Our survey of senior brokers reveals that insurers' service to brokers is perceived as poor. Andrew Holt reports.

You would think that insurers would have a vested interest in maintaining good, solid support for brokers. But you would be wrong. Insurance Times recently undertook an in-depth survey of senior broker attitudes, and insurers' lack of broker support stood out.

Worryingly, many insurers seem to be talking the talk, but not walking the walk as far as supporting brokers are concerned. Insurers are failing to deliver the sort of rock solid support that brokers feel would enable them to deliver their full potential as insurance distributors.

In our survey, respondents were asked to award scores for 12 insurers most mentioned by brokers. They were asked to award each of their insurers one to five points across a range of criteria; claims handling; IT connectivity; marketing support and access to key decision makers.

Combining these five scores provided an overall score of 25 for each insurer.

Insurers with fewer than five full sets of broker ratings were discounted from this analysis. Importantly, it represents the views of the higher echelons of the broking community and the results are a reflection of their experience and subjectivity.

On this basis, Chubb came top overall and achieved market leading scores on claims handling and marketing support. Fortis, MMA, Lloyd's syndicates and businesses followed behind, all scoring significantly above the average for overall service.

On rating support, Fortis scored best, while Ecclesiastical was the highest rated for decision makers.

In the lower half of the table, most insurers were not far behind the average. But AIG and Royal & SunAlliance would appear to have some work to do on broker service.

In general, brokers were a lot less satisfied with insurers' ' ' marketing support than they were with most other areas of service. Few readers, though, are likely to find this a surprise.

Insurers consistently scored lower on marketing support than on other areas, with only Chubb and Ecclesiastical gaining impressive ratings on this front. There was also some dissatisfaction with IT connectivity - though MMA clearly impressed brokers here.

Brokers revealed widespread frustration about insurers' perceived failure to prioritise and adequately support brokers.

Many respondents could find little good to say about their dealings with insurers. Many cited "poor" service and many more implied it.

The list of criticisms from brokers on insurer service is quite an indictment. Take a look at these comments.

What they said

"Claims are disappointing." "Neither clients nor ourselves are kept up to date."

"We are always having to chase to find out the current position." "There is hardly any written correspondence from insurers."

"Generally they are too reliant on a phone call to assume contract certainty, rather than providing written hard copy evidence."

"Our relationship with insurers is that of cover holder, not broker, and therefore we have a different set of requirements and contacts and at a different level than your average broker."

"Our own surveys indicate that service to brokers is poorer than in previous year and below an acceptable standard from most insurers."

"Claims handling is poor across the majority of companies, mainly due to outsourcing of services. We are not kept informed on the progress of the claim and the service from loss adjusters varies".

"Access to decision makers is poor, particularly on clams service. Change to embrace technological improvement is ' ' too slow. When it comes to change the market is a bureaucratic nightmare."

"Insurer service is still far too poor and about the only way this improves in the provincial market is where the underwriter is based in your own office or you hold a binding authority."

"Within personal lines the service is falling, and in particular access to decision makers. The service on commercial is staying level, but does vary by insurer."

"Insurer service to the broker market is generally worse then ever, with a marked deterioration in handling claims, especially with NIG."

"Overall the service provided by the insurers' market is very poor. The only acceptable service is borne out of relationship and critical mass."

"There is still a lot of room for improvements across the board. Information is not offered it has to be requested."

"The low scores nearly always emanate from poor communication skills and lack of management control."

"Service with all insurers - with a very small number of exceptions - is poor."

"Insurers' service levels are still declining and there is a lack of experience staff in key areas."

"Claims service is worryingly poor."

In the long run, the airing of these views can only be a good thing, by encouraging insurers to adapt higher standards.

But will they? Brokers can only hope.

- For more information on the Insurance Times research Senior Broking Executives, speak to Peter Joy on 0207 618 3481.