Covéa Insurance’s personal lines director Carol Geldard reviews the first two years of Provident direct motor sales

Covéa Insurance’s direct brand Provident is approaching its second birthday, and its parent is proud of its progress.

“Provident will be two in February, but it’s by no means a naughty toddler,” according to Covéa’s personal lines director, Carol Geldard.

“The launch was incredibly smooth, and the feedback from customers has been very positive,” Geldard said over breakfast at Kings Cross Station, London, as she broke her journey from her home base in Halifax to Covéa’s offices in Reading.

It’s still early days, and Provident has only done the first year renewals so far, but the signs are promising, Geldard said.

A specialist motor brand, Provident has built up a share of over 20% of Covéa’s motor book so far, and the proportion is building further.

“It’s currently over 20%, but when it levels out it will be about a third,” she said.

So the bulk of Covéa’s motor business will continue to be conducted through the broker channel.

Geldard was up on stage in December at the Insurance Times Awards dinner to collect the award of Personal Lines Insurer of the Year (pictured).

Provident was launched at least partly to give Covéa a better feel of the market. According to Geldard, the direct channel has given the company a better insight into customer requirements and customer behaviour, and that has helped improve its offering through brokers too.

“When we were intermediated only, it was like operating with one hand tied behind your back,” she said.

“Direct sales means you can see the whole market. You can see what the customers are doing. You can see where you’re competitive.”

Provident is only available through aggregators, but Covéa has put together a panel of customers, providing feedback on everything from policy design to claims to dual pricing.

“We did that for the renewal process, and for digitising the claims journey,” she said. “We use the Provident customer panel to test ideas.”

She said the panel helps keep Covéa grounded and close to the market.

“It’s very easy to be insular, like you know all the answers,” she said. The panel has provided useful insights for Covéa.

“We’re asking customers about the renewal process,” she said.

And the verdict from the panel?

“They don’t like being automatically opted in,” and they are firmly against dual pricing.

“We won’t offer a better price for a new customer than for a customer who’s renewing,” Geldard said. While that might suit insurers who are chasing volume, and relying on customer inertia, it doesn’t suit Covéa’s business model.

“We do make money out of motor, but sustainable, profitable growth is our mantra,” she said.

“At times our volumes might drop, but that is just what we have to do to ensure sustainable, profitable growth.

“We want to grow our business, but it will be in a very disciplined way.“