Kirsty McKno says ‘it’s perfect timing’ for a new player to shake up the credit hire sector as currently, the market is ‘broken’ and ‘full of friction’

Former chair of trade body the Credit Hire Organisation (CHO) Kirsty McKno has today announced the launch of her new credit hire company, Cogent Hire, which will form part of handl Group’s stable of businesses.

McKno, who stepped down from her role at the CHO in October 2020, has been working collaboratively with both handl Group and the industry’s top 20 insurers to put together her concept of how “credit hire can be done differently”.

For her, this centres around effectively tackling fraud, better utilising technology and embracing transparency – these steps should also see Cogent Hire’s credit hire bills be “25% less than an average General Terms of Agreement (GTA) bill”.

Kirsty McKno_The CHO

Kirsty McKno

“The opportunity to come along and turn credit hire on its head is pretty special and, I think, also vital if we are to try and futureproof the industry and make a difference,” McKno, Cogent Hire’s managing director, told Insurance Times.

“Credit hire as it works currently doesn’t work at all - it’s broken, it’s full of friction, litigation is increasing, siloed behaviour is getting worse, relationships between insurers and credit hire companies are becoming further apart, the GTA is diluting and somewhere on the horizon, we have part two [of the whiplash reforms, which deals with credit hire and rehab]. It’s perfect timing for Cogent.”

Fraud focus

Following today’s launch, McKno anticipates that Cogent Hire will be officially ready for business come April, employing up to 20 staff.

The company has already inked a number of partnerships and strategic alliances, including with Europcar UK to source vehicles, Hills in respect of salvage, Verius and the Cotswold Group on counter fraud measures and fellow handl Group company Claimspace for dealing with disputed claims – avoiding litigation is essential in McKno’s revitalised approach to credit hire, so Claimspace will assist with arbitration when required.

Handl Group’s Coplus, which provides FNOL services, will also support Cogent Hire.

The technology in the Cotswold Group’s product ‘Heads Up’ to tackle fraud has especially caught McKno’s eye, particularly as Cogent Hire’s fraud-centric focus is a key differentiator for the business.

She explained: “It’s about fraud. That’s a huge part of what we’re doing. I’ve long wanted to do something different around fraud.

“We’re working with the Cotswold Group on this - they’ve got a new product called Heads Up, which is really interesting. We’ll be validating customers, not just their ID [but] criminality, their address, their electoral roll position, financial position, are they bankrupt?

“We’ll validate the customer before we even give them a vehicle, whereas at the moment an insurer receives a claim and has to start a validation process, so we can start giving a really transparent bill to an insurer and they can say ‘that’s good, we can pay for that, we don’t need to question it’.”

As well as enabling Cogent Hire to be more transparent, McKno added that concentrating on fraud is also a key step in helping to rebuild the credit hire industry’s battered reputation.

When asked how she plans to change the perception of credit hire, McKno responded: “I think fraud is a big part of that because we can be trusted. That’s number one.

“As far as there can ever be trust between a credit hire company and an insurer, they can trust us because we’re using a product that’s used by insurers. We’ll also be doing automatic number plate recognition checks on our customers as well, so if our customers keep their vehicles, we’ll check that they’re not using it when they shouldn’t be using it.

“It’s mostly through being transparent that we’ll change the relationship difficulties and by putting forward invoices that are very simple. Simplicity is the other key thing here.

“We’ve taken away the complexities of credit hire and drilled it down to the main components and we’re not hiding things in our invoices - we’re quite open about where our margin is and how we bill.

“Our bills should be 25% less than an average GTA bill now and we’ll still make money from doing that, but it will be because we haven’t got friction in our process.”

Driving efficiency

A key element in removing potential friction in processes is technology, McKno added.

“Part of that is tech and using technology in the right way and using artificial intelligence in the right way, but not making it solely based upon tech – there’s a lot of businesses that are all about ‘we’re tech driven, everything’s tech’.

“What we do is we use technology to give us more time to spend with people and then we can look after people and we can have a conversation with people, but rely on tech which drives the process and makes things very efficient. So, we’re using portals and our customers will be able to go [onto] a portal to check on their claim.”

McKno explained that Cogent Hire is already working on portals and application programming interfaces (APIs) with its supply chain, “so that everything is as slick as it possibly can be”.

This forward-focused approach will also enable Cogent Hire to take the lead on topics such as green parts and electric vehicles within credit hire.

She continued: “There’s things we are doing that are about it not being claimant or defendant biased. It is about providing a service to the person who needs a service, the person involved in an accident, working collaboratively with the insurers to make sure that happens in the best way possible for all parties.

“It’s how do we work together, how do we repair this vehicle in the best way? How do we total loss this vehicle in the best way? Do we need to use green parts? If it’s electric, what’s the solution because there’s not many solutions for electric right now really in credit hire and that’s us working together to find that solution.”

Mobility, not credit hire

According to McKno, Cogent Hire plans to readjust the definition of credit hire, focusing instead around the overall provision of mobility services.

Here, McKno can pull on her wealth of experience and learnings gained during her four-year tenure at the CHO to help guide Cogent Hire’s strategy – she described herself as a self-confessed “anorak” on all things vehicle repair.

“I do genuinely hope that what we’re doing in Cogent Hire proves to the industry that there is a different way of doing it, and that’s part of future-proofing the industry for me,” she said.

“Hopefully we can take a lead and say credit hire can be done differently; it doesn’t have to be about fighting and litigation and tribalism.

“It can be about working together – even where you can’t come to an agreement, you can still work together to find a solution that is better for the customer.”

Speaking on the launch of Cogent Hire, handl Group chief commercial officer Chris Chatterton said: “We started with a blank sheet of paper and asked insurers what good looked like in credit hire.

“Nobody we spoke to thought the current market was working for customers or the industry, despite the government’s reform programme giving every incentive to re-boot credit hire for the 2020s.

“We felt there was a great opportunity to bring Kirsty on board and apply handl Group’s core philosophy of people and technology working collaboratively across both the defendant and claimant side.”

However, McKno added that Cogent Hire will not be joining the GTA, which aims to set standards for the credit hire industry between insurers and credit hire companies, upon its launch.

“There was a GTA statement of principles that I was part of negotiating to deal with Covid, but I think Covid went on a lot longer than anyone expected and the GTA has become diluted in its effect and its control of behaviour and one of the things we won’t be doing is joining the GTA,” she explained.