Paul Tombs, head of SME at Zurich discusses how Zurich Online is supporting brokers to be operational during the pandemic with Insurance Times’s Savan Shah

What are the major challenges facing the insurance industry on etrading this year?

Brokers still tell us, in general, that insurer etrade journeys are too complicated and insurers have a key role to play in making it easier for them.

There will need to be continued investment in new technologies, such as automation, and increasing data enrichment to help improve the broker journey and pricing. Adding in the human service and interaction element at the right time in the journey will also be vitally important.

We have to remember that technology is important to improve speed and efficiency, but so are the people and the service that wraps around it.

Specialist SME underwriters who have the authority to make decisions and provide quicker and consistent responses to brokers are still crucial to the success of an SME etrade model.

What does your company see as the advantages of extranet over software houses and/or vice-versa?

We have set up our SME operation to support brokers in whichever route they decide to etrade through. This means that we offer the same core wording and base pricing through Zurich Online and Acturis, though we have the ability to differentiate both if we choose to. 

There are advantages of trading through Zurich Online, as we don’t have to ask all of the market standard questions; the quote journey can be significantly quicker for brokers.

We are also able to offer products, such as combined liability and contractors combined, where there isn’t a natural software house product yet.

The benefit to brokers of software houses is being able to put in quote information once and getting back quotes from multiple insurers.

Since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, what impact are you seeing on the system from brokers?

We have seen a general market reduction in transactional new business volumes from brokers and also an increase in brokers renewing with the incumbent insurer.

What is your reaction to Zurich’s results in The Insurance Times etrading 2020 report?

We are delighted to be the most improved insurer across both extranet, for Zurich Online, and broker platforms in this year’s Insurance Times etrading survey.

Jumping from two to four stars on broker platforms and one to three stars on Zurich Online is a great achievement, despite our new extranet only being live for a short period of time before the survey commenced.

This improvement demonstrates that we listen to our brokers and validates the investment in our new trading platform, Zurich Online, which we launched last year.

Business continuity is essential in these disruptive times, especially through etrading. How are you ensuring your broker customers remain operational from home?

Our SME business is fully operational with all of our teams working from home with laptops, system access, softphones  and live chat enabled to effectively manage broker phone calls, quotes, referrals, renewals and live chats (software for making calls over the internet). 

Our working from home set up was live and operational prior to the UK wide lockdown; flexible working has been part of Zurich’s culture for some time now.

We’re supporting brokers through fully resourcing all of our communication channels and we continue to be extremely responsive to all broker contacts.