A healthy tripartite relationship between insurer, broker and customer will benefit both customers and brokers, says Steve Green.

A growing feature of the UK commercial market place is a desire for larger customers to move away from the transactional insurance purchase model towards a more tripartite relationship.

Zurich's own research highlights that this is what the customer wants - insurer and broker working together, on their behalf, to satisfy all their needs.

Customers meeting face-to-face with providers of significant capacity, to promote a better way of managing risk, is one by-product of this new trend. For those who not only recognise this added dimension but adapt their competitive positioning to accommodate it, the rewards can be significant.

Clearly this is good news for the larger customer segment. It also has important advantages for brokers.

Many will understand that an insurer can act as an extension to their business - with the potential to complement broker expertise and bridge any gaps in servicing the customer. The broker can also benefit from the insurer's knowledge and experience of the customer.

Zurich's work alongside brokers in retaining and acquiring larger commercial customers is exemplified in our major customer proposition.

Typically Zurich defines a major customer as domestically based, with at least 500 employees, whose natural inclination is to transfer risk to an insurer but with a positive, proactive attitude to risk management.

More importantly the customer expects to have a long-term stable face-to- face relationship with their provider to enable them to manage the cost of risk and sustain their premium over time.

An insurer who understands the day to day issues brokers and customers face is key to the true value of a tripartite relationship being realised. In this way its people, processes and structures must be closely aligned with the goal shared with brokers - delivery of service excellence to the customer.

How then do we demonstrate these principles and support to brokers via the major customer proposition?

Structured contact; face-to-face discussion means increased communication across all parties. This approach answers many concerns brokers have such as clarity over underwriting and pricing decisions, risk management solutions and claims and legal liability issues. Experience tells us that a typical contact strategy involves pre renewal, post renewal and mid-term reviews.

Dedicated servicing; the claims account manager (CLAM) role is an established feature of our proposition. Customer feedback praises the role of the CLAM as a highly valued feature of the proposition as it responds to their desire to learn about claims defensibility, legal liability, and the practicalities around claims processes. Brokers too feel supported and confident in their dealings with customers and their choice of insurance partner.

In addition, all Zurich major customers have an assigned relationship manager, a single point of contact responsible for co-ordinating contact with the customer and broker.

The benefit in terms of time saved finding the right people and the speed of issue resolution that the relationship manager brings, is widely regarded.

A collaborative and responsive approach; aiding brokers to help customers understand factors affecting their premium and the action they can take to manage the risks within their control.

By supporting the broker across underwriting and pricing, claims management and risk management, the insurer can offer expertise and services to help brokers retain customers and add value to their offering.

The tripartite relationship is something the customer wants and we must continue to share insight for mutual benefit. This is a great opportunity to work together to achieve results.

Finally, this is not just about annual renewal - it is about ongoing dialogue at pre-agreed points to review and plan the financial performance of risk, and to proactively manage it and its cost as a result.

By seeking out value-based ties in this way faceless, purely transactional relationships will be superseded by those with longevity. This will prove sustainable through the inevitable peaks and troughs of the market cycle.

- Steve Green is major customer manager at Zurich Commercial.