45 years of progress in the private insurance market is completed by Sofos Insurance Agency, being a model mediation venture in the insurance industry both at the level of organization and at the level of development and corporate philosophy.
Interview of Christos Sofos Chairman of the Board & CEO, Giorgos Sofos, Vice President of the Board of Directors General Manager of Organization, & Thrasyvoulos Sofos, Executive Member of the Board of Directors General Manager of Sales in the company Sofos Insurance Agency
to Nikos Morakis (Insurance Marketing Magazine "am", Issue June 2023)
With the amalgamation of the elements brought by the traditional generation of insurers, represented by Mr. Christos Sofos, who founded the company, and the new generation, George and Thrasyvoulos Sofos, the company in 2022 recorded a turnover that reached 6 million . euros and has noted over the years a great network development, numbering 700 partners. Through a joint interview, the people who lead the scheme talk about their common vision, the stations and the evolution of the company, the role of technology and the importance of attracting new professionals to the industry,
Having a career of more than 4 decades in the insurance market, what do you consider to be the most important milestones in the evolution of Sofos Insurance?
Christos Sofos: On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the organization, it would be remiss of me if I did not do a brief review of its history as well as the milestone years for its sustainability and further development. 1978 was essentially the starting year for the creation of a small insurance mediation business, which was to develop into a limited liability company and cooperate with large companies in the insurance sector. I could not have imagined that starting out as an insurance employee, with my wife and fellow traveler Despina Sofou by my side, I would be able to turn my dreams into reality and put together what we now call an insurance agent mediation scheme.
Thus, with my insurance knowledge as a resource and my dedication to the profession, which I had distinguished from an early age, in 1985 we founded our own insurance agency in the form of a sole proprietorship. Investing significantly in our insurance knowledge as well as the further development of our personal portfolio, in 1997 we converted the sole proprietorship into an LLC. under the name ASFALEIES SOFOU E.P.E. and then in the fall of 2006 the organization evolves into a Public Limited Company (Sofou Insurance SA)
The company now operated as an insurance organization b2c with the main focus on the insured customer while the sales network consisted of only 30 people!!! Going through a highly successful seven years, in 2013 I strategically decide to change course and strengthen the sales network with renowned executives of the insurance market as well as partners who had partnered with me for over 25 years and shared my vision with the same passion. Although the market was already saturated with mediation schemes that had been working well for over three decades, the challenges and the ever-changing environment caught my interest and brought along my 2 sons who now hold the reins of the organization from positions of responsibility. After 45 years of presence, the experiences I continue to gain are enormous, while our business, which I would describe as family, joins and supports every insurance intermediary who honors us with their cooperation.
Is technology an ally for today's professional mediator? In which fields do you adopt innovations and tools that optimize the services provided?
George Sofos: Technology, as a broad concept, is an ally for all professionals. In the field of insurance mediation, taking for granted that the sale of insurance products requires interaction between people, the challenge concerns the effective implementation of technological systems, with the main goal of more efficient management of everyday life.
The modern insurance intermediary needs access to ecosystems that offer immediate integration of the changes that take place in a strongly changing environment in his daily processes. He is looking for allies to qualitatively develop his portfolio. It uses systems that will highlight the added value of our profession to clients. Especially in the field of regulatory compliance, technological tools must reduce as much as possible the bureaucratic procedures and the time spent on them, while simultaneously covering in their entirety the obligations arising from the existing legal framework.
The research and development of management and control systems is an important part of our corporate culture, which allows us to design, implement and improve innovative service structures to our partners and customers, utilizing the free flow of information within the organization, the continuous feedback on real environments and the experience of our human resources.
Innovations such as Sofos e-Sign (computerized IDD/GDPR forms, electronic signature), Sofos PAY (POS, e-POS, RF payments, Smart Payment payments, Apple pay, Google pay, etc.), Sofos e- Wallet (electronic money management of partner), Sofos Edu For You (training and retraining of SOEs), Sofos Instant Commission (immediate performance of commissions with the use of a button available at the partner's disposal). All the above systems are service innovations introduced to the insurance mediation market by our organization.
We pride ourselves on the effective integration of technological systems into the day-to-day operations of our organization and the dedication of our people to their effective communication. But above all, we are proud of their wide range of application, their now indisputable usefulness and the degree of ease of their use by specialized or non-specialized people.
Why does your network trust you? In its long history, does the company create long-term partnerships in this field?
Thrasybulus Sophos: The creation of bonds of trust and camaraderie with our sales network have always been an integral part of our corporate culture and a solid foundation for our strategic development. Having the good fortune, a large part of the partners know Mr. Christos Sofos from his previous position as Vice President in a large Greek insurance company, the trust was not built from the beginning but pre-existed. His impression as an executive of an insurance company was enough for 350 associates to initially join us in 2013 and to be fully integrated into the mentality that governs the company and its executives. Going through a difficult 3 years from 2013 to 2016, as we continuously improved our infrastructure by investing very significant amounts in our technological services but also in specialized executives ready to respond to this demanding environment, we made a moral commitment to support the network wholeheartedly and work hard with him for the better flow of everyday life and the achievement of productive goals. The network felt protected by a safety net so robust that it could only strengthen the relationship between us as it inspired confidence, solvency and above all mutual trust built on honesty and solidarity. Today, numbering 700 partners nationwide, the company's purpose is long-term human-centered relationships based on the quality of service provision and not on the quantity of production activity. After all, our decentralized services are provided through 19 points of sale throughout Greece, including the Regional Offices. We are the only scheme that has established itself with branches in so many places and that has created a mix of independent and exclusive agents whom we wish to have with us for many years to come.
The mix of the new generation (Th. Sofos & G. Sofos) did their utmost so that the number of collaborating insurance intermediaries is now close to 700 and their wish is to continue the work of the founders of the company.
In terms of financial sizes and geographical "development", where is Sofos Insurance today and what are the goals for the future? (Thrasyvoulos Sofos Executive Board Member General Sales Manager)
Thrasybulus Sophos: 2022 was the company's best financial year as it achieved record profitability as well as turnover. THE Sophos insurance agency approached 6 million in turnover and distributed insurance products worth 28,5 million euros. If we consider that we have been active in the mediation networks for exactly a decade, I believe that leaps of progress have been achieved, which as we have repeatedly and publicly pointed out are due to the quality of service provision as well as the continuous training of staff and partners. Today in the year 2023, a milestone year for the company as it is already in its 45th year since its establishment, the company lists 4 Regional Offices, 8 Sales Offices and 7 Branches as well as 700 associates throughout the Greek territory.
What have we achieved so far? Economies of scale, integration of processes, a mix of new and experienced executives in the insurance market, innovative technological investments and above all unparalleled quality in terms of benefits and services. The recent award and Fm awards held last December came to confirm in the most emphatic and fair way that the Sophos insurance Agency holds excellence in insurance mediation and our aim is to maintain it at these very high levels for the foreseeable future. What we have set in the future and as a goal is for the company to continue its profitable growth, to an even greater extent than today, so that it can invest in technology and maintain the service which after all is the cornerstone of its development. Our course so far reflects to a significant extent what will follow in the future, which we do not wish to differ in any case. Strengthening our sales network with additional knowledge, technological tools and experienced staff Sophos Insurance agency aims for organic growth and a gradual increase in turnover while maintaining its decentralized services. By setting the goal of creating offices and branches in other cities of the Greek territory, the company's presence will be able to contribute significantly to local institutions and actors as well as to build inseparable ties with the customers-insured.
Representing the new generation of mediation, what elements do you think need to change or improve in the insurance market in order to attract young people with skills and academic education?
George Sofos: I am sure that our market is attractive to young people who have skills, talent and academic education. Unfortunately, this happens due to its technical dimension and to a large extent in light of the staffing of the insurance companies.
With regard to insurance mediation and sales of insurance products in general, it seems that the impression has now been created on the public, that the sale of any insurance is a transactional job and has been reduced to something trivial.
How did we get to the above result? In my opinion the result is multifactorial.
The people who could inspire and push young professionals into insurance brokerage careers are either out of the market or opting for unattractive approach tactics. In the era of promoting concepts such as sustainable development, balance of personal and work success, minimalism and quality of life, the approach of quick results in volume through ephemeral portfolios is unattractive.
The management of everyday life by the alternative distribution channels and the way in which they address the public en masse by degrading the essence of human interaction in the process of selling an insurance product, is a relief for the public it is really addressed to and at the same time degrades the concept of insurance in audience that will never win. For example, the inextricable interconnection of banking products with insurance products increases the productivity of banking organizations, but at the same time reduces the existence of the insurance industry.
The advertising campaigns that flood the mass media and the social medium of the public, they manipulate with surgical precision the mind of the consumer and in the light of exaggeration pass messages of abolition of insurance consciousness and the utility of insurance. They remove all terms of the insured's negligence policies and advertise uninsurable risks. Insurance tenth of a second before danger occurs, destructive monsters of mythology or Hollywood, boho ή cool speakers to assure that everything is done and more, are examples that should probably be applied to other markets. What should we do to attract new professionals to insurance mediation?
It is imperative that we take care to convey to the society the real dimension of insurance. To promote the concept of prevention, to convince that insurance covers basic needs without giving the impression that it is a product of short-term consumption. To transform our organizations in order to provide tools that attract the entry of the new professional into the market, and to support him in his daily life and in his education. To invest in long-term relationships and quality features. To explain in practice how we create conscious customers and how we investigate their real needs.
Above all, I believe that the market as a whole should find ways to communicate the concept of insurance and change the flow of information that the end consumer receives.
You have received many awards as a company. Mention the most important of them.
Christos Sofos: In the course of our 45 years of presence in the insurance market, I would say that our organization has been awarded in terms of production and quality by several insurance companies, among them the historic Panhellenios SA. , Alice and Scoplife.
During the last decade our company, having the undivided support of the sales network, has won positions in Elite Club of National Insurance, Distinguished Partner in ERGO, Platinum Member in Mercury, Diamond Member in Interlife, as well as productivity awards from insurance companies such as Dynamis and Intersalonica.
In December 2023 we had the opportunity to participate in the first FM Awards organized under the supervision of an independent audit authority (Grant Thornton), which proceeded with an in-depth analysis of the approximately 100 participating organizations, even requesting evidence for what was described by the companies' managements. We had the pleasure of being awarded first place in 4 categories for agents (Business Development, Sustainability Strategy, High Quality and Overall performance), while in the remaining 3 categories we were in the top three.
But I would like to dwell on the corporate culture and its strategy Sophos Insurance Agency, factors that shape the recipe for long-term success. The strategy can be shaped according to the environment of each company, nevertheless it always moves based on a core of values and culture that can hardly be changed. Concepts such as the human-centered approach, service innovation, continuous training and optimization of processes and the collaborative climate are key components of our strategy over time.
We know that the road to achieving our goals is long and requires patience and perseverance. Distinctions have their part in the mix of success but they are certainly not a panacea.
All the people who honor us with their cooperation have contributed to the organization's distinctions, each and every one of them either from the position of human resources or from that of the partner.
Finally, I want to thank my wife and traveling companion Despoina and my sons Giorgos and Thrasyvoulos for their undivided support and active action, so that we can achieve our goals and continue the sustainable development of our organization.
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