The insurer ‘never forces brokers down the eTrade path,’ says broker sales director 

Markel UK has made a “significant investment” in its digital capabilities which was this year reflected in the global specialty insurer’s four-star rating in Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Report: eTrading 2023.

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For the past two years Markel has obtained three stars survey, with this year’s result representing an improvement.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, John Dawson, broker sales director, said: “It is clear we are heading in the right direction.

“Our eTrading team Connect has embraced artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies, enhancing our underwriting processes.

“Machine learning allows us to add additional data points and enhance submissions, enabling the team to provide brokers with quick, informed and definitive answers to customer proposals.”

In addition to this, Markel have introduced a self-service online facility that offers greater flexibility for mid-term amendments on professional indemnity (PI) insurance business.

“Brokers now have more control and convenience in managing policy changes, which they can make any time even outside normal nine to five working hours,” Dawson continued.

People first

The insurer is also continuously investing in its people via what Dawson called a “truly people-first approach”.

He explained: “We grew our UK team by 25% in 2022 to support service levels and have invested in technology to enhance customer service by accelerating response times, improving the overall underwriting process and making access to our people even easier.”

This year’s eTrading survey found that 42% of brokers must wait two days or more for a referral to be cleared, whereas only 36% had a wait time of only one day.

However, Markel’s productivity for referrals for eTrading complex products has doubled year-on-year, with turnaround going from a 24 hour wait time to just two hours.

Dawson added: “Investing in technology has also enabled our underwriters more time to focus on complex risks that align with our appetite but fall outside of our standard terms. These risks are quickly triaged to our specialist underwriters so that they too can be handled quickly and efficiently.

Markel closely monitors broker feedback for this reason, he explained: “This valuable input helps us identify areas where we can introduce new initiatives and make further improvements.” 

For example, due to its broker feedback, Markel has doubled its threshold income for its eTraded charities and communities product from last year.

Dawson said: “This means that securing specialist cover became quicker and easier for thousands of charities and community groups at a time when many markets were drying up or imposing unsustainable price and cover restrictions.”

He explained that Markel recognises that its “people are the driving force behind our business and what we believe sets us apart.”

Broker frustration

Dawson continued: “It’s how we approach everything, from underwriting and claims to innovation and technology – it’s our promise to our brokers and customers.

“There is a soaring correlation between great service and new business for brokers and their customers. Insurers need to engage with their brokers to provide the great quality service that’s needed. Doing so mutually benefits both brokers and insurers and we’ve seen this with our own growth.”

He noted that in the 12 months post-pandemic the number of policyholders Markel UK was able to support grew by 10%.

This growth has been boosted by brokers moving books of business to the insurer due to frustration over service levels.

“A lack of phone support and reliance on chatbots has been a factor in brokers decision making, Dawson added.

“We never force brokers down the eTrade path. Put simply, however brokers want to trade with us that is how we will trade with them. Whether they choose eTrade, email, phone or an out of hours service, we’re there to accommodate their needs.”

It was also revealed in the survey that 42% of brokers used extranets due to ease of use, while only 21% used them due to being able to access a better price compared to a software house.

Dawson added: “We are constantly seeking ways to expand and evolve our online offerings.”

Markel uses data augmentation technology to support its underwiters and AI allows the insurer to provide fast definitive answers to referrals.

Dawson reiterated that Markel was a ”people-first business” that aims to genuinely collaborate with brokers to building honest, long-lasting, relationships that cannot be achieved solely via online live chats and technology. 

No one-size-fits-all 

Dawson explained: “That’s why we have underwriting decision makers available in seven convenient locations across the UK. We strongly believe in personal connections, offering brokers the flexibility to trade with us in-person, over the phone or online. We don’t believe in imposing a one-size-fits-all digital solution that doesn’t align with brokers’ needs.

“We will continue to develop our eTrade capability using the latest data led technologies where these deliver genuine value, but will always give brokers the trading choice with access to decision makers being key. Delivering value has, and always will be, our focus.”

On the flipside, the the 2023 eTrading report highlighted that 53% of brokers felts that both trading routes would become dominant in the next three to five years – this was 33% for broker management systems, but only 11% for extranets.

Dawson said: “Software houses are becoming the go to solution for brokers seeking process efficiency and streamlining. However, insurer extranets bring a number of advantages to the table, which brokers can’t access through software houses such as bespoke covers and access to sector specialist underwriters.”

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