’Our understanding is that MGAs have fared better with service, but we cannot become complacent,’ says chief executive
As UK brokers respond to this year’s MGA Survey, Insurance Times spoke to Geo Underwriting chief executive Jaime Swindle about the challenges MGAs are currently facing and what considerations MGAs need to keep an eye on moving forward.
What in your opinion are the major challenges facing the MGA market in the year ahead?
MGA’s are often positioned to be either a specialist market or alternative capacity for risks that are on the edge of appetite for the composites. This acutely brings into focus a key challenge for MGAs, which is resource. We recognise the trust our capacity providers put in us with their capital and see that the quality of underwriting staff within an MGA needs to provide that point of differentiation to ensure that capital is in safe hands. In the current market there is a real labour shortage, coupled with inflated recruitment costs. It is crucial to the MGA model that we can continue to invest and develop our staff, so they see the value of working in the MGA market over any other parts of the industry.
In our view, the maturity of the MGA model is creating a climate that supports MGAs who can bring a range of products and solutions to brokers. This can create challenges in delivering clarity of proposition. This is an area we have grasped and as our business continues to grow across a range of specialisms, ensuring that service and ease of access are all fundamental to what we deliver to brokers. Whilst we aim to deliver specialism, we also strive for simplicity.
The 2023 MGA Survey aims to explore brokers perception on service levels. What can you tell us about how service levels have developed or transformed over the last 12 months at your MGA?
We recognise that service has become an industry wide challenge, compounded by the fact the labour market is very difficult to navigate currently. Our underwriting teams are by their very nature specialists in what they bring due to the nature of our product lines, so it is important for us not only to find the right recruits as our business grows, but also develop our existing teams.
Overall, our understanding is that MGAs have fared better with service, but we cannot become complacent. A key driver for us across our businesses is to create a sense of ownership of the brokers’ needs, regardless of whether it is something the team can help with. We are encouraging our teams to think through a central lens and ensure that whilst we are all specialists, we act as one team and consider if another part of the business could help with a broker’s particular request. Another key initiative linked to this is the creation of a central placement desk. This is a team that are advocates of our brokers and will manage a risk though our business to deliver the right outcomes for our customers.
Trading support is another area being investigated in the 2023 MGA Survey, what is your strategy when it comes to providing trading support for brokers?
Along with our placement team, we have also invested a lot of time in simplifying our proposition. We have several historical brands linked to our MGA as we have acquired and we recognised the navigational challenges this can potentially create for our brokers.
To eliminate this complexity, Geo has been undergoing a transformation and now stands for six key specialist sectors principally linked to specialist commercial business lines. This supports our drive to bring specialism and simplification with a clearly defined proposition and appetite guide to what we do.
We recognise that technology has a big role to play in our market and a number of key developments are underway to simplify and align our solutions to the technology that brokers are using, to avoid additional administrative burden for the broker when placing business with us.
Claims service is another area being investigated, an area of frustration for brokers in all the research we do at Insurance Times. What is your MGA’s approach in providing a high-level claims service?
Claims is an essential part of the MGA’s proposition in specialist areas. A high-quality claims service enhances our reputation with brokers and policyholders. We aim to ensure that claims are handled with the appropriate expertise across all of our specialist risks, with a clear focus on customer service and excellence. This means balancing and managing claims delivery through the right mix of internal expertise and a specialist supply chain where that is required.
We maintain a robust quality assurance process that helps us to ensure that claims service delivery is both excellent and consistent across our diverse range of specialist insurance products. Our claims teams work with our broker liaison teams to ensure that claims services are delivered in a way that supports our brokers when looking through the lens of excellent customer service, whilst at the same time supporting our insurer partners’ best interests.
Knowing how to balance customer service expectations with our obligations under delegated insurer authorities is critical.
Concern over the prospect of removal/changes to capacity arrangements is still very apparent in the MGA market. Should brokers have any concerns about the capacity arrangements at your MGA, if not why?
In short no – we have invested significantly in our central underwriting and governance structures to ensure we protect the trust that our capacity providers place in us.
Our key drive is to deliver stability in proposition, which has been significantly impacted by inflationary factors affecting the market which we have needed to respond to. This may not always make us popular, but our ethos is about development of long-term partnerships, both with our brokers and with our capacity providers, who trust us to do the right thing and not just approach it with a short-term objective of growth at all costs. This is vindicated in the fact that we have successfully reviewed several of our key capacity providers across the Geo proposition, who are all A rated, and due to the improvements in the way we manage binders with them, which has resulted in long term agreements being signed with us.
What can brokers expect in the next 12 months from your MGA?
A real sense of clarity across the business and a proactive approach to how we work with our brokers.
The historical structure of the business has created situations where brokers have seen multiple relationships with several of our brands in place and in other instances just a single contact point within one of the brands. This has not always created a sense of what makes up our specialist commercial MGA proposition and therefore left brokers searching for answers. We recognise that the majority of brokers we support are likely to have a myriad of clients across multiple industry classes. Our aim therefore is to show our capabilities across the full spectrum of our specialisms. We have made a significant investment in our frontline staff with a central support function who are operating across the complete range of our products to identify which of our specialists is best equipped to facilitate solutions on behalf of our brokers.
We are also actively working on a number of improvements from an account management perspective including access points, support and trading styles that are designed to reflect what is appropriate for each broker. All this links back to the key theme of specialism with simplification and ease of access.
With a particular focus on research in etrading, MGAs, digital transformation and commercial and personal lines insurance, he has been instrumental in the development of the Insurance Times 5-star ratings reports, data insight books, webinars and more.View full Profile