Checking in for wellbeing the importance of small talk

They say that a smile speaks a thousand words and at UNA we tend to agree. Bringing people together is what it’s all about and in these times when we can’t come together in person so easily, video calls have certainly filled the breach. But while video calls allow us to see each other – and that smile – the small talk that would generally take place before and after meetings is distinctly lacking.

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Meeting virtually - focusing in on videoconferencing

You’re on mute! This may be one of the most common sentences heard during 2020 and it’s still prevalent today. As we make our way down the road out of lockdown, everyone is looking forward to a resumption of more standard working practices, including face to face meetings and the ability to be a bit more sociable again. For many businesses and their employees, though, working from home will remain the norm for some time to come. Our executive chair, Tim Ryan, explores options...

Videoconferencing seems to have come a long way in the last 12 months. Whether that’s due to new features that have been developed to help us all to chart the new challenges of business, or whether that’s because we’ve all become more used to using them. There are many to choose from, though, and finding the right one for your business needs, and your personal preferences, is easier said than done.

Having reviewed platforms for the very first virtual UNA Alliance conference, that took place in November 2020, as well as for team meetings, one-to-ones with staff, customers and suppliers, and for recruiting new people too, I’ve noted down some key features for four of the best:


GoToMeeting – mobile friendly at a reasonable price

GoToMeeting offers audio and video conferencing, plus screen sharing, and as a part of the LogMeIn portfolio, it also offers a webinar option. This relatively cost friendly app is easy to use on your laptop or desktop, and it’s also very mobile friendly, which is handy if you need to meet with someone while you’re on the move or, indeed, if you’d like to move around while you meet. Most features are available in the standard package, which provides for up to 150 people to meet at the same time.

 Microsoft Teams – value for money as part of Microsoft 365

For a joined up approach that enables you to connect your teams with calendars, file sharing and audio and video conferencing, as well as webinars, Teams is ideal for businesses already using Microsoft 365. And, for guests invited from outside the organisation, no app is needed to take part in meetings. 

Microsoft Teams also offers all the features you’d expect from a leading videoconferencing platform, including screen sharing and call recording, chat and background blurring, and it’s easy to use via a mobile app for meetings on the go, too.

Google Meet – cost effective and great with Google Workspace integration

Google Meet, previously called Google Hangouts Meet, is part of the Google Workspace office productivity platform, so it’s connected to other Google apps, such as Google Calendar, and has been developed specifically for business needs.

For guests invited to your meetings there is a web app, meaning no software needs to be downloaded to join. It also provides a dedicated dial-in number, which means that people on the go can join and ensures a good quality connection.

Zoom Meetings – affordable and intuitive to use

Zoom Meetings is quick and easy to set up and offers video conferencing and messaging with a wide range of scalable features. As well as high definition video and audio and screen sharing, Zoom Meetings can be recorded and saved locally or to the cloud, along with transcripts that include searchable text.

Perhaps best of all, the free tier of Zoom Meetings includes many features, with the ability to host a meeting for up to 100 participants and for up to 40 minutes. For longer meetings, a licence for business use is needed.


Bringing your team together

Of course, the platform you choose and the features you need will be individual to your business, and there are many other videoconferencing solutions to choose from as well. While chairing a meeting via video is certainly not my preference, it is far preferable to not seeing your teams at all. Staying in touch is not only vital for business, it’s important for the mental wellbeing of your people, too. It’s suggested that social connectedness can help people to build a stronger immune system, improved memory and cognitive skills and lower stress levels, all helping to keep your workforce productive, too. See you online soon!

Making time to talk an all together better way of working

All together better. That’s our mantra at UNA Alliance, and we very much work to it. As independent insurance brokers, making time to talk – whether that’s with our customers, our fellow members, our insurer partners or, indeed, our people – is something we do every single day. Here, our Executive Chair, Tim Ryan, explores how making 'time to talk' can boost wellbeing for all. 

Making time to talk is more than just about business and, in these unsettling times, picking up the phone or even dropping a quick note by email can make a great difference to that person’s wellbeing, and our own.

It’s all about staying connected. It could be easy to suggest that in our digitally joined-up world we’re more connected than ever. Right now, though, even if we spend hours every day on video or telephone calls, and even if we’re surrounded by a whole family working and schooling from home, we may also feel disconnected, lonely and overwhelmed.

Within our businesses, the same is true whether we’re talking about a staff member who is working – either on site at our premises or from home – or an employee who has been furloughed. Staying in touch to check in on wellbeing, rather than work, is the right thing to do.

Looking outwards, customer service can also change to reflect the current circumstances. Reaching out to customers to reassure them that you’re on hand to help, and taking time to talk for just a few minutes, means that they will feel more connected to your business, that you care and that they’ve made the right decision working with you. Better still, they’ll feel happier afterwards, too. That’s because ‘feel good’ conversations trigger higher levels of wellbeing hormones, including dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, among others.

Meanwhile, keeping the communications channels open with our business associates, be they fellow members of an alliance such as UNA, partners such as our network of insurers, or any other stakeholder in the supply chain is important, too.

We’re all in this together and we’re all together better. It’s been shown that kindness helps to increase self-esteem and to improve mood and wellbeing. Kindness can also increase your sense of connectivity with others, directly impacting feelings of loneliness for you and them. It also can be contagious…pass it on!



Seventeen Group Form European Insurance Broker

Seventeen Group form European insurance broker

Seventeen Group, owners of new UNA Member, James Hallam and Touchstone Underwriting, are pleased to announce the formation of London Re, a European Lloyds broker based in Dusseldorf Germany and with a branch office based in London.

London Re has been formed in a joint venture agreement between Seventeen Group and MRH Trowe, one of the largest independent brokers in Germany which employs circa 450 staff across 12 offices in Germany and 1 in Vienna.

London Re offers an independent broking solution for EU clients and brokers wishing to access the London Market for a wide range of products including Property, Casualty, Marine and Motorsport. The business is regulated in Germany, has FCA approval for its UK branch and is a Lloyds Broker.

Speaking about the joint venture Paul Anscombe adds: “Seventeen Group is a diverse insurance business with a growing international client base. When we considered the impact of Brexit on James Hallam we decided without hesitation that we wanted to create a business which could directly service EU clients and brokers in the future. We also recognised that it would add enormous strength to work in partnership with a broker whom we felt shared our ‘independent broker spirit’ and culture. We have known MRH Trowe for many years and respected the quality which Max and his team have brought to the German and Austrian markets. Our Head Office in Dusseldorf puts London Re in the heart of Europe and therefore offers us significant opportunities to work with the world leading skills contained within the London Market on European risks.

Setting up this new venture during lockdown has been a mammoth task for both parties but this is a very significant new chapter for our respective businesses and one which adds greatly to our strength in a rapidly changing world”.

Maximilian Trowe from MRH Trowe and joint Managing Director of London Re commented “Establishing direct access to Lloyd’s of London has long been a strategic goal for MRH Trowe and we are excited that this became feasible through the personal relationship with Seventeen Group. London Re enables us to counter the capacity bottlenecks of insurers existing in the EU market and to offer support to medium-sized brokers for complex risks. We see tremendous opportunity within MRH Trowe’s client’s needs as well as the need for the services London Re offers to brokers across the EU.”