The high net worth market has a distinct USP of providing a specialist service with a personal touch - but as Covid-19 causes face-to-face interaction to dwindle while digital communications take the reins, is the sector therefore suffering? Industry experts share their views

WE ASKED: ”How can high net worth providers prove their value under current conditions?”

William Cooper, managing director, Stanhope Cooper

William Cooper 2

William Cooper

”High net worth insurers and MGAs must keep rates stable and there should be no double digit increases for the time being. Although over the long-term, the market needs to harden as many policies remain significantly under-priced.

”They must continue to do what they are renowned for, which is settling claims fairly, consistently and quickly. HNW insurers must keep to this spirit of actively looking to settle claims as opposed to interpreting policy wordings in their own favour.

”Look at ancillary services, like counselling or helplines for stress and mental health. More companies need to look at the mental health of not just their employees, but their clients too. Many policyholders will be suffering financially given the current climate and insurance is traditionally an area where people will risk less policy coverage for a cheaper premium.

”Why not look to follow the lead of AXA XL and offer homeowners a three-year deal with fixed and minimal increases in premium? Insurers need to look at rewarding their loyal clients. We have seen this sea of change throughout the mass consumer market, but I have not yet seen enough loyalty or value provided to a client who has remained with a HNW insurer for a sustained period of time.”

Barry O'neill 4 - sitting

Barry O’Neill

Barry O’Neill, managing director, Home and Legacy 

“While the current restrictions continue to cause disruption and challenges to all, in some ways they’ve highlighted the value of the high net worth insurance customer experience.

”All customers are facing the current conditions with their own unique circumstances - high net worth providers specialise in treating each customer’s case individually, from bespoke underwriting to dedicated claims handling, all underpinned by a high touch customer service model.

”Simply put, high net worth providers can prove their value under the current conditions by continuing to do what they do best – offering bespoke customer service.

Technology is key in helping to do this. Since lockdown measures were introduced, continuity of service became a critical factor. It was partly about having the technical capability to get staff set up from home with full system and telephony access. But further to that,  companies like ours with digital solutions already in place to offer channel choice and digital automation find themselves in an enhanced position, as expert employees can concentrate their efforts on understanding and responding to specific customer needs. The value of this will always be highlighted during any time of crisis.”

Annmarie Camp, head of personal risk services, Chubb

Annmarie Camp

Annmarie Camp

“The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has been a challenge for all of us, but one I am proud to say we have risen to at Chubb. With our entire team working remotely, we had to adapt quickly and effectively. Our aim was to ensure we could operate in such a way that clients and brokers could scarcely notice any difference.

”Of course, social distancing means some differences are inevitable, particularly around home visits. Our priority from the outset was to ensure the safety of our clients and staff so we switched to video appraisals, with customers doing their own filming. We also undertook risk consulting by phone.

”However, due to the nature of what we do, a serious claims event does mean that an urgent home visit is sometimes unavoidable. We had one such incident where an escape of water in an apartment block threated to destroy some rare 16th century furniture as well as damage fine artworks. Following strict guidelines and coordinating with one of our specialist partners, we sent a small team wearing personal protective equipment to stabilise the situation and limit any further damage, which they did to the delight of both customer and broker.

”We have always looked to go the extra mile for our clients because that is how we distinguish ourselves. The pandemic has not stopped us doing this – it just means we need to be even more resourceful and creative.”

Mark Pierce, operations director, Criterion Adjusters

Mark Pierce

Mark Pierce

“In our high net worth arena, service and that personal touch is a really important part – take that away and one of the big differentiators that we’ve got becomes less powerful.

“However, we’ve always had in our tool bag, so to speak, the ability to do what we would call a virtual visit. We’ve offered this to insurers and brokers over the years; they’ve not been particularly interested because they want that personal touch. But, when that’s not an option anymore, then you go to virtual visits. The vast majority of what we have done recently has been on that basis. The exception is where a property is empty or where there’s been very serious damage that’s rendered the house unoccupiable, such as a serious fire or water escape; then it’s been perfectly safe for loss adjustors to go in.

“In the cold light of day, we are social animals. We all like that interaction and to my mind, there will be no substitute for that face-to-face visit.

“My personal view is that at the non-technical, lower value, higher volume end, I can see more stuff being done through virtual visits, with less physical visits being required. But in high net worth – with higher value, more complex claims – there really is a need for that human touch.”