Following the publication of its 2021 year-end financial results, the insurer plans to ‘increase investment in broker relationships’, according to new chief executive

Colm Holmes, Allianz Holdings’ new chief executive, has confirmed that the insurer is “looking to do more with brokers” and plans to increase its “investment in broker relationships”.

Speaking to Insurance Times following the publication of Allianz Group’s 2021 year-end financial results on 18 February 2022, Holmes explained that ensuring Allianz is the best insurer partner for brokers is “one of my top priorities”.

He said: “We’ll always be looking to do more with brokers. I see brokers as partners in how we do business, so working with them to deliver on what they need for their customers is critical.

“We [will] continue and, if anything, increase our investment in our broker relationships - how we work with them better, investment in data, investment in digital technologies. So, it’s very much a focus.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time with a number of our broker partners, asking them what would they like to see me do more of? What would they like to see Allianz do more of?

“One of my top priorities is making sure that when brokers are asked who is the best insurance company, they say Allianz. And that’s for service, for relationship, for product, for breadth of underwriting appetite.

“We want to be there, we want to be partners.”

Despite this enthusiasm, brokers have told Insurance Times on numerous occasions that they remain unimpressed by recent insurer service.

Although Holmes attributed ongoing service challenges to Covid-19, noting that Allianz has had “sick leave associated with” the pandemic, he added that there is “always more we can do” to improve service standards for brokers.

Holmes continued: “At Allianz, when I look at the performance of our underwriters, most of the feedback is enormously positive about the quality of Allianz when it comes to clarity of underwriting appetite and service.

“Is there more we could do? Of course. There’s always more we can do and as we get in 2022 and the impacts of Covid diminish somewhat, we can get back to some more normal working arrangements, get much more face-to-face time with our broker partners.”

This in-person contact will help reduce service-linked “frustrations” driven by the pandemic, Holmes noted.

Snapping up a new opportunity

In May 2021, Allianz Holdings announced Holmes’ appointment to the market, signposting his departure from rival insurer Aviva, where he previously worked as chief executive of general insurance for UK and Ireland.

Holmes officially started in his new position in December 2021, following predecessor Jon Dye’s November exit, and is already enjoying working with Allianz’s “fantastic team of people”, which include staff Holmes is familiar with thanks to his prior tenures at both Aviva and Zurich.

He said leaving Aviva was “a very easy decision” due to Allianz’s “customer-centric business” model and “very strong growth agenda”.

He explained: “Allianz is the biggest insurance company in the world. It’s a company I’ve known throughout my working life.

“It’s a fantastic organisation, always very highly regarded for the quality of its underwriting, for its consistency in delivery.

“I loved my time at Aviva - it’s a fantastic company, great people – but I’m not getting any younger, so the opportunity at this stage in my career to go to a company like Allianz, it’s not one that you would ever turn your nose up at.”

Restructuring and business growth

Now in situ as chief executive, Holmes has been “tasked” with growing Allianz’s UK operations, which achieved a total revenue of £5.4bn in 2021.

“The UK continues to be a very important part of the Allianz family,” he said. “The ambition is very much one of growth in the UK over the coming years and that’s very much what I’ve been tasked with.”

In part, this directive aims to combat a slight dip in gross written premium (GWP) which Allianz Holdings recorded between 2020 and 2021 – this fell by 3.2% year-on-year. Holmes attributed this result to “the soft motor market and the continuation of some remediation work in our commercial book”.

Therefore, Holmes plans to get Allianz “back on the growth trajectory across our UK business”.

But, there will still be “some displacement of business coming about” following the mergers of LV= General Insurance and the general insurance division of Legal and General as the insurer decides “which bits we want to focus on and which bits might not be core for us going forward”.

These acquisitions completed in January 2020.

Holmes continued: “You will see some amount of restructuring associated with that over the next year. But nothing material and our ambition for 2022 is very much one of growth, in commercial and personal lines, and the bulk of what was needed to be done in terms of the acquisitions and the remediation is pretty much done.

“There’s still work to be done, but it’s pretty much there and now we’re very much focused on driving the business forward.”

Holmes additionally identified inflation as a key trend he will be keeping an eye on this year “because it will feed directly into the rate environment, delivery costs and claims”.