On March 21st I took to the stage in the commercial centre at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, as part of this year’s ELCC (Energy Live Consultancy Conference).
How was it?
Well, without wishing to sound glib, it was a genuine pleasure. In my experience these types of industry events live or die by the energy and engagement that those in attendance are prepared to invest and, in this regard, there was an abundance. Of course, the venue itself also had a part to play and as you’d likely expect, given the investment in Manchester City Football Club over recent years, it was a state-of-the-art facility set against a panoramic view of the stadium. The event was well attended by a healthy blend of both suppliers and TPI’s from all walks of the industry.
What did we learn? What was discussed?
Well, from both the presentations I saw and the conversations I had there’s clearly an undercurrent of uncertainty bubbling away in the industry. Not surprising given the political situation in the UK and the ever-present spectre of increased regulation hovering in everyone’s peripheral vision. Despite this the pervading feeling I felt was one of optimism and opportunity. This manifested itself directly within the session that I ran, it was titled ’20:20 Vision – The Future UK Energy Brokers’ and explored current and future trends surrounding the role of the energy broker. As part of the presentation I felt it was important to understand the views of the room, so I invited the 50+ members of the audience to participate in a live poll. The first question I asked was light touch but quite telling.
As mentioned above, there was a dominant sense of positivity at the event and with 78% of the room feeling ‘pretty good’ or ‘tip-top and raring to go’ it’s not surprising.
The next poll asked a lot more of respondents as I posed the question ‘What do you see as the biggest challenge you face in the next 10 years?’.
Based on the above, and industry noise, the fear of what increased regulation might bring is dominating our collective outlook; but as is true of many things the fear of the unknown can be far worse than the reality. For example, if we look at GDPR, the reality has been far less detrimental to our industry than many thought or feared, certainly, for those operating within ethical and commercial guidelines. To that end, I could easily argue that an increased amount of regulation could prove to be positive for those TPI’s that adhere to best practice and genuinely have the needs of their customers at heart.
Conversely, I then asked the room where it saw future opportunities presenting themselves in the next 10 years. Not surprisingly, with so much momentum behind it, the opportunities arising from green and sustainability products is most visible to TPI’s. As more and more businesses implement strict directives around energy management, there’s clearly going to be increasing demands for TPI’s to provide professional services and consultancy in this area. Another interesting insight is the acknowledgement from TPI’s (27%) that there will be a need to diversify beyond energy sales. We’ve seen this rising trend for a few years now and have already designed a suite of services to help brokers move into new areas such as Water or Site Works.
The final question had the potential to backfire on me as I gave the room the freedom to express themselves with an open set of responses as I asked, ‘What 3 words would you use to describe the next 10 years?’
I feel the resulting word cloud above paints an accurate picture (with the exception of a few rogue entries) of where the Industry’s head is currently at. There’s no doubting that there is uncertainty and apprehension but there’s also a lot of positivity as TPI’s look at adapt to changing market forces. As the UK’s largest business energy aggregator, we know we have a critical role to play in this, helping to define a sustainable and profitable future for UK energy brokers.