Pilot study allow 150 brokers to access SME policies via insurer's extranet

Groupama is set to pilot automatically-rated policies for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

According to chief executive Pierre Lefèvre, the £680m GWP insurer has begun pilot studies with the first of 150 brokers. "We are looking at shops, offices and selected trade policies and these can be accessed though our extranet," he said.

If the pilot is successful, the electronically-accessed policies will be rolled out to other brokers in the summer.

"The idea is that brokers will be able to save time and therefore improve their customer service," said Lefèvre.

While the initial service will be driven by the extranet and require re-keying into Groupama's back office system, Lefèvre said the aim is to develop a straight-through system.

The move follows AXA and Norwich Union's lead. AXA's businessrisk.com service already gives brokers access to many SME policies and Norwich Union is set to launch a rival system in the summer.

It is understood this is being trialled now.

NU survey praises SME service

SMEs are more satisfied with the service from their broker than their bank, according to research by Norwich Union.

And almost 50% of SMEs expect the broker to make the final decision when it comes to choosing an insurer, although knowing the provider is a key component in decision making for most companies.

SME-broker relations are long-standing affairs, with nearly 80% of SMEs claiming to have worked with a broker for "a long time".

Up to 50% do business with a small, local broker, while the rest are split almost equally between regional and national brokers.

Keith Byrne, head of knowledge and customer development at Norwich Union, said: "It is clear from our research that there is a high level of satisfaction among SMEs with the service from brokers, especially in providing specialist advice and access to the best mix of cover. Where the customer requires advice, the broker is invaluable."

The research was carried out by Holden & Pearmain which sampled 511 decision makers in companies with fewer than 250 employees across a range of sectors.