Kat Halbert, head of digital operations at Aviva, discusses the insurer’s plans for developing its eTrading platform in 2024

Kat Halbert headshot

How has your extranet platform developed over the last 12 months and what developments do you have planned for the year ahead? 

In response to broker demand to place more business online, we’ve invested heavily in extending our acceptance criteria and underwriting appetite. We’ve built capability and invested in our people to be able to significantly raise the bar on risks we can write online, both in terms of size and complexity.

Whilst Fast Trade is recognised as the number one trading platform, we have ambition to raise our game. Business owners have had a tough time over the last few years and the current economic environment has added further challenges. This has impacted how many business owners approach their insurance spend, putting at risk the extent of their protection and the adequacy of cover. To help brokers raise awareness and protect clients from potential pitfalls, we’ve extended our under-insurance tool across our property products helping to avoid the increased risk of inadequate cover at a time of high inflation. And we’ve enhanced our client dashboard to provide tailored recommendations for additional products helping to avoid potential gaps in cover.

Our ambition is to keep evolving Fast Trade to continue to deliver the best trading platform in the market, with the added advantage of being a valuable client protection tool as well.

Within this year’s survey, brokers are rating insurer extranets on aspects such as usability, trading ease and the quality of support available. What has been done to develop these areas further to benefit brokers?

We’ve maintained our investment in continuous improvement as we believe small things can make a big difference. We’ve asked for, and listened to, broker feedback and delivered around 400 changes to our proposition in 2023. These are all aimed at enhancing user experience, simplifying question sets, expanding criteria and stretching underwriting appetite, ensuring we remain relevant.

A great example of improving usability and trading ease is our enhanced client dashboard on Fast Trade, which automatically suggests additional products that may be of value to clients. Using sophisticated analytics based on the customers like you principle, we’re able to suggest tailored recommendations, helping support brokers with their wider protection conversations with clients. These recommendations are displayed on the dashboard, for every client, so our users don’t have to go looking for them.

In terms of service support, we know speed and consistency of response along with access to decision makers is vital to a successful digital model. To keep delivering service brokers expect from us, we’ve created a robust recruitment and capability plan focused on future filling roles and training up our people in advance of when we need them. It also concentrates on developing the skills and knowledge of our existing people.

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How have you further developed speed of response for brokers over the last year? 

By concentrating on our future fill approach, we bolster our team with trained underwriters ahead of planned growth. Last year, we recruited 40 new underwriters to ensure we maintained service levels as our business continued to grow.

Ensuring brokers have access to decision makers first time round is key to a speedy response and investment in our people has led to increased underwriting authorities for 86% of our existing team, allowing them to make the right decisions quickly and with confidence.

We also use data to help predict and plan ahead for demand and have close collaboration across our teams to ensure we optimise resource to deliver the best service we can, whether that’s on the phone, live chat or referrals.

This is a constant area of focus for us as demand has accelerated at pace. We know it’s not always perfect and we’ve had some service challenges along the way as a result of the significant growth we’ve experienced and the increase in demand that brings. However, when this has happened, we’ve acted quickly to get things back on track and been up front with brokers to help them understand how to get the best service at busier times.

The 2024 eTrading Survey also aims to explore how brokers perceive the referrals process for more complex products. How have you developed and improved this eTrade referrals process at Aviva?

Firstly, we analyse referral data to continuously enhance the scope of our online acceptance. Where we’re confident we can integrate referrals within the system, we’ll do just that to deliver more straight through quotes whilst freeing up time for underwriters to deal with ones where they add real value. For example, under our most complex product, Commercial Combined, we identified that our goods in transit limit was driving referrals, so we introduced additional cover options at higher limits to remove this.

This discipline creates headroom to stretch our appetite and introduce value referrals, allowing us to increase the complexity of cases we can write online. For example, we’ve doubled the number of trades we’ll consider for North American exports.

As we continue to optimise Commercial Combined and raise the bar in terms of the size and complexity of risk we can write, we need to give brokers confidence to trade these online. So, we’ve created a specific skillset of underwriters to deal with this demand. These are our most experienced people, skilled at placing business online where it’s right for the customer. And if brokers are unsure, we encourage them to call and chat through their risk before starting the online journey.

How do you see the eTrading arena developing over the next three years? 

We see continued demand for both extranets and SWH trading options, so our strategy is to continue our investment in both channels.

We believe we’ll see momentum continue to build with another stepped increase in desire to place more and more business online, allowing brokers to self-serve a larger proportion of their business, placing them in the driving seat when it comes to servicing clients’ needs.

This means we’ll need to deliver wider acceptance criteria, bolder underwriting appetite and enhancements to our propositions through the clever use of data, enabling brokers to deliver added value and greater customer outcomes. We’re already delivering this through services such as our ‘underinsurance’ check on Fast Trade and we’ll continue to develop these themes.

In respect of AI, this already features in our platforms today. For example, brokers can take advantage of our enhanced Client Dashboard within Fast Trade, where we make product recommendations for their clients. These recommendations have been specifically chosen using market wide data to create targeted options based on the buying patterns of ‘businesses similar to’ their client’s business.

We have several others already in play, with a new one coming on stream later this year, so watch this space.

What actions have taken place since witnessing the feedback given by brokers in last year’s survey? 

One of the biggest takeaways was keep doing what you’re doing on service. Brokers were experiencing the benefits of our future filling approach to recruitment. So, we’ve done just that and are about to embark on our second round of recruitment for future fill. Consistency of response was right up there with speed of response, so we’ve continued the training investment in our people to drive further increases in underwriting licences, which means greater access to decision makers without the need for onward referral.

Brokers wanted to place more business online to benefit from the efficiencies of digital trading. So, we’ve continued to stretch our existing products whilst also developing new propositions like plant and equipment.

And they’re looking for offerings that satisfy a wide customer base, so we enhanced our cyber offering after we identified it wasn’t converting as well for businesses at the smaller end, where customers were looking for a less complicated and less expensive solution built around an incident response service. So, we launched our Cyber Respond option specifically aimed at this group.

Listening to broker feedback is key to what we do – it helped shape the 400-plus enhancements we made to our proposition last year.

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Click here to take part – all brokers that complete the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win £250 worth of John Lewis vouchers