When insurance veteran Paul Kempton passed away earlier this year, tributes were paid citing his dedication to his family, his work, his wider community, and the insurance profession. Discussing her father’s legacy with Insurance Business, Sarah Kempton (pictured), marketing manager at Sennocke International Insurance Services, revealed how in her father, she saw the way that qualities that distinguish an individual on a personal level are so integral to what sets them apart professionally.
Paul Kempton had worked in the insurance industry since his early 20s and, in 1990, along with his wife Sally, decided to create his own company, Sennocke International Insurance Services Limited, at their dining table. Starting as a small company of three, Sennocke quickly expanded and became a noticeable name in Sevenoaks, utilising its founder’s insurance knowledge to prove themselves in the market. Before Sennocke, self-build insurance didn’t really exist in the way it does today, Kempton noted, and so Self-Build Zone was founded on the same principle that guided all his decisions – looking after people.
“Even in the office, my dad was such a family man; he had an open-door policy,” she said. “He’d send 1,000 emails a day but if anyone ever had an issue he’d say ‘just come and talk to me’… That caring aspect is so real.
“And you can see that in our people. When you go out to get a job where you’re 18, you always think you’re only going to be there for 18 months or so, but there are so many members of staff who’ve been with us for years. We’ve got employees who’ve been with us since the beginning. Sennocke was started the year before I was born, so I was quite literally born and raised in this company.”
Paul Kempton loved being a dad and was a deeply caring person, she said, but he was also an entrepreneur at heart with a passion for risk management. Care for the customer is at the very heart of risk management but that is particularly true when it comes to self-build projects, which are often at the receiving end of negative attention from popular media.
“If you teach someone where the risks are to begin with, you can prevent a claim because you’ve educated them on what to avoid or correct when they are building their home,” she said. “[Anyone] can do a self-build successfully, it’s just about knowing what you’re getting into, and the more we can educate you about that the better. And Dad sat down with so many people to do just that.”
Thanks to Paul Kempton’s infectious entrepreneurial spirit, Kempton said, Sennocke’s team grew further into latent defect insurance through Build-Zone, which currently has one of the largest capacities in the market and a panel of A-rated insurers.
Her father was determined to help make the market fair and equitable and push out those poor-quality players that give the sector a bad name, Kempton said, and he instilled in those he spoke with a broader sense of the importance of doing so. Anybody who sat down with Paul Kempton came away with a strong sense of how passionately he felt about insurance, she said, and he was a larger than life figure whose enthusiasm was infectious.
Kempton herself was not immune from that and was persuaded to join Sennocke following the completion of her marketing degree by the challenge extended by her father to improve the brand equity of the firm. She put her plans to travel abroad on ice to take up that challenge and ended up rebranding the companies under the scope of the business, building their websites and taking the firm to the next level by boosting its trade show presence.
Her father was always willing to learn, she noted, and to listen to new ideas, despite how long he had served the insurance sector. And so, he put aside his natural scepticism around the costs involved and soon embraced the inherent value of marketing. He liked to be challenged, she said, and he was an example of a true entrepreneur in that he was always willing to work as hard as possible and put in longer hours than anyone else. He also liked to get creative and welcome new solutions – as long as the contributor was able to argue their corner and make their case effectively.
Over the course of the 31 years since it began, Sennocke has grown from a team of three gathered around a kitchen table to a team of over 50 which is market-leading in construction and self-build insurance. Given everything that her parents poured into getting the brokerage off the ground and given the close-knit nature of its team, Kempton said, the decision to sell the company was one taken with due care and consideration.
“The process of arranging the sale started about three years ago,” she said. “Dad had lots of people approach him but there were two who he felt were up to scratch with our culture and ethos, as well as our ambition to grow it further while keeping that family aspect – and one of them was Aston Lark which ended up completing the deal. It was very much a mutual decision – they wanted to buy us and we wanted to sell to them. It was a real gentlemen’s conversation, not a bidding war. It was a discussion about everything that had been built - what needed to be maintained and why we would only sell if this was going to make us even better than we already were.”
It was and is a mutually beneficial partnership, Kempton said. It has worked incredibly well for both businesses to date and she is looking forward to seeing Sennocke’s proposition and market reach continue to develop, evolving in line with the ambitions that drove her parents to start the firm in 1990. Today Sennocke’s brands, Self-Build Zone and Build-Zone are some of the market-leading providers in their specialist fields, which will only be driven further after joining the rapidly growing and successful Aston Lark team.
“It’s great to talk about my dad and everything he did and accomplished,” she said. “Everything he achieved, the influence that he had on the insurance industry and on the people he met – it shouldn’t be forgotten.”