Insurance Times’ head of research Savan Shah speaks to John Dawson, broker sales director at Markel UK, about the firm’s latest developments on its etrading platform

The Insurance Times Etrading Survey 2022 is closing this Sunday (20 March 2022).

If you are a broker, please take part before the deadline to help influence the future of etrading. Click here to visit the etrading survey microsite, which has all the information you need on how to complete the survey, as well as showcases past insights from previous etrading surveys.

While the survey is open, however, Insurance Times has been speaking to insurers and software houses that are heavily involved in etrading, to discuss the industry developments made over the last year and what future developments might benefit brokers.

Here, Insurance Times catches up with Markel UK’s broker sales director John Dawson.

How do you see the etrading arena developing over the next five years?

John Dawson

John Dawson, Markel 

The speed with which technology is evolving and the changing demands of brokers will make for a dynamic next five years.

Data will be more sophisticated and available and this, combined with modern pricing and underwriting approaches, will mean fewer questions are needed to generate quotes.

Some of the largest brokers may choose to build bespoke capabilities and we will need to respond to ensure those systems have the capability to access our products.

An increasing number of SME customers are likely to move to a self-serve model, or at least start their commercial insurance purchases online in a process similar to personal lines transactions. Those brokers and insurers best placed to offer an efficient, effective service at the right price, with a strong proposition and brand, are most likely to emerge as the winners.

That said, as an industry, we will leave ourselves exposed to the likes of Amazon if we move too far down the commoditisation route.

For our part, we remain committed to delivering on our ‘Expect More’ promise by offering all SME customers access to in-house legal and tax services - these can be difficult for SMEs to access, but are critical to running their businesses on a day-to-day basis.

How has Markel UK’s extranet platform developed over the last 12 months and what developments are due to take place over the next year? 

We have been focusing on improving our Acturis etrade capabilities and building a robust, market-leading service for our broker partners on this platform. This has resulted in us doubling our new business premium through Acturis in each of the last three years.

We are constantly looking for improvements in our capability and broker offering, including - for example - streamlining our decision-making process to ensure we are the go-to market for brokers seeking alternative markets, or those that know service and expertise makes a difference when winning business.

As part of our improvement drive, we will shortly be introducing functionality to increase our ability to flex prices on Acturis, as well as undertaking a comprehensive research project to understand what brokers expect to see and the value they require from an extranet. This work will include assessing features brokers particularly like in the extranets they currently use, including our own.

The outcome of these detailed discussions with brokers will inform the changes we will be making in 2022. Improvements are likely to include a more streamlined question set, a broadening of our underwriting appetite and pricing improvements.

Brokers are rating insurer extranets on aspects such as usability and trading ease, as well as the quality of support available. Has Markel UK made any developments in these areas? 

Brokers want intuitive, easy to navigate systems that give them quick answers - and where this isn’t possible, provide an efficient and effective service. From a service perspective, we have built a multidisciplined underwriting resource, with underwriters empowered to make quick decisions. We call this a ‘once and done’ decision-making process.

We are determined to provide our brokers with a system which is not only fit for purpose, but futureproofed, with the latest technology available.

A key focus is the optimisation of our data in relation to new business triage and work allocation processes. An underwriter, for example, would have a defined workflow based on an automated criteria that includes broker category, product, method of trading - electronic or manual - and premium. This creates certainty within our processes and means an even faster and more streamlined service for brokers, especially those working with us to win business.

In the months ahead, we will incorporate machine learning to identify new opportunities and deliver additional support to brokers. This includes understanding and supporting all types of broker service models, including B2C online systems that may, for example, offer a live chat or phone facility that requires an immediate response.

Ultimately we will deliver a high level of service to support our brokers, whatever business model they have in place.


Brokers, click here to take part. All brokers that participate in the survey will be placed into a prize draw and will receive an executive summary of the final results. Survey closes this Sunday at midnight

The 2022 Etrading Survey aims to explore how brokers perceive the referrals process for more complex products. How is Markel UK developing its etrading referrals process for more complex products?

Speed and flexibility remain key for referral business across the process.

The availability of data, accuracy of pricing and underwriting approach all help to define how many questions need to be asked to generate a quote and bind business for SME risks.

Currently, we are using more granular and timely data to establish a better understanding of opportunities that have been declined, to help improve brokers’ experience.

As part of this process, we consistently examine the top 10 reasons behind referrals and declinatures and use this insight to refine our approach.

We continue to challenge ourselves in relation to what can and should be quoted without referral and what can and should be declined. Where a risk is referred, we look to be flexible for the right risks to support brokers.


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Brokers, click here to take part. All brokers that participate in the survey will be placed into a prize draw and will receive an executive summary of the final results. Survey closes this Sunday at midnight