Everyone’s a winner in the Broker Service Survey: brokers have a chance to let off steam, while insurers get to hear how they can improve. So get ready for 2010’s feedback frenzy

This year’s Broker Service Survey, the leading market survey of its type, is just over the horizon. Now in its fifth year, the survey continues to set the benchmark for standards of service that brokers expect from their insurers. And judging from the range of comments received last year from the 400-plus respondents, brokers relish the chance this survey gives them to have their say.

As always, this year’s survey will ask for both positive and negative feedback about brokers’ experience of their insurers’ service. But this year, the focus on personal lines will be increased to match that of commercial lines.

Service will continue to be assessed in terms of underwriting expertise and flexibility, quality of cover available, timeliness, clarity and accuracy of documentation, the speed and fairness of claims handling, and ease of access to decision-makers. Both the commercial and personal lines results will contribute to the process determining the winners of the Insurance Times Insurer of the Year awards, including the award for General Insurer of the Year.

Compulsive reading

The survey is well-established, but the results remain compulsive reading for brokers and insurers alike. Undeniably, individual brokers’ decisions about where to place business has an impact on insurers’ bottom line. There are many influences on how these decisions are reached in the UK’s dynamic general insurance marketplace.

Rates and commissions have a big role to play but service levels are important too. For a broker, time spent trying to reach an insurer’s decision-maker is less time spent seeking and serving customers.

Equally, poor documentation from an insurer has a detrimental effect on the quality of service the broker can give their customer.

For the insurer trying to make sense of all this, rates and commissions are directly measurable but service levels are more intangible and need benchmarks. The Broker Service Survey provides these benchmarks, not only identifying where the best excel but also highlighting the gap between them and the rest.

Results from last year’s survey showed that Hiscox and Chubb offered the highest standards of service to the broker community, vying with each other for the top slot for overall service in both commercial and personal lines.

It was in claims handling and quality of cover that these two opened up clear water between themselves and the rest of the field in commercial lines.

The gap between the leaders and those at the bottom of the league tables on any of the service levels assessed will have made uncomfortable reading for those concerned, especially if good broker service was a major part of their go-to-market strategies.

Hidden insights

In today’s tough market conditions, there is clear evidence that larger, established insurers are feeling the effects of competition from smaller, more agile players – both niche insurers and underwriting agencies – on their ability to grow gross written premium.

The Broker Service Survey is able to tease out all types of players that are making a difference for the broker community. For example, Arista, an underwriting agency founded in 2007, came

from nowhere – barely registering on the 2008 survey – to take the top slot in the 2009 survey for access to decision-makers and second place for speed, clarity and accuracy of documentation.

We know insurers and underwriting agencies pay attention to the survey results and their position in the overall rankings, and why wouldn’t they? With strict anonymity maintained, broker feedback, both positive and negative, provides an invaluable source of market intelligence to help increase these players’ understanding of their changing marketplace, and how they should frame their responses.

Service benchmarks can only be established if brokers take part. Brokers: your input is vital, so do please have your say.

Introducing Carol Wheatcroft

Carol joined Insurance Times as research editor in January 2010. She was formerly a banking industry analyst with TowerGroup, where she covered UK and European retail banking trends with a focus on information technology.

The jump to insurance may appear a big leap but Carol has nearly 10 years’ financial services research experience, including a spell looking into insurance industry trends at IT consultancy Bloor Research.

Her financial services research career began in Singapore in the late 1990s where, as a senior research analyst at Asian Banker, she co-ordinated several large pan-Asian surveys, wrote for The Asian Banker Journal and established the first Asian Banker awards programme.

In her new role, Carol will be responsible for Insurance Times’ annual Broker Service Survey, as well as the Broker and Insurer Service Survey for sister publication StrategicRISK. A third survey targeted at Global Reinsurance’s readership is also in the pipeline.

Plans are also afoot for Carol to publish a range of research notes, accessible through the website, providing in-depth analysis on industry issues of interest to readers across all three titles.

Carol holds a science degree from Imperial College London and an MBA from Cranfield University. Her early career was spent in industry and included several years living and working in Tokyo, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Her home is in the Derbyshire Dales but she spends several days a week in London.

Contact Carol Wheatcroft by phone on 020 7618 3078 or by email: carol.wheatcroft@ insurancetimes.co.uk

State of the nation broker event

Insurance Times is planning another broker event in June. Billed as ‘The state of the nation’, the event aims to encourage discussion on issues affecting the broker community. It will also offer participants the chance to share ideas, hear from experts and build business relationships.

We would like to invite brokers to help us shape the event. We have lots of our own ideas but would like to get the focus exactly right.

We will shortly be emailing a brief questionnaire to all potential participants asking what you want to talk about and who you would like to hear from. It will only take a few minutes to complete.

We urge you to respond and look forward to welcoming you to a compelling event in June. IT