After being crowned at this year’s Insurance Times Awards, data insight service Insurance DataLab explores the figures behind Aviva and Ageas’ successes in 2021

The Insurance Times Awards are an illustrious affair where the great and the good of the UK general insurance market turned out to celebrate the best in the business.

Some of the most prestigious categories of the night include the three Insurer of the Year awards, with Aviva picking up two gongs for General Insurer of the Year and Commercial Lines Insurer of the Year.

The insurer has had a good year when it comes to underwriting, with analysis of its Solvency and Financial Condition Reports (SFCRs) conducted by Insurance DataLab revealing an all lines combined operating ratio (COR) of 98.0% for 2020, compared to a market average of 99.2%.

This marks a 2.4 percentage point improvement for Aviva over the last 12 months, compared to a 0.8 percentage point improvement for the market as a whole - this moves the insurer back into profitable underwriting territory, after it reported a 100.4% COR for 2019.

Aviva’s improvement was fuelled by an 8.7 percentage point improvement in its overall loss ratio, which more than offset the 6.4 percentage point increase in the insurer’s expense ratio.

The insurer’s best performing line was its credit and surety business, with a reported COR of 83.7% for 2020 from gross written premium (GWP) of £35m. Other profitable lines for Aviva in 2020 include motor insurance, with a reported COR of 90.0%, medical expenses (93.7%), general liability (96.8%) and income protection (99.7%).

Aviva should be particularly pleased with the performance of its motor portfolio, given this accounts for more than a third of its overall GWP - premiums of £1.7bn for 2020 make it the insurer’s second largest line behind property insurance (£2.0bn).

The 90.0% motor COR reported by Aviva for 2020 is 2.6 percentage points ahead of the 92.6% UK average and also marks an 8.8 percentage point improvement on its own 98.8% COR reported for 2019.

Aviva also performed strongly in the Insurance Times Five Star Rating Reports, picking up a four star rating from brokers for its commercial lines performance with a score of 4.02 for 2020/21.

Brokers were particularly impressed with Aviva’s quality of cover – it picked up a five star rating for this metric with a score of 4.25, the third highest result of all the insurers analysed in the report.

When it comes to customer experience, Aviva was the fourth-highest ranked personal lines insurer in Insurance DataLab’s customer experience rankings, published in autumn 2021, with a score of 72% - some eight percentage points above the insurer average.

Ageas top for personal lines

When it comes to personal lines, it was Ageas that came out on top to clinch the gold after winning the industry vote for Personal Lines Insurer of the Year.

The insurer performed highly when it came to underwriting in 2020, reporting a COR across all its lines of business of 96.8%, marking three consecutive years of underwriting profits, according to analysis of industry SFCRs by Insurance DataLab.

Ageas’ most profitable line of business was motor insurance, with the insurer reporting a COR of 79.9% for 2020, down from 82.8% in 2019 and 91.0% for 2018.

The £725.1m of GWP the insurer brought in from motor insurance over the course of 2020 also makes it the biggest single line for Ageas, accounting for almost 60% of the insurer’s overall business.

And Ageas’ underwriting strategy in this product area means that the insurer has outperformed the UK’s average COR for this line of business in each of the last three years - particularly impressive given the highly competitive nature of the UK motor market.

Indeed, the insurer reported the fifth best motor insurance COR of 2020 - the second consecutive year it has reported a top five motor COR.

Ageas’ second-largest business line is property insurance, which brought in £412.0m of GWP in 2020, equalling more than a third of its total premiums.

And while a 109.0% property COR for 2020 does fall into unprofitable territory, it is still better than the 110.3% market average COR for this line of business.

Despite its 2020 property COR demonstrating a 4.9 percentage point worsening on the 104.1% Ageas reported for 2019, this deterioration is still not as bad as the 5.9 percentage point increase in the aggregate COR for the UK, which stood at 104.4% in 2019.

Customer and broker feedback

Away from underwriting, Ageas has also performed strongly in other areas - notably picking up a 70% score from Insurance DataLab’s autumn 2021 customer experience ratings. This is four percentage points higher than the market average and six percentage points higher than the insurer average.

Ageas’ success in this area was driven by its strong Trustpilot rating, with the insurer picking up a score of 88% from the consumer review website, equating to 10 percentage points above the market average.

59The 62% rating the insurer picked up from consumer group Fairer Finance was also the third best score of the 25 insurers analysed. This performance was fuelled by bagging top three rankings for both customer trust (59%) and happiness (65%), while Ageas’ trust rating was only bettered by table topping NFU Mutual.

On transparency, Fairer Finance gave Ageas a rating of 62% for autumn 2021, marginally ahead of the 61% industry average and a one percentage point improvement on its spring 2021 score.

This is also a seven percentage point improvement on the 55% rating Ageas received for transparency in 2020 and an impressive 13 percentage point improvement on the 49% rating awarded for 2019, as the insurer continues to make improvements to its pre-purchase journey.

When it comes to complaints handling, Ageas performed slightly below average, with an overall rating from Insurance DataLab of 58%, compared to an insurer average of 60%.

This score was based on an upheld rate of 31% across all personal lines complaints reaching the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), while claims volumes fell by 2%.

Despite this, Ageas’ handling of motor insurance complaints fared much better, with only 14.5% of FOS complaints being upheld in favour of the customer during the second quarter of 2021, compared to a market average of 27.2%.

Indeed, when it comes to Ageas’ complaints relating to the motor claims process, the FOS found in favour of the customer in just 5.9% of cases in Q2 2021 – this marks the best quarter for Ageas since Insurance DataLab started analysing complaints data in the second quarter of 2017.

The only other time the insurer reported a motor insurance FOS upheld rate below 15% was in the second quarter of 2020. Three of the insurer’s best four quarters have come since the beginning of 2020.

Ageas has also improved its performance in the Insurance Times Five Star Rating: Personal Lines report, picking up a score of 3.84 for 2020/21, compared to 3.82 for 2019/20 and 3.73 for 2018/19. This means that Ageas has earned a three star rating from brokers in each of the past three years.

In the most recent 2020/21 rankings, published in February 2021, the insurer received its highest score for its quality of cover (4.05).

Ageas was also rated highly by brokers for the accuracy and transparency of its policy documentation, with a score of 4.01 earning the insurer four stars for this metric, outperforming many of its peers.

Ageas also received four stars for the fairness of its settlements and the speed of its claims process.

Seeing success

All in all, these figures demonstrate the strength of performance that both insurers have portrayed over the last 12 months, with Aviva and Ageas both showing successes across a number of industry measures.

Most importantly, however, they have also demonstrated the high standing in which they are held within the UKGI marketplace by topping the industry vote as decided by the readers of Insurance Times.

But, with tough times ahead as the market continues to recover from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, while also grappling with new and changing regulations around pricing and fair value, it will be interesting to see how these companies fare over the course of the next 12 months.

Will they be able to hang on to their titles in 2022, or will new players rise to the top and be crowned the best that UKGI has to offer at next year’s Insurance Times Awards?

About Insurance DataLab

IDL-Logo-Compact-RGB is a new data insight service, focusing on the performance of insurers, Lloyd’s syndicates, MGAs and brokers based in the UK and Gibraltar.

With hundreds of thousands of data points covering almost £100bn in annual gross written premium and featuring more than 700 insurance companies and brands, provides access to comparable industry data to help benchmark performance, assess existing and potential partners, and identify new opportunities.