Chief distribution officer says the insurer must be ‘much better at articulating’ to brokers the areas where it is ‘hungry for growth’

Aviva has responded to feedback from its broker partners by committing to add 10% more underwriters to its regional trading teams, clarifying its risk appetite parameters and supporting brokers’ activities with technology-driven insights.

Although the insurer already has 400 underwriters working within its regional teams, it plans to add “another 10% or so to that group, directly at the request of brokers”, explained Adam Winslow, general insurance chief executive for UK and Ireland at Aviva.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times following the publication of Aviva’s 2021 year-end financial results on 2 March 2022, Winslow said: “Brokers, [which] are the lifeblood of our commercial lines business, told us that they wanted more regional coverage.”

Gareth Hemming, Aviva’s chief distribution officer, added that “the whole purpose” of this regional underwriter expansion “is to make it really easy for brokers to access decision-makers – whether that’s manually underwritten business or digitally underwritten business”.

He continued: “We know that one of the biggest determinants of broker placement is the ability to get to somebody who can make a decision.

“All of our investment in people is about underwriting capability, but also to give brokers really fast and easy access to decision-makers, whether that’s digitally or manually.”

For Winslow, having more “boots on the ground” will also help to balance anecdotal industry-wide broker service complaints arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the move to increased homeworking.

“Brokers say underwriters have lost their trading edge having worked from home, [so] getting them out physically, working with brokers and seeing clients [is positive],” Winslow explained.

“We give our underwriters a huge amount of delegated authority, obviously within the right guardrails and guidelines of a system, but we want them to use that authority.”

Winslow confirmed that Aviva is still actively recruiting underwriters, but that it has already hired about half of the staff needed to hit its minimum 10% boosted regional underwriting team target.

‘Hungry for growth’

Alongside this staffing ambition, Aviva also plans “to be really clear on what we do want to write” because the insurer is “hungry for growth in particular areas”, Hemming said.

He explained: “Big insurance companies are very good at telling people what they don’t want to do. One of the bits of feedback that we’ve had is ‘tell us what you do want to do’.

“So, we will be very proactive - and this is where coming back [to] the office has helped as well. You [can] go and spend time with brokers, [have] good discussions with them and be really clear on our appetite.

“We are hungry for growth in particular areas. We need to be much better at articulating where those [areas] are, where we’re competitive and where we can help brokers retain and win clients.”

Winslow agreed that Aviva needs to do a “really good job of explaining what we want, where we’ve got skills and capabilities [and] where we’ve got appetite”.

He cited the insurer’s global corporate and specialty (GCS) business as an example – this arm now writes risks that it didn’t five years ago.

In particular, Winslow believes Aviva has more work to do to communicate its risk appetite around specialty and London market risks.

Tech-driven insights

The third prong of Aviva’s broker focus is around utilising insights powered by its Commercial Intelligence Tool, which initially launched in September 2019.

This platform “uses a whole range of external data and automation activity to enable us to help brokers understand where we’ve got customers who may be underinsured or provide customers with quotes for wider sets of cover than they’ve got with us at the moment”, Hemming explained.

“This is all about helping the broker give the fullest advice they possibly can to the client,” he added.

Aviva additionally wants to develop partnerships with insurtechs and fintechs moving forward, Winslow confirmed, in order to tap into different market segments in different ways. The insurer plans to announce one such collaboration shortly.

Etrading emphasis

Winslow additionally noted that etrading will remain a focus for Aviva because it is “seeing more brokers transact more digitally”, even for “risks historically that brokers would have used a more manual process for”.

He believes this is because brokers “themselves are trying to make their businesses more digital, more effective, more efficient”.

He continued: “We can see a trend of the average type of business being transacted digitally, it’s going to grow in terms of premium or complexity over time.

“We absolutely want to accommodate that choice and meet brokers where they want to be met.”

Brokers can take part in Insurance Times’ annual etrading survey until 20 March 2022.