The room was packed as Jonathan Swift took to the stage and welcomed everyone to the one and only Affinity, the sole event dedicated to this exciting niche sector of the market.
The greatly anticipated John Brady, financial services director at John Lewis, got the show on the road with his opening keynote. John likened the brand-insurer partnership to a marriage, emphasising that paying due diligence in getting to know a partner before a long term commitment cannot be undervalued. The session ended by pointing out the dangers of creating fierce brand loyalty, with John retelling the story of an odd request from one lifelong customer, who asked to scatter her ashes in the store!
In agreement with John, Nikki ‘show me' Bennet, compliance strategy and operations director at UKGI, expanded on the topic of partnership, giving us insight into the complicated regulations that surround it.
Next to the stage, The Parabis Group's commercial director Tim Roberts gave us all a feel for the ABS process with tangible anecdotes, before being joined by his colleagues for a Q&A session. Michael George Davidsons and David Jabbari delved deeper into the wider benefits of consumer legal services and highlighted the importance of getting it right the first time.
Everyone returned swiftly to the room, briefly pausing to refuel on coffee and pastries, keen to hear about the technology inspired partnership between CEGA Group and Barclays.
Rob Upton, the director of sales and marketing at Cega Group kicked things off with an introduction to the partnership from their perspective. After which, Terence Trench, director of mobile payment solutions at Barclays, got down to the nitty-gritty, describing how Barclays's innovative Pingit app has the ability to change the claims process as we know it.
"Joint partnership and innovation = highest customer experience"
Dave Pattman, customer solutions expert at Webhelp UK, delivered an insightful presentation that shattered our dreams of customers following the carefully laid out steps of the purchasing journey. He encouraged us to prepare for a future of channel hoppers.
Next it was time to hear from our panel of aggregator experts; Rod Jones (uSwitch), Colin Wallace (ACE) and Chris Hannan (Protect Your Bubble). With Swifty chairing the panel we had each of the four UK nations represented. They delivered a fantastic and diversely accented insight into the key issues surrounding aggregator-insurer partnerships.
It was time for lunch with everything proving tasty, even the intriguingly green cheese nestled between the Brie and Red Leicester. After catching up with familiar faces and introductions to the new, everyone headed back into the conference room for the final sessions of the day.
Thistle Insurance Services' Adrian Scott got the afternoon off to a great start as he explained the ins and outs of working within the niche sectors of the market.
Hot on his heels, Brian Weston provided us with highly relevant statistics from the Institute of Customer Services, as he shared his vision of how to best improve customer loyalty.
For the final session of the day we were joined by Mark Allan (RSA), Akhil Shah (Debenhams), Simon Jones (Collinson Group) and Will Thompson (Motability) with two brands and two insurers on the panel we really gained an understanding of what both sides need and want from an Affinity partnership.
Swifty rounded up the day nicely by drawing the winning business card from The Parabis Group prize draw. And with that Affinity 2014 was at an end, until next year.