauma policies," she says.
"Brett checked it out and said he thought we could make a claim, so he did all the spade work – and we were successful. We received a sizeable payout we would have missed out on, had it not been for Brett.
Sharlene says Brett clearly puts his clients first, and they feel he's become a friend rather than "the dreaded insurance guy".
"He's easy going, explains things very clearly, give us options and encourages us to ask lots of questions," she says. "Now I tell my friends that if they are planning to redo any of their life insurance, then I have the guy for them!"
Brett specialises in life (death), trauma (cancer, heart attack, strokes), income protection, mortgage protection and redundancy insurance.
"I try and give my clients options with all the different insurance companies," he says. "I look for the best deals to suit their unique circumstances. It is a pretty specialised part of the industry."
With clients all over Auckland and the Waikato, Brett and Niki are focussed on continuing to build a good, solid brokerage.
"Niki [my wife] and I run Stonham & Co between us," Brett says. "It's a nice tidy operation and we have ultimate responsibility and control. We like the fact it is a small, tight ship without the distractions that come with additional staff."
"It really is about doing the right thing for clients," Brett says. "I can't count the number of times I've been in people's homes at the worse moments and been able to sort things out for them. When they see that it's all settled and the money's in their account – they feel at peace. You can only do that if you build really strong relationships with people."
His top tips for being self-employed are:
- You have to have absolute discipline, no matter what kind of work you do.
- Relationships are paramount. Never forget the people that make your job worth doing.
- Know when to stop. Tell yourself, "Right dinner time, laptops and phones off, Stop!"
Brett Stonham can be contacted on:
Mobile 0274 766 015.
Or via the Stonham & Co website www.stonhamandco.co.nz