The insurer has pursued ‘rigorous engagement’ with brokers in an effort to be ‘visible and engaged’ during the Covid-19 pandemic

“Obviously delighted” was the reaction of Gareth Hemming, chief distribution officer at Aviva UK, to the news that the insurer had regained the maximum ranking possible in this year’s Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Report: Commercial Lines 2022published in March 2022.

Aviva slipped down from an overall five star rating in 2021’s commercial lines report, to achieve a four star ranking last year. The insurer has bounced back this year, however - for example, Aviva achieved a five star rating for its overall quality of cover, earning the top spot amongst the insurers reviewed by 2022’s report.

Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Report: Commercial Lines 2022 measured insurer service in commercial lines across five key metrics, based on feedback from around 600 brokers. The five service factors explored in the report include: 

  • Claims: Fairness of settlement and speed.
  • Underwriting: Expertise, flexibility and support.
  • Quality of cover.
  • Relationship handling and management.
  • Policy documentation. Accuracy and transparency.

Aviva’s four star ratings last year in both policy documentation and relationship management improved to five this year.

The insurer also maintained its four star rating in underwriting experience and claims experience for 2022, albeit seeing a larger decline in these service areas compared to the other metrics.

Its claims experience score, for example, fell from 3.97 in 2020/21 to 3.79 for 2021/22, while its underwriting score declined from 3.84 in last year’s report to 3.74 in the latest edition.

Hemming said: “We were disappointed that we dropped down to four stars last year, but we were very pleased to get back up to five.

“We know we are only as good as our service and how we turn up day in, day out from a broker point of view.

“To be recognised as a five star [insurer] again is important to us – we really didn’t want to be down at the four star level and will continue to work to improve that score.

“We know we weren’t perfect in a number of areas and we continue to be focused on the things we can get better at.”

Understanding brokers ’in their entirety’

Relationship management is an area that Aviva has been “particularly focused on” over the last couple of years - a task that has been complicated by Covid-related travelling and working restrictions.

Hemming said: “Making as many of the team accessible and available as possible has been a very deliberate strategy. We didn’t want to hunker down and just survive - we wanted to be very visible and engaged, so it’s good to see that [was] appreciated.”

On top of conducting quarterly business reviews, Hemming added that Aviva has undertaken “rigorous engagement” with brokers, whether face-to-face or via video conferencing.

Given the sheer scale of changes that businesses are currently facing post-pandemic, it is important to keep connected to customers throughout the year, he said.

Dave Carey, Aviva’s director of mid-market and speciality lines, explained that this approach has extended to the company’s underwriting team too.

“Even during Covid times, we’ve been looking to make sure brokers have access to underwriting teams,” he explained.

As part of its engagement efforts, Carey noted the 200 loss prevention standards issued by Aviva to brokers. This guidance has helped brokers have those inevitably awkward discussions with clients as rates have hardened in the wake of the pandemic.

Carey said: “The hard market conditions prevalent through 2021 created difficult conversations for clients. Educating and supplying brokers with reasons why rates are moving forward and changes to appetite and exposure assists those conversations.”

Furthermore, Aviva’s account management teams have helped maintain good relationships with brokers by helping them combat issues that arise, continued Hemming.

“It’s not a new thing, but it’s paid particular dividends over the last 18 months to two years,” he explained. “It’s about understanding the broker in their entirety.”

These teams help Aviva to operate as “one team”, while ensuring that it gets in touch with brokers at the right time.

Identifying efficiencies

In terms of specific steps that Aviva has taken to boost its services in the past year, the push to automate its activities has freed up underwriters’ time to talk to brokers, said Hemming: “That’s enabled us to have broader conversations with brokers about the customer and making sure policies are set up more successfully.”

Carey added that the company’s digital commercial intelligence tools can help to identify any gaps in cover or underinsurance and bring them to the attention of brokers, which they - in turn - can raise with their clients.

He also highlighted Aviva’s drive to increase the capacity of its regional underwriting team - a process that has already started with the recruitment of 20 underwriters.

Added to that, Aviva is expanding the “breadth and depth” of its digital products, both through its own Fast Trade etrading platform and via software house Acturis.

He said: “Brokers will see new capacity and products being launched in that space.”

Hemming added that a further “big development” for Aviva has been the “gradual expansion” over the last 12 months of its suite of products available on Fast Trade - with more in the pipeline in terms of etrading capacity.

Carey cited Aviva’s new digital propositions for cyber and management liability as an example of these new products.

These offer digital solutions for customers ranging up to the regional mid-market size, meaning that commercial customers with a turnover of up to £250m per annum can either be served digitally or through regional teams.

Plus, new digital tools will give brokers the ability to make mid-term alterations to policies, continued Hemming. Traditionally, this has been written manually.

This “hybrid between digital and manual working” has been driven by feedback from brokers, Hemming added.

Although creeping digitalisation may sound like brokers are being cut out of the insurance value chain, Aviva emphasised that brokers continue to have a vital role to play in providing advice.

“Advice and the ability to engage with the market is essential and will continue to be,” said Carey.

Hemming believes that brokers shouldn’t be afraid to be “bold” about their role providing advice. He said: “Advice is a hugely valuable thing and [brokers] should be pleased to charge for it. They shouldn’t shy away from it and [should] be proud to talk about it.”