The broker can provide advice on the appropriate, differentiated product, rather than collecting a handful of cheap quotes
Ian Owen, head of the Zurich's personal lines business is not content with being in charge of Britain's fourth largest personal lines insurer. "I want Zurich to be a strong number three in the market," he declares. Royal Bank Insurance Services (Direct Line and Churchill) and Norwich Union at numbers one and two in the market, respectively, are safe for now, according to Owen, but Royal&SunAlliance (R&SA) is in his sights. He reckons that R&SA's premium income is just ahead of Zurich on private motor, but further ahead on home insurance. And, of course, the growth has to be profitable - sanity growth not vanity growth.So just how does Owen plan to leapfrog R&SA? Organic growth through brokers is the concise answer. And small regional, personal lines brokers are the key.Over the past year, Zurich in general and Owen in particular, have been preparing for the forthcoming assault on R&SA. The Eagle Star brand, which is particularly linked to Zurich's direct business, is set to disappear and one of its key organs in Bournemouth has been closed. The announcement was closely linked to the flying pigs advertising campaign that told customers to go to their local brokers. A new campaign is set to start across the regional press that is geared at driving up broker business. Owen says that the call centre number leads to operators who will try to point customers in the direction of local brokers. Of course, adds Owen, Zurich won't turn business down if customers insist on direct, but he is expecting that 30% or less of the premium will come direct. Zurich has also been busy refining its product range over the past 18 months and it has specifically aimed at producing products that are targeted at different demographic groups, such as a mid-net worth product and a no-frills comprehensive car product. This places the broker at the heart of the strategy, because it allows it to provide advice on the appropriate, differentiated product, rather than just collecting a handful of cheap quotes, explains Owen.Service centres have been rationalised ahead of the campaign and a new centre is due to come on stream in Cardiff next February, says Owen."Zurich is not the cheapest. We are about quality service and quality products," says Owen. And this is no idle boast. Zurich has been voted personal lines insurer of the year by brokers for the past two years at the Insurance Times Awards and it has been general insurer of the year twice in the past three years. Owen reckons that it is time for Zurich to leverage the goodwill of UK brokers against its rivals. Of the large composites, Zurich is certainly positioning itself as the friend of the personal lines broker. R&SA is spending a lot of money promoting its direct arm More Th>n, notes Owen. Can the strategy succeed? R&SA has demonstrated that it will cut volume to hold up profitability and has pulled back from the high street chains and also cut its £400m premium income from Halifax General Insurance this year. Norwich Union has decided that supporting small books of personal lines business through brokers is not profitable enough and is pursuing a successful strategy of taking personal lines intermediated business direct. And RBIS is direct dominated, but with a broker proposition through NIG, Devitt and Inter Group, which is likely to expand in the future. As part of its drive, Zurich has launched a compliance support package for brokers. Top brokers receive free help and others get subsidised consultancy.As well as compliance, Zurich has produced an options guide for brokers deciding their future ahead of FSA regulation (see compliance aid plan)."The time has passed for seminars and conferences," says Owen. "So the pressure is on R&SA and RBIS, of this four, to show their hands."
Compliance aid planIf, as a broker, you have decided that you want to become FSA authorised, Zurich has come up with a package of measures to help. The insurer has been communicating with brokers about compliance for more than a year in its newsletters and earlier this year, with the help of Stibbards Consulting, it held a series of seminars. If you missed out on these then here is what Zurich is offering now.
HeathchecksZurich is providing free compliance health checks for its key partner brokers. These health checks are available at a subsidised rate of £500 for other brokers.
Hands-on supportZurich has contracted consultant ICS, along with Stibbards, to provide corrective action. Subsidised rates have been negotiated to help brokers.
Crunch time for brokersZurich's five options for personal lines brokers
AuthorisationZurich will arrange a consultant to perform a compliance health check. This is free for personal lines partners - Zurich's top broker partners. Zurich will also subsidise further costs of consultancy. For non-partner brokers, visits can be arranged and preferential rates are available with recommended consultants. Commercial brokers should visit www.zurich.co.uk/commercial for advice.
Appointed representativeZurich will consider setting up appointed representatives where there is a strong business case (the risk under this regime is transferred to Zurich). Zurich has a dedicated team that can talk to brokers about this.
IntroducerZurich can appoint introducers who do not advise on sales. An agreement would be drawn up between Zurich (or an appointed representative of Zurich) and the introducer.
Zurich's mortgage networkBrokers would normally have to become appointed representatives of Zurich's advice network, but the insurer would offer support on meeting compliance with mortgage and insurance intermediation regulation. Brokers would be a franchisee of Britain's biggest mortgage introducer network.
Sell upZurich will act as a matchmaker between exiting agents, who wish to sell portfolios or their businesses, and acquisitive brokers.