Insurance Times asks industry experts how brokers and insurers can better collaborate

Alan Scott, retail intermediary director, Axa Retail Insurance 

Alan Scott, Axa Retail director

Alan Scott

Relationships remain vitally important in the insurance market, so while we have adapted to hybrid working at Axa, there is no replacement for face-to-face engagement. Over the past few months, we have definitely enjoyed re-engaging in person with new and existing broker partners.

Honesty and clarity are key to successful partnerships.

The most productive and rewarding relationships are where both partners are really honest - both in calling out when issues arise and in celebrating success.

Having clear objectives from the outset is also key, so that all parties know what they are trying to achieve together.

An overall ‘partnership’ approach is crucial – insurance is what we do together, but we need to continuously ask ourselves what more we can do to support our partners. We are focused on strengthening our partnerships with brokers in a way that helps them to grow their business and develop their people.

Being able to support customers with the right products and service is essential, so working with broker partners is a key way in which we continually evolve. This helps us deliver a diverse offering which works on an individual level, whether that’s standard home and car insurance, or niche and specialist cover. 

Biba’s annual conference in Manchester is just around the corner, so I look forward to seeing current broker partners there, as well as developing new relationships. 

Chris Chatterton, chief commercial officer, Handl Group 

The recent Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Reports for personal and commercial lines - published in February and March 2022 respectively - concluded that insurers have generally struggled across two key metrics - service standards and relationship management. Hard to argue with that.

Chris Chatterton, chief commercial officer, Handl Group

Chris Chatterton

Closing these two gaps is essential because poor service to brokers feeds through to a drop in end customer satisfaction. Working at a business that has relationships with both insurers and brokers, I can vouch for the value of cooperation and a collective approach to problem solving.

Thankfully, insurers have, by and large, acknowledged their service and relationship issues, which have partly been born out of the Covid-19 pandemic. But insurers now need to sponsor honest conversations with broking partners and the supply chain to make progress, agreeing where best to invest resources to generate improvements in overall broker and customer satisfaction.

That may include getting rid of sacred cows. We’ve all had time to reflect during the pandemic and my reflection is that customers don’t care who they deal with, as long as the service they receive is really good.

The conclusions arising from the Five Star Reports should create an appetite for a collective rethink.

Ashwin Mistry, non-executive director, The Clear Group and Broker Insights

Ashwin Jan 12 017_C_L

Ashwin Mistry

Starting with the basics, both insurers and brokers need to remember that we are working for the end customer.

Everyone recognises that trust has been severely eroded in almost all aspects of life amid recent economic events, like the Covid-19 pandemic. The foundation of insurance is trust, so we have to be torchbearers in this area.

The actions I would therefore champion are genuine recognition and empathy of the plight of the end customer, forming genuine partnerships around understanding the new world of risk and sharing information to better ascertain all aspects of risk and underwrite for better outcomes.

Avoiding greed in the pursuit of land grab by insurers and higher commission demands by brokers to serve external masters is also key, as well as reinstating face-to-face communications, all while refusing to fall into the trap of laying blame on any or all external influences.

Everyone talks about doing the right thing, so maybe it is time to actually live the words.

Gareth Hemming, chief distribution officer, Aviva

We pride ourselves on developing strong, long-term relationships with the brokers we trade with, but we know there are some key ingredients which help to keep both sides happy.

Gareth Headshot 1 happy formal, Aviva

Gareth Hemming

We know that speed of service and ease of interaction are key for brokers that want to be able to quote on a wide range of risks quickly. That’s why we announced in March this year that we are accelerating investment in our regional broking channel, to provide greater access for brokers to our underwriting capability.

We believe that by extending our underwriters’ authority and licenses to make decisions that help brokers to trade, we can further improve our service.

Having a fast, easy trading platform for brokers to use is also essential to developing strong trading relationships. That’s why we continue to invest in our digital channels.

This year, we will be expanding our online product portfolio to help brokers place business that’s typically been difficult to do online.

We’re complimenting this with increased underwriting resource in our digital channel to handle risks that fall out of appetite and accelerate our speed of service on referrals.

Roy Standish, distribution director, James Hallam 

As we start to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, many within the industry are reflecting on the impact it has had on our industry.

Roy.Standish, James Hallam

Roy Standish 

We are an industry which is accustomed to in-person interactions.

While the share of business that is traded electronically has undoubtedly increased over the course of the last decade, insurers’ frontline staff and intermediaries remain the primary distribution channels across most product lines.

Covid-19 has accelerated investment in technology, digital and data at a time when the majority of UK businesses have demonstrated an ability to flex business models, work remotely and adapt to rapidly changing customer needs.

With increasing numbers now returning to offices, there’s a renewed enthusiasm for increased face-to-face interactions.

At our heart, we remain a people business and the breadth and depth of relationships between insurers and brokers has never been more important.

It’s very encouraging, therefore, to hear about major insurers making significant investments in frontline, regional broking and sales staff, as well as opening new offices.

Underwriting decisions are best made closest to the broker and client, in an environment of like-minded, empowered individuals.

Getting back to the basics - and executing them well - while also harnessing new technologies and unleashing the power of data insights will build an exciting platform for the future.

Alan Houston, UK regional sales director, RSA

One of the many things the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us all is how to make better use of technology, which the industry has mostly relied on to maintain relationships over the last two years.

Alan Houston, RSA

Alan Houston 

Now that Covid-19 restrictions have largely ended, it presents an opportunity for many of us to reconnect in person.

Commercial insurance is a people business and, while there’s definitely a time and place for video conferencing technology, nothing quite beats the impact and the buzz you get from meeting in-person.

Another habit that seems to have grown since the pandemic is an overreliance on emails. Picking up the phone can be much more effective, while also helping to strengthen relationships. It’s something I’m encouraging my team to do more frequently.

As we finally reach the end of this pandemic - and with the conference season now in full swing - it feels like the perfect opportunity for insurers and brokers to agree together as partners how we keep the relationship active in a post-pandemic world.

We can work together to find a new balance in how we communicate – whether it’s through in-person meetings, video calls or over the phone.