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Loan And Finance

Jon Walker reflects on how the industry can overcome service issues

With the 2022 BIBA conference now over a week behind us, it’s important to take time to reflect on our experience there together. Being back in a face-to-face setting, with colleagues and peers, was truly energising and inspiring.

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘our insurance commUNITY’ and being back in Manchester together, with great discussions and meetings taking place, really showed the value of brokers and insurers creating a community based on collaboration, empathy, customer focus, and shared outcomes.

Besides the opportunity to reengage and evolve partnerships, one of the themes of the conference and discussions was how brokers and insurers work together to address the service issues facing the industry.

At the start of the pandemic, relationships became very transactional. The way we communicated, interacted, and generally worked together as brokers and insurers changed completely and, inevitably, this created some uncertainty. Tolerance and patience have been key for both sides and this remains essential as we all continue to work to address lasting issues. The industry is going through a phase of rebuilding trust to some degree, and whilst things are starting to look brighter, we still have to keep one eye on the fact challenges are still present and there are still things to work through.

When times are challenging, that’s when it’s most important to collaborate and work together. At times it can feel as if we are each focused only on our own businesses, and in many ways, this is understandable as we focus on internal pressures and objectives, the retention, development and attraction of talent and the delivery of change programmes. However, it’s essential to remember that customers are at the heart of what we do, and our main objective should always be helping and adapting to respond to their needs. It’s not helpful, in full view of the public, for the industry to look and feel fragmented. It’s a far healthier and productive position to be in if we’re on the same page, trying to deliver the same result to customers.

To me, addressing service issues is about us about working together to achieve positive customer outcomes. We’ve seen a shift in what brokers are looking for from insurers; less about price and more about partnering on propositions, product coverage, and ultimately on adding customer value to help win and retain business. I want us to open up the dialogue on service, making sure issues raised are specific, constructive and reflect the challenges that exist across whole chain. There are issues we share that we should be looking to work on and solve together; attracting new and diverse talent to our industry, embedding new, smarter ways of working, and integrating technology to drive efficiency and responsiveness, to name but three.

By their very nature, many things we do in the industry are complex, but I think we’ve learnt that this complexity can create a degree of confusion, and this is where working together we can really make a difference; either in helping develop clearer documentation, providing easier to digest information at point of sale/renewal, or helping explore ways to make what we do more easily understandable and accessible for the end customer and businesses that we’re insuring.

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The key to service delivery is efficiency and responsiveness. Efficiency needs to be improved across the board to make doing business as easy and frictionless as possible. At AXA Commercial, one way we will improve this is by investing in new technology, data and process improvement, allowing the business to be more responsive and accessible. This will free up underwriter’s time to make more underwriting decisions and engaging with brokers and customers to provide insurance solutions that work for businesses today and tomorrow.

In the longer term, service can also be improved through an enhanced focus on attracting and retaining skills and capabilities that enable continuity, confidence and consistency. Within the industry as a whole, we are facing a demographic shift, as those people that have been with us the longest move closer to retirement. Their successors need to be agile and adaptable, and the industry needs to present an image that attracts talent from schools, colleges and universities and shows up as being diverse, forward thinking and having a clear ESG agenda, as well as offering an exciting and interesting career choice. We should be asking ourselves; are we doing enough collectively to attract young talent?

Also connected to service delivery and a challenge we are all facing into is ‘Smart Working’. Finding the right balance for our people, trading engagement and our customers is essential to service delivery. For example, meetings via Teams are efficient, easy to organise and allow more people to join, as well as providing further opportunity to bring specialists into a discussion or review and should form part of our engagement moving forward. However, we all need to recognise and value face to face meetings to enhance engagement, review performance and manage more complex topics. Having a more balanced way of working and engaging provides the opportunity to be more agile in our approach and also bring customers into more tripartite discussions. Essentially, with smart working, we have an opportunity for time to be better utilised, which means insurer underwriters and broker account executives can interact more than ever before. This is where I hope and believe we will land when we come through this current period of challenging people dynamics where most – insurers and brokers alike – are finding the retention and attraction of people more difficult in a post-pandemic world. Recognising this and tackling these issues head on is also part of improving service across the chain.

The BIBA conference was a great energiser for us all and it’s essential we can replicate this energy in business-as-usual. Working through challenges together will result in positive outcomes for our customers and improved service for all, whilst moving “our insurance commUNITY’ from a BIBA conference theme to “how we do things around here”. 

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