The use of data and digital should centre around ‘enhancing the client proposition’ rather than being purely for cost savings, says A-Plan’s group chief executive

Broker A-Plan has “invested massively in digital and data” in order to support its ambition of becoming the “only truly omnichannel insurance distributor in the UK”, said group chief executive Carl Shuker.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Shuker explained that the firm now has its own data science team – a far cry from three to four years ago – which helps to provide “a single view of the client”.

“The database that we have means that we can be much more effective in our interaction with insurers [and] the sharing of data to provide better products for our clients,” he said.

“The data capability that we have now gives us much more efficiency, much more capability around our operating efficiency and also means we can now give tailored products to our clients.

“We’re able to identify, for example, all our self-employed clients, all our company directors and that’s fuelling the growth of our commercial business because we’re having good conversations with clients where we can offer them an alternative to what they’re getting from their existing providers, and a lot of that is around local service and that’s incredibly important.”

Shuker emphasised that A-Plan’s investment in data and digital capabilities is designed to work in alignment with its branch network, which currently covers around 100 sites in the UK. This combination of in-person, local services paired with digitally driven communications and insights is what will differentiate the broker moving forward, he explained.

“The plan is to become the only truly omnichannel insurance distributor in the UK because we can offer face-to-face, when we’re allowed again, over the phone and clients will be able to engage with us digitally. So, we’ll be the only UK distributor that will have that capability, of any certain scale that’s for sure,” he said.

Enhancements, not cost savings

However, Shuker warned that the use of data and digital techniques should not be viewed as simply a way to reduce costs – “that’s a mistake”, he said.

“We’ve invested in data and digital to support our offering to our client, not change the offering, not to force the clients down a particular route,” he continued.

“You’ve got to see it as a way of enhancing the client proposition because you’ve got to get closer to your clients, not more remote, to give them what they really want.

“The more remote you are, the less able you are to really explain what they’re getting but the closer you are at the right point, you can explain. Once they understand, they go away really content.

“People don’t want a nasty surprise when they come to claiming. A bigger excess is a nasty surprise, but if you told them what the cover is, what’s covered, what’s not covered, then expectations are met in the event of a claim and then people go away happy. It’s when they’re not met that it gets really difficult.

“You ask clients what they really want from a tech viewpoint – in the end, it’s just make it easy for me to interact with you.”

Shuker added that A-Plan’s spend on digital and data capabilities “stood us in really good stead when we all went into lockdown” as all of its “branches are networked”.

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