By Colm Croffy
Gerry Bruen is celebrating 40 years of business with his Insurance Brokerage this year. His family were steeped in Insurance – his father Joe and Uncle Paddy set up a brokerage in Roscommon in June 1930 and traded under the title of Bruen Bros. & Co. (selling motor insurance three years before it was legally required to have it under the Insurance Act 1933 ! ). His brother took over the business when his Dad passed away. After a few years he joined the Insurance Corporation of Ireland later becoming infamous when it collapsed heralding the introduction of a “temporary “ insurance levy. Thankfully he had long gone at that stage and cannot be blamed for that !! He then joined Shield Insurance company, now renamed Zurich Insurance. His plans to go into partnership with his brother came unstuck when The Irish Permanent approached him to manage their local agency in town.
“The opportunity was too good to pass up; so on March 3rd 1980 Bruen Brothers and Co. Ballinasloe was born !! My office was set up in Main Street in the old post office (Where Vodaphone now operate from)”, states Gerry. In 1982 the premises moved to Dunlo Street (Now the Deli Store) and finally moved to the current office in Society Street. When he came to town first, along with his flatmates from a local bank – they got to know the local pubs, the cinemas the Ashling and Swanwicks. He joined the Musical Society and was happy to play Motel in Fiddler on the Roof. He hopes to take part in the 40th anniversary of this show in 2021 as a cast member. He served as chairman of this society for a few years, as well as chairperson of Junior Chamber and finally as a founder member of the local Lions club. In the late 90s he was elected President of The Chamber of Commerce and was the founding chairman of BACD which has exceeded his expectations
Lucky in Love
Along the way he obtained his Chartered Insurance practitioner status and also became an associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute, becoming a qualified financial advisor in latter years. He was a founder member of the Insurance brokers Association and later served for four years on the national executive. Two years ago this organisation merged with PIBA creating a unified broker representative body for over 1200 firms While involved with Junior Chamber he met a young lady who worked in Duane’s Pharmacy, so when the Lions club first dress dance was held he had to find a dancing partner. “All I knew was her name was Ann, didn’t know her address - I knew she worked in Duane’s so I had to queue up in the shop and wait for her to come out so I could ask her to the dance. Within 18 months she became my wife, friend and support over the years. We have been blessed with four children and I am very proud of each and everyone of them” recalls Gerry
Looking back at 4 decades in business he is proud of having helped many young couples get a mortgage. “Over the years I was able in a small way to act as a conduit between local people and Irish Permanent Head office to achieve their dream of owning their own home” explains Gerry. Irish Permanent evolved over time to become a mainstream bank and phased out Agents in 2008. His main job is to advise clients on their insurance needs and then to try to source an Insurance provider to match those needs. “We have a relationship with a wide range of Insurance providers for private motor insurance alone we deal with 14 providers and in excess of that for other classes of business. We are members of Brokerline Direct, the longest and largest broker network in Ireland. This network has in excess of €500 million in premium income and we can therefore utilise this strength to bring ongoing value to our clients in the form of more competitive premiums and enhanced cover” enthuses Gerry.
Technology and Changes
He laughs at modern day annoyance with poor coverage of mobiles. “In 1980 I had to wait two to three months to get a telephone line which meant Initially I had to operate via a telephone kiosk across the road and ensure I had plenty of small change – can you imagine? “ The advances in technology and the role of woman in the financial services sector – from once purely providing secretarial and tea making duties – the ladies now are on par with the lads – in terms of roles, management duties are two key changes witnessed by Gerry. Looking around the town centre Gerry is worried about the future “our Centre has not performed well in the last decade. The loss of local jobs means folks have to travel elsewhere for work. Coupled with the rise of multinational retailing has resulted in fewer people shopping with the small local retailer. They then struggle to survive and close. The choice of goods offered locally diminishes and people then go elsewhere making the problem worse. Apart from the clothes retailer this becomes very obvious when looking at the decline in the number of grocery shops locally. When they are gone they are gone and with them the heart of the town” cautions Gerry. As to future of brokering in provincial towns: “The death knell for brokers has been sounded for decades. Cheap insurance on line is only cheap when purchasing it. The lowest price is not always the best. Buying on line does not let you seek advice, it is designed to sell only and does not provide the choice and ongoing service provided by the Broker” argues Gerry.
As to Ballinasloe-he feels it is ideally situated in the centre of Ireland with great connections - correct internet connection business can be conducted from anywhere in the town as home working in Covid-19 has shown. “The quality of life here is particularly good with excellent sports and education facilities. It is a nice town to live in with your family and offers the opportunity for a good work/ play balance“ stresses Gerry. Gerry took up running after a recent health scare; “I plan to keep running for as long as I can, two marathons now under my belt which is more than I ever expected I would do. Long term probably shorter distances but plan to keep the social aspect as much as possible“ notes the Roscommon native – showing no signs of easing off ! “Forty years ago I took a chance and moved to here. I have never regretted that move and I am thankful to many clients, friends that have made it all possible. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge my back up staff. Without them and their loyal support it would not have been possible” enthuses Gerry.
Contact the team at www.bruenbros.com or phone 090 964 3320
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