The insurer’s head of personal lines emphasises that Zurich has an ‘appetite to grow’ in 2022, alongside demonstrating a focus on claims and sustainability

Zurich UK’s head of personal lines Phil Ost is as pleased as Punch with the insurer’s five star recognition in this year’s Five Star Rating Report: Personal Lines, an exclusive report from Insurance Times.

Despite describing the achievement as a vindication for the work the company has put in over the past three years, he added that Zurich is determined to continue to drive improvements across its business, to ensure that it strengthens its relationships with – as well as the services it delivers to - brokers.

He told Insurance Times: “We are delighted to have been awarded five stars.

“Everyone internally is very pleased. We know we have been doing a good job over the past three years and the award is a recognition of the effort all the teams across our personal lines operation have made.

“This really is a team game. The efforts of our back office teams are often not recognised, but this is an achievement for every part of the business.”

Supporting five star success

As to why Zurich has achieved a prestigious five star rating this year, Ost pinpointed four key areas.

Firstly, he noted that Zurich is “often called out by brokers around the chemistry of our relationships with them”.

He explained: “They say we are accessible, open to new ideas, are candid and challenging. We make no apology for, on occasion, being challenging with our brokers. Challenge can bring mutual benefits and we can often create better answers and solutions.

“We will say ‘let’s look at this together’. We might not end up writing the business, but we can look at how we can approach the issue.”

Secondly, Zurich has also invested in new technology, for both its high net worth (HNW) business as well as its broader personal lines operations. These new systems make “it faster and quicker for brokers and has also aided in more competitive pricing for products,” Ost said.

He continued: “We are also using greater levels of external data to better inform our pricing decisions.”

This technology investment has also benefited Zurich’s back office functions, driving a “greater use of automation, which in turn is driving greater efficiency and making the business more responsive to broker requests”, Ost explained.

Another contributing factor to Zurich’s five star result, according to Ost, is Zurich’s appetite to work with new partners to engage in new opportunities.

He said: “During what has been a very difficult time for everyone over the past two years, Zurich has been determined to remain open for business.

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“We have been keen to work with new partners, such as MGAs including By Miles and Plum. We have sought to support our brokers and as things have opened up, we were the first insurer to get out and about and back into the market.

“Despite the difficult conditions, we have continued to look [at] opportunities to grow and we have been available throughout [the Covid-19 pandemic].

“While we won’t write everything we see and we have taken a responsible approach to the risks which have been offered, we have an appetite to grow in the year ahead.”

Lastly, Zurich has been keen to enhance the diversity within its business, which “reduces the volatility risk and allows brokers and our teams to have broader conversations around the products and solutions we can provide”, Ost said.

For example, the insurer has a marine book via its specialist yachting operation Navigators and General, partnerships with major brands such as Sainsbury and British Gas, relationships with regional brokers, an HNW operation and MGA propositions.

Enhanced broker service

Within the Five Star Rating Report: Personal Lines 2021/22, brokers reported a significant improvement in the overall underwriting experience and policy documentation provided by Zurich - a response which has pleased Ost.

“We have worked hard to enhance the service we provide to brokers,” he explained.

“We have sought to improve the underwriting experience in terms of the appetite for risk and the premiums we are able to charge. In terms of referrals, we have worked to deliver quicker turnaround.

“In terms of HNW, we have spent the last year integrating Oak Underwriting and we now have a single platform from which we are now seeing the benefits in terms of service levels.

“We have been working to improve the documentation we provide for brokers and customers alike.

“We have worked to ensure that documentation is clear and of a higher quality and we have worked with our brokers to speed [up] the provision of the documentation they have requested.”

Claims and sustainability focus

Looking to the year ahead, Ost said the challenge now was to ensure that Zurich kept the five star rating it has worked so hard to achieve.

“We are looking to continue to improve the service and products we offer,” Ost added. “If there was a six star rating, we would all be working hard to achieve it.

“What we need to do is ensure that we retain our five stars next year. This year we have a particular focus on claims and sustainability.”

Zurich has already teamed up with artificial intelligence tool to support its claims process – the businesses ran a pilot together between December 2020 and February 2021. The tool has the capability to read 10,000 words in a microsecond.

“It can read the policy and the claims documentation and produce a predicted outcome, which can then be used by our claims teams to triage the claim,” Ost explained. “It will also speed the outcome for customers.”

In terms of sustainability, Zurich hopes to drive this focus through its partnership with pay-per-mile motor cover provider By Miles, which started in August 2020. It also teamed up with bike insurance specialist Laka back in 2018.

The insurer additionally implemented a new “repair not replace” scheme in July last year, which allows policyholders to have their damaged property repaired rather than replaced. Zurich is also introducing green parts for its motor repairs, as announced in September 2021.

“We believe these elements will enhance our relationships with brokers,” Ost added. “We recognise we cannot afford to stand still - we need to ensure we work hard to keep ahead of our competitors.”