Open GI User Group

Who’s Who

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Photo of  Marc  Pons-Burt
Marc Pons-Burt
- Chairman - Personal Lines Manager - CTH Insurance

Marc’s first job after leaving school in 1994 was with SAGA, starting in an “adjustments” team for Motor and quickly progressing through the Motor departments before being involved in a pilot to cross train with Home too.  Various other roles within Customer Service and then Customer Relations (specifically in respect of claims) eventually lead to a couple of years in the Training Department, specialising in Motor, Home, Travel and more importantly, systems using SAGA’s “TIA” program which had such a catchy escape clause “if in doubt F6 and out”!

Moving in 1999 to a short stint at Swinton down in Folkestone, Marc had his first taste of broking and flourished.  A chance conversation lead to a move to the Isle of Man which at the time wasn’t in Marc’s Geographical knowledge, so he got a shock when he arrived to Douglas on the 3rd January 2000 expecting to be on a Channel Island!  Lesson learned, he worked for a couple of years with a local broker and cut his teeth on general broking, both Personal Lines and Commercial.

Marc moved to C Tarleton Hodgson & Son Ltd in July 2003 as a Business Development Manager and has since moved on to become the Personal Lines Manager and main OGI contact.  The brokers are the longest established independent Insurance Brokers on the Isle of Man and remain a dominant player in the ever evolving offshore Island Market.  Responsible for various schemes and bespoke underwriting of various personal lines products, he is constantly improving the OGI system within the company and making use of all of those “system notices” that so many people ignore!

Photo of  Derek  Balfe
Derek Balfe
- Vice-Chairman - Director - O'Loughlin Insurance Group

Derek started working with General Accident in Dublin and then with Hibernian / Aviva. He was an underwriter and broker manager for 13 years before turning from gamekeeper to poacher and working on the brokering side of the business for the last 13 years. He set up his own brokerage in 2008 with his business partner and they merged with O’Loughlin Insurance group in 2009.

Derek has been using the OpenGI system since 2009 and is responsible for its development within the business. He joined the user group in 2015 with a view to representing the Irish OpenGI users.

Photo of  Mark  Sollis
Mark Sollis
- Treasurer - Solutions Consultant -

My first “real” job was at a local Broker doing real Broker stuff – you know – writing the cover-notes, making the tea and trying hard not to keep doing mis-quotes out of the Eagle Star Rating guide – in fact all those things that are now done by machines (including the mis-quotes!)

From there and following some years underwriting Renewals at GRE and NB and Rnl specials at Sphere Drake, made a slight career deviation when I started at Misys Dataller in 1988 as a Training Rep. 25 different jobs, 3 Company name changes, 12 directors and 60 different staff direct reports later (and after fixing everything I was asked to fix!), I moved on to pastures new at Brightside Group. There I looked after 7 staff running, developing, maintaining, reporting on and updating the Open GI platform for the retail side of the Group.

A later move “cross country” to The A&A Group Ltd in 2012, broadens my horizons with Open GI, CDL and SSP platforms to manage, maintain and upgrade – Happy Days …..!!

It’s a well known fact that suppliers can only offer limited and generic advice, so in August 2016 was launched. An independent Consultancy and Training provider to help Brokers get more from their systems and Office applications through tailored solutions and expert advice.

Overall my time spent at and working within the industry with a multitude of software providers and supporting applications, has given me a comprehensive understanding of appropriate, cost effective products and services to grow your chosen business channel.

Mark brings a valued technical resource to the team

Photo of  Barbara  Pena
Barbara Pena
- Administrator - Open GI User Group

Barbara is the first person you contact when you telephone or write to us in our Wolverhampton Office.  She became involved with the User Group in September 1986 whilst working as a Secretary for Deaville Insurance Brokers.  As the User Group began to grow she gave up her position as Secretary and came to work full time for the User Group.

She says “Over the last 24 years I have seen the User Group evolve from 40 members to become one of the largest software house User Groups in the UK and I am very proud to have been involved with the User Group from the beginning.  My main priority has always been to ensure that the User Group is run to a high standard and in a professional manner.”

Photo of  Mark  Searcy
Mark Searcy
- Secretary - Director – Alan Blunden Insurance

Mark has worked in Insurance since leaving education in 1989. Having started with a local broker in Nottingham, Mark went on to join a specialist Insurance Company and spent 14 years progressing from an underwriting administrator to Underwriting Director.

Marks’ background is predominately commercial and property risks. In 2011 Mark was offered a position to become a Director of Alan Blunden Insurance Brokers, which was a life long ambition to get into the broking world and moved from the Midlands to sunny Southend on Sea to run the retail broking division. Mark runs a team of enthusiastic members and is always looking for new ways to provide a first class service to his clients and add value. He truly believes the future very much lies with the service and support a local broker can provide to clients.

Photo of  Bryan  Whitfield
Bryan Whitfield
- President - Director - John Russell Insurance Services Ltd

Bryan started work in Insurance at the age of 16 direct from school, when the band he was in didn’t hit the Big Time.

He  worked up from fetching the papers and sandwiches in a Birmingham brokers to doing the usual motor and household insurance, which included a few stars like Kenny Baker ( R2 D2 in star wars), Bev Bevan and Jeff Lyn (ELO).

Two years after moving to a West Browmich Broker in 1978, Bryan looked for an IT system and eventually chose Misys. He has continued using the system in various guises even to this day where he now works at John Russell which he joined in 2005

Bryan regularly attended the User Group Meetings and like Phil, went to the loo and came back voted in as West Midlands Regional Chairman. In his 15- 20 years on the committee, he has been editor of the User Group magazine, Vice Chairman, Chairman and now President.

“I have never been a ‘techi’ but I do know what I want the system to do.” Bryan goes on to explain that “The User Group has always been a voice for all types of user – techie and non techie – and has helped hundreds of Companies and individulas over that time to get the best out of their systems and make the most from their investment in technology”

Photo of  Tracey  Filtness
Tracey Filtness
- Committee - Associate Director - Coast Insurance

One of the Open GI User Group’s newest committee members, Tracey has the best part of a decade’s experience working with Open GI at specialist insurance provider, Coast.

After leaving school in 2005, Tracey joined Coast – known in those days as Park Home Insurance Services Ltd – as an office junior, quickly gaining a place in the sales team where she handled new business enquiries, renewals, MTAs and cancellations. Her career continued to expand throughout the business as she became involved in the IT and marketing departments before her extensive industry and systems knowledge earned her the role of Project Manager, overseeing both Coast’s marketing and business IT activities, in particular developing Open GI as a core system for the company.

Tracey’s most recent project has been to create a bespoke quotation and purchasing solution for Coast within Open GI, which enables the firm to enhance sales of its niche insurance products using the system.

Photo of  Matthew  Jones
Matthew Jones
- Committee - IT Manager - Watkin Davies Insurance Consultants

Matthew joined Watkin Davies in 1999 and worked in the personal lines department while undertaking IT training. Over the years this has included the various packages from Open GI.

He has recently taken a full time IT role with a focus on using Open GI to develop business efficiencies, this has included setting up Management reports, automating a Property scheme and helping with company compliance.

Matthew is responsible for creating all documents and frames for Watkin Davies and enjoys using calculations to make processes and letters simpler.

Photo of  Kate  Meakin
Kate Meakin
- Committee - Account Executive – Eastlake & Beachell Ltd

Kate joined Eastlake & Beachell Ltd in 2010 as cover for maternity leave but 6 years later is still there! Kate has spent time across each department in the business whilst studying for her insurance qualifications and has now gained her DipCII qualification. Her role has now spilt between insurance and the general running of the business which focuses on IT, the Open GI system and compliance.

Kate joined the committee of the User Group in 2016 as she feels it is a valuable asset to the wider Open GI community.

Photo of  Mark  Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson
- Committee - Partner - Norton Insurance Brokers

Mark only joined the user group in 2010 as he believes a thriving independent support system is vital in keeping the broking business community informed of real world (and useful!) changes to the OGI platform.

He has been using Open GI since 2001 when he joined Norton Insurance as Partner looking after sales, IT and HR and manages their buy and renew online integrations. Norton Insurance primarily sells classic car and specialist vehicle insurance where they trade as Heritage and, motor trade insurance where they are known as Tradesure.

Mark is an active member of his local round table, is a bit on and off with growing a beard and lives opposite a park in Birmingham.