Insurer says changes will improve the way Zurich trades from its branches

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Zurich is simplifying the way its commercial broking division interacts with brokers to improve the way the insurer trades from its branches.

The insurer’s branches have historically serviced brokers by product line and region, which commercial broking managing director Richard Coleman said added an extra layer to the structure.

But he said the insurer is undergoing changes by trading with its brokers using more of a regional focus.

This means that each of the nine regions will have a new head who is responsible for the branches within their area.

Coleman said this would give more autonomy to the branches and that on the vast majority of cases a broker would be serviced by one underwriter. Zurich is also investing more in technology.

The insurer is targeting 98% of decisions to be made through the branches.

As a result of the changes being made, the headcount will reduce by around 35 underwriting staff across the branches. These form part of the 440 planned job cuts in the UK GI division that Zurich has previously announced.

But Coleman stressed that the insurer would still retain its specialism and technical underwriting within the branches.

Coleman said: “In taking out the layer of how we used to manage our business, we are taking that time and energy and reinvesting that into practice and propositions.

“We have [also] brought together some back and front office. It has created efficiency for us and is a better end to end broker experience, because one person owns it.

“We are managing by region, because it is important to be close to the broker and therefore, close to the customer.”

Coleman said the move had been made in direct response to broker and staff feedback.

”Brokers said they wanted empowered underwriters hungry to write business and who understood their account, while the branch staff want more control over decision making,” he added.

To support the move underwriters are being trained across different classes.

If a broker needs additional specialist advice on a class of business, their underwriter will be able to refer to another colleague within their branch to help.

Additionally, where a broker specialises in a particular sector he will be serviced by the most experienced underwriter in that sector.

Zurich, which is known for its expertise in large and complex risk, wants to use the changes at the branches to help grow its mid-market presence, while its e-trade platform ZTrade will help to grow its SME book.