Although face-to-face conversations are crucial in the London market, SME and some simpler risks can be traded through digital platforms ‘to make it easier for agents to access’

Independent (re)insurance business Aventum Group – which includes wholesale broker Consilium and MGA Rokstone – is exploring trading simple or SME risks via digital platforms within the London market, according to Consilium managing director Matt Pini.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Pini explained that he had noted a market-wide uptick in the use of digital platforms for “simplifying the way you trade [and] think”.

For him, however, the current challenge lies in pairing this increasingly popular, digital approach with the “different” and “distressed” risks that are typically traded within the London market environment.

These types of risks do not traditionally “fit a box”, meaning it has historically been “difficult to really move that into a digital platform”, he explained.

However, Consilium – backed by parent company Aventum – is “doing a lot of work behind the scenes to try and build” and facilitate this type of digital London market-based trading.

Pini continued: “Obviously, it’s not a quick fix. But [Consilium has] lots of plans to maybe move SME, more simple risks onto [a digital] platform, just to make it easier for agents to access.”

Matt Field, Aventum Group’s marketing director, agreed with Pini, noting that “digital is massive for us”.

He said: “The world is moving that way, so we’ve got to move more quickly and make sure that we rise to the challenge. This is certainly an area that we’re fully behind [and] have made serious investments in.”

This company-wide stance was further cemented back in March 2022 when Rokstone appointed Covéa Insurance’s former commercial underwriting director, Gavin Dollings, as its new chief digital underwriting officer.

Field continued: “[Dollings has] come in with a really big opportunity to really change that landscape and look at products that perhaps previously were looked at as almost too complex to go digital.

“It’s like how can we find a solution to make [those products] more efficient without losing that personal touch?”

The use of digital platforms to facilitate trading naturally links to eTrading and eTraded products – Field noted that Aventum Group owns a couple of digital products that are suitable for eTrading.

Pini continued: “It’s taking the pain points out of trading. And there are areas of the SME world and some classes that quite easily fit onto a platform and it means it’s light touch - not just for us, but for the agent as well.”

Proof is in the pudding

Despite this new exploration into the use of digital platforms, Aventum Group is no stranger to delivering business online.

As an example, Field cited the group’s online, farming-specific MGA, Ifarm, which launched back in 2016 – it provides products such as keycare, livestock and business motor, as well as a farm package policy that targets smaller and family run enterprises.

Field said: “Historically, people said ‘you can’t do farm online, it won’t work’. But that business has continued to grow up to 30% [each] year – [it] now employs in excess of 30 people.

“Some people sometimes can be quick to say ‘oh that classic business will never go online’, [but] the proof is in the pudding there.”

Although Field acknowledged that some “distress” risks “need a face-to-face conversation”, there are still many “classes of business that perhaps people are looking at and saying ‘how can we move that forward and move that on?’”

Pini added that Consilium has “an excess of loss online facility”, which it launched in June 2020.

“Two or three years ago, [you] wouldn’t have dreamt of that being possible. But we’ve got a good team who are building these systems for us. It’s an easy, simple question set and it works perfectly,” he said.

Lloyd’s leading the way?

In terms of digitalisation work in the London market, Lloyd’s of London has been striving to lead the technological charge through its Future at Lloyd’s digital transformation programme – the steps and milestones for this market-wide evolution are laid out within the programme’s Blueprint plans, the most recent of which was published in November 2020.

Operating alongside this initiative is not for profit company Placing Platform Limited (PPL) – this launched in 2016 as the London market’s electronic placing tool, aiming to enable brokers and insurers to quote, negotiate and bind business electronically.

Pini described PPL as “a slick system”.

He said: “The whole PPL platform, it took a little while for people to buy into it. But it’s actually quite a slick system now. The underwriters are responsive. It’s a simple system to use and it actually works really well.”

He added that although the creation of PPL has “been a long time coming”, it needed “to happen”.

Pini continued: “I don’t think we’ll go to any other way now. That’s the way it’s working. In terms of trading, you can’t replicate face-to-face conversation. It just won’t happen. But in terms of what Lloyd’s has now bought into, I think that’s great. It’s a good thing.”

Field added: “It’s about the people within that Lloyd’s market as well and how can they support the digital transformation.

“All the businesses [have] got the responsibility to invest and make sure that they’re delivering because ultimately, it comes back down to the end client. How can we make that journey smoother, quicker, better, more efficient?”