“I knew a few of the guys who set up Vista Insurance (of which Vista North West is a regional subsidiary) about eight years ago,” he said. “We talked about a few things and the time was right. So, we launched Vista North West last year and never looked back. Sometimes, you have to be given that nudge to know the time is right… Because you won’t be younger and enthusiastic forever, so you’ve got to take the plunge.”
Looking back on a successful first year, Stockley noted how refreshing it was to be back out in the market, meeting and recruiting people in service of the firm’s ambition to become one of the key players in the north west independent regional insurance broker market. It’s a period that has yielded many highlights, he said, including several high-profile deals in sectors ranging from vehicle delivery, to printing and packaging, to furniture.
“Making the business into what it is has been great,” he said. “Of course, there have been obstacles and hurdles to overcome as we’re starting from scratch and building out our book of business. And I’ll be forever grateful for the support we’ve had from the team at Vista Insurance, in terms of the general day-to-day support they’ve given us, which has been fantastic.
“Also, it has been great to see the number of clients that have come on board who welcome us as a fresh-faced broker in the north west. We’re all about making sure they’ve got everything they need, and customer service and no false promises is the key to that. We’re not about coming in one minute then disappearing for the next 12 months – we’re about providing whatever support we can.”
What has set Vista North West’s approach to broking apart is that it takes a frank and honest attitude to serving its clients, Stockley said. It understands that insurance is perceived as a necessary evil, particularly among commercial clients, and that what clients want is somebody to take as many pain points as possible out of the insurance transaction.
“We look to guide [our clients] through the process, through any potential exposures that they have, and to give them satisfaction,” he said. “That sleep-at-night factor is key because every business these days is facing bad news in terms of increasing costs. And if insurance is an area that we can potentially reduce a little bit without sacrificing cover, then we take great pleasure in that. We see it as our role to help support the local business community on the back of the challenging times they’ve been through for the last two to three years.”
The community spirit underpinning Vista North West’s growth to date goes beyond just insurance services – the firm is proud to sponsor Chester Nomads FC, one of the longest-established clubs in the city. In addition, Stockley highlighted that he and his wife are raising money for Autism Awareness – a charity close to his heart and one that the brokerage will be supporting in the coming year.
“We’re not going to stop there,” he said, “it’s very much an area we’re going to continue to support – not just in our locality but in our wider community as well… We’ve worked in this area for a long time, me and the team. I’ve worked in the Liverpool and Manchester insurance markets all my career which is just over 20 years now.
“And it’s so rewarding that some clients have been clients of mine for 10-plus years, if not longer, and we’ve become lifelong friends. I take personal satisfaction from those community connections, which is why giving back to our community is so important to me.”
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Before Vista North West was even launched, he said, he and the wider Vista Insurance team knew how critical it was to set out the firm’s ambitions and agenda – and top of that agenda was its focus on the north west region. The plan is not to be an international conglomerate or even UK-wide, at this point, but rather to serve the 50-mile radius of its Chester head office where it knows it can add value.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here for us,” he said. “and we know we can add value across a number of the sectors that we target. We’re not trying to be all things to all men. We’re choosing our key strengths and capitalising on them and then cascading that down on to our clients.
“But you can never stand still, can you? We’re very much about continuing to look for opportunities [in this region]. We have three- and five-year business plans that we’re going to try and stick to. Year two will be very much more of the same as year one, but with extra bits in terms of recruitment and bringing on additional people into areas we feel will complement what we’re already doing and will support our growth plans.”
Stockley highlighted that the firm is not one to slow down in response to success and that the team is always looking for the next opportunity, the next chance to test itself and evolve its skills. Vista North West has an ambitious growth strategy, he said, and is actively engaged with expanding into new directions in terms of niche sectors and opportunities as it seeks to support businesses across the north west which are going through a torrid time.
“I’m a business owner myself,” he said. “So, I do understand some of those concerns and frustrations around increased labour costs, or energy costs, or whatever it might be that our clients are facing. But if we continue to support those businesses and give them that help, we’ll tick that box of getting on with stage two of our plan… So, it’s exciting, it’s rewarding and taking this plunge is something I’ve never looked back on because I’m looking forward to what’s next and continuing to do what we’ve set out to do.”