As the industry emerges from the tangle of policy wordings unraveled during the FCA’s business interruption action, the case for consistency from insurance businesses has never been clearer

By Editor Katie Scott

On Wednesday, I interviewed Partners& chief executive Phil Barton and Markel UK’s sales and marketing director Nic Brown as part of our Insurance2025 conference agenda, discussing the future of commercial lines broking.

Although Barton delivered some punchy and memorable opinions – including that brokers have “become incredibly lazy in the provision of advice” – it is something that Brown said that has stuck in my mind.

He told online delegates that “consistency is synonymous with trust”.

Although Brown was responding to a question regarding the consistency of Markel UK’s five-star rating in Insurance Times’s annual commercial lines reportthe insurer has achieved top marks three years running now – I couldn’t agree more with Brown’s sentiment.

In Brown’s own words, the Covid-19 pandemic and the related FCA test case around business interruption insurance caused “the worse possible media attention” the industry has perhaps ever seen.

And although business growth, increasing gross written premiums and boosting revenue figures are typical targets for most organisations, if nothing else, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of consistency and being able to deliver the basics well on a continuing basis rather than flitting towards and between innovations like a moth attracted to the light.

I’m not saying innovation or growth is a bad thing, certainly not. However, with many business clients still struggling due to the ramifications of the pandemic – in particular, SMEs – there’s something to be said for focusing on providing consistent, steady support and being trusted to fulfil your end of the bargain as businesses try to navigate these uncertain waters.

In Wednesday’s spotlight session, Barton agreed with Brown here. He added: “Being reliable is an underrated value. Being there when your clients need you is an underrated value. We need to return to those fundamentals. They’re fundamentals of client service.

“If the industry can return to those and get away from trying to generate cash in the short term from policies that generate bad profit rather than good profit, then we will prosper and we will, most importantly, help our clients prosper.

“One of the issues that has been prevalent in our marketplace over the last year is that clients have not understood what they’ve been buying. It’s partly about the opaque nature of policies and some of the covers we provide and partly it’s about an inconsistent approach.

“If we adopt an approach which is about helping those clients understand, being more transparent in the covers, then that will build trust as well. And then delivering upon it of course.”

As the FCA’s Financial Lives survey earlier this year showed, trust in the insurance sector is severely lacking.

Therefore, a focus on consistent performance and the consistent delivery of good quality services must become a priority to help the sector recoup customer trust – although the pandemic has resulted in an abundance of opportunities for insurance firms, corporate clients are still facing an abundance of challenges that cannot be overlooked.