The MMA schemes manager talks about the challenges of schemes, the best way to set them up and how to meet customers’ demands for tailored products

Chris Withers

Q: What schemes have you introduced recently?

A: We’ve launched some schemes for health clubs and gyms. You have to look at what industries will survive through the difficult times, and leisure is always going to be important. Healthclubs and gyms come with some specific risks, so a standard commercial combined policy won’t always give the most appropriate cover.

Q: How long does it take to set up a scheme?

A: At one end you’ve got the delegated authority intermediary, underwriting on behalf of the insurer, where there’s a real opportunity for the intermediary to take risk on behalf of the insurer. I would say you’re looking at a minimum of three months. But there are a number where the broker will put a banner over it to say it’s a scheme because it has something unique around the service or pricing, but with no delegated authority. We can deliver those within a matter of weeks.

Q: What takes the most time when setting up a full scheme?

A: The due diligence can and should take the longest amount of time, so when you start trading there are no surprises. Also testing that we understand what the customer needs. Time is often seen as a negative factor, but time spent understanding each other and what you’re looking to target and do together is well spent. Otherwise you end up trying to fix it later on. There are no shortcuts to a successful scheme.

Customers don’t want to buy something off the shelf. They want something that has been tailored to their needs’

Q: What are common challenges in setting up a scheme?

A: The main thing is we go into a scheme because there’s a gap, an opportunity. Once you’ve identified that, you have to make sure the marketing is linked back to that. If you’ve got a product that’s hard to get hold of, and you’re going to broaden out distribution, you need to make sure that’s what you promote. The biggest challenge we face is that the reason we go into it isn’t always what is then promoted. It is possibly the most single important factor we find: remembering who it is you are trying to appeal to, and staying true to that. Elsewhere we see a lack of consistency. We need to stick to this being a long-term ambition and not the current vogue.

Q: Are schemes worth the effort when there are so many standard policies to choose from?

A: Yes, and the reason I think they are is that consumers are more savvy. They don’t want to buy something off the shelf, an office package, shop package or commercial combined. They want to buy something that has been tailored to their needs. From an insurer’s point of view and from an intermediary’s perspective, we need to keep that within our market to stop the commercial products being commoditised. If the customer is getting something they feel is unique, then we’ve all done our job well. Anything else is open market, generic market product, and there aren’t many customers in that space these days.