Insurance Times lead researcher Savan Shah discusses some of the key themes to emerge from the Insurance Times Etrading Insight Report with Covéa Insurance Head of Small Business and Schemes Tim Grant
Tim Grant was appointed Head of Small Business in October 2015, prior to which he had held the role of Micro SME Leader since joining the company in 2013. Tim has full profit and loss accountability for the company’s Small Business unit and is responsible for driving the transformation of the company’s Small Business proposition. Tim has worked in commercial insurance for 15 years, primarily with insurers AIG and Brit, but also has experience working for both a broker and an MGA, specialising in e-trading and micro SME.
In 2016 brokers rated Covéa Broker Online in the Insurance Times E-trading survey 3.82 out of 5 across a range of service areas*, in 2017 this score has increased to 4.31. What have you been doing over the year that has contributed to improving this score amongst brokers?
We are delighted with the results of the survey and the increase in our rating, I think it is recognition for all the hard work that we have done over the last two years whilst undergoing our transformation programme. During that time, we have completely overhauled our proposition, and notably in the past year we have launched two new products, Property Owners, and Retail & Salons.
We have improved other aspects of the proposition throughout the year, what was clear from the ratings overall, was that generally insurers have upped their game and for us to go from third to first is something we are really delighted about.
One of the emerging themes in this year’s Insurance Times Etrading report was that although E-trading has provided huge benefits to brokers it has to some extent broken down relationships built between broker and insurer. How do you balance the use of technology and the quality of engagement/personable service provided by Covéa to brokers?
I am glad you asked me this question and our approach sounds a bit counter-intuitive. When we looked at our strategy two years ago we put people at the heart of our etrading proposition. We think technology should enable people to add value and be a key part of the process rather than replace them. With our new proposition, we don’t discourage referrals, we actively encourage them, we want to trade and we want to have conversations, our 30-minute referral commitment is a demonstration of that.
The feedback obtained from the Insurance Times etrading survey demonstrates how much brokers want that as well. We also encourage our underwriters to make broader relationships with the people they trade with to understand their business, their drivers and priorities so we can build our service around what brokers want.
In addition, over the last three months, for those smaller brokers which aren’t relationship managed by our field-based development managers, we are starting to undertake telephone relationship management to understand their businesses, to find out what we can do for them, and the feedback from brokers has been positive.
A theme running throughout many broker comments is regarding the need for insurers to speed up the referral process as this could be the difference on where cover is placed, what have Covéa been doing to speed up the process for brokers?
Our 30-minute referral commitment - we feel it is genuinely ground breaking. When we rolled that out we went to talk to brokers. I’m being diplomatic, using the word ’scepticism’ - they simply didn’t believe that we could deliver on that commitment because the average referral response at that time was roughly two days.
Last year we dealt with over 10,000 referrals and our commitment is to deliver over 95% of those in 30 minutes. Our actual average handling time was less than 20 minutes!
I have worked at insurers, brokers and underwriting agencies and I know the difference speed makes for brokers to be able to win and retain new business so we understand how important that is. Seeing the team and their passion and desire to continue to offer that level of service is tremendous”.
In the Insurance Times etrading survey, we asked brokers to convey what would encourage them to place more business through Covéa Broker Online, with comments varying from having the ability to speak to an underwriter online, more flexibility of underwriting criteria and less software errors. How are Covéa responding to these areas?
One of the key elements we have is that we undergo continuous improvement and most importantly listen to what our brokers tell us we don’t quite get right or could do better. Web chat is definitely on our radar and something we’re looking into.
In terms of flexibility and criteria, we are looking to gradually broaden our appetite and we are very keen on data analysis so we look at the data, look at what we are doing, look at what we’re not writing. Our referral team are empowered to be able to underwrite, so even if the system looks to refer we can provide flexibility through our underwriters.
In terms of software errors unfortunately I think it’s the nature of the beast in terms of putting new products out there. There can be some glitches but we have worked very hard to remove those
There is a growing frustration amongst brokers in the etrade survey whilst trading was that product selection, service, quotations, deals and question sets differs between extranets and software houses forcing them down a specific route of trading even when using the same insurer. Do you feel these frustrations for brokers will continue or is the gap lessening?
I totally understand those frustrations and can absolutely empathise with brokers about how difficult that can make life out in the real world. It’s difficult because there are technology constraints, however the resurgence of insurer extranets is very interesting because the death of extranets was predicted several years ago but the trend is the other way and that is why we wanted to include a new extranet when we overhauled our proposition.
I think we are constrained by the technology provider regarding the question set, but for us, outside of the question set our products, wording, underwriting approach (appetite), rates, functionality around premium flexibility, commission flexibility are the same if the broker accesses our products through the Acturis platform or through our extranet. That was important to us. We are consistent as we can be with the constraints that we have”.
Are there any innovations or developments on the Covéa Broker Online platform to be introduced in the future you can tell us about?
“We are about to launch the third and final of our harmonised best of breed products. Packaged Office & Surgeries is currently live for renewal business and we will be going live for new business in the next few weeks. We are also now starting to work on our etrade commercial combined products and the approach we have taken in terms of our best of breed products, making referrals a key part of our proposition asking brokers what they want, listening to them and building it into that product and proposition. That’s a product we are looking to go live in the middle of 2018.
We also have an approach of continuous improvement, we are not going to rest on our laurels and say our new products are out there the job’s done we will be continuously looking to ways to improve this year and beyond”.
Key technologies have already begun to disrupt industries—with innovations in infrastructure and productivity, online sales applications, advanced analytics, machine learning, automation, robotics and virtual reality. These technologies are projected to accelerate its impact in the next 3-5 years, how do you envisage the Covéa Broker Online platform to look like in the years ahead and what are your thoughts on these technologies impacting E-trading in general?
There is certainly a lot of hype over insuretech and digital innovation; I am a huge supporter of technology and etrade in its place, however I think we need to be realistic. It’s taken commercial lines products a long time to get to a place where etrade is really beginning to get some traction, only really in the last couple of years, it’s great to see that traction and about time in my view!
We are starting to look at digital innovation, we are keen to take part in that exciting journey. We need to be realistic about what we can do, I think the model will be like what’s happened with online quote and buy, the innovation has already started in personal lines. We will look to see what is working in personal lines and what is applicable to commercial lines. We work closely with our colleagues in our personal lines business and we are already starting to see some implementation there and more will follow. It is an exciting few years ahead of us that’s for sure.
What has been your proudest moment since being involved in E-trading?
2 years ago, when the first insurance times etrading survey was carried out, Covéa insurance finished 14th out of 14 and one of your colleagues at the time asked me how that felt. I said it’s not nice to be in that position but we are not surprised as it validated a lot of research we had undertaken internally and more importantly with brokers.
In the three months prior to the first survey we spoke to 100 brokers and asked them what they thought of our proposition. We knew it looked a little bit tired & needed an overhaul and that is what started our 2-year transformation programme. As I said to your colleague 2 years ago, ’judge us in 2 years’ time!’ Now we are the top-rated proposition we are tremendously proud for the whole team at Covéa insurance.
I also take great pride daily from my interaction with my team whether they are trading underwriters, in underwriting services or the product development team. I take immense pride and satisfaction in their commitment and dedication to deliver brokers an outstanding etrade proposition and service. Whether that’s through product development, an individual referral or a query from a broker and that fills me with immense joy and pride!