A new service for brokers that claims to cut dramatically the time and paperwork required for insuring small commercial business was launched this week.
The UK's largest commercial insurer, Royal & SunAlliance, said that successful trials of its Enterprise initiative in the Midlands and the West in conjunction with 280 brokers have produced quote-turn-round times of 24-48 hours, and consistently error-free documentation.
David Wheatley, R&SA area director (Midlands), who has spearheaded the project over the past two years, said: "Brokers using our new system are saying it takes them half the time to place and process policies. And they are finding there are no backlogs, so they don't have to spend time chasing for continuation cover notes. As most brokers traditionally have to issue three continuation notes, we feel that's a major benefit."
The Enterprise initiative is based on sophisticated telephone technology which gives direct access to a dedicated underwriting team based in a call centre.
The team of 15 underwriters, which is soon to be extended to 45, has flexible decision-making authority.
Wheatley said that the challenge had always been to overcome the image of poor service at traditional call centres. "We wondered whether brokers in Wales, for example, would call Birmingham to discuss their business. So we made sure that the underwriters they dealt with are highly trained to deal with their problems. The broker feedback has been very good – many of them would like to place all their business that way."
Enterprise is now being rolled out throughout the whole Midlands region, and will be extended across the country in the first half of next year. R&SA said the rating is designed to be "competitive, but this is not about being the cheapest, it's about speed and service levels".
The product portfolio on offer covers shops, offices, vans, construction and small business combined. A property owners policy may be added soon.
R&SA said the telephony channel is intended to sit alongside EDI, giving brokers a choice.
Vince Hancock, a partner in Hancock Insurance in Newport, Wales, which has been involved in the trials, said he saw the new option as very useful. "It's another avenue for us – and I have to say that the speed of service has been absolutely brilliant, plus everything comes out as we agreed it over the telephone."
However, he expressed concern about possible future rate rises. "They've kept the premium down now so we're competitive against the direct writers, but one day someone at the top might put the rates up by 25%. Once you've got used to the service, it would be hard to go back to the old ways. This could be the sprat that catches the mackerel."
In response, R&SA's Wheatley commented: "That's an issue that's come up with some brokers, so I can understand his nervousness. But we don't see it going that way – we're not looking to extend the margin in that book of business. This as about stripping out costs on both sides, and both benefiting that way."
R&SA hopes to double to ten per cent its share of the commercial market through Enterprise.