Growing your insurance business through a period of uncertainty

As the insurance industry undergoes a period of dramatic change, how are successful businesses dealing with the biggest disruptors and readying themselves for the future? Here, five insiders share their views.

Richard Storey: “Make client experiences better and simpler”

Richard’s 35 years of experience in the insurance industry includes senior executive roles at brokers RKH and Howden

“Because of improving customer experiences in other industries, client expectations in insurance are changing enormously. Therefore the way firms manage their interactions with clients should now be a key area of focus.

Not only do many clients consider insurance rather boring, they may consider it a necessary evil and find insurance brokers take up a disproportionate amount of their time, asking them to fill in long paper forms and so on.

So this is a time-hungry industry that needs modernising, when lots of industries around us are modernising at a faster rate. But insurance is really struggling to bring itself, from a client perspective, into a modern technological age that makes experiences simple, seamless, time-saving and real value-added.

Yet that should be a key objective for a broker in order to differentiate themselves from the hundreds of other brokers around – because if a broker can’t do that, it’ll be seen merely as the provider of transactional insurance products, and just the same as any other broker. Then if a client doesn’t see any added value, and a buying decision just comes down to those transactional products, they may well simply go with the cheapest option.

To succeed in the future, brokers need to look at how they integrate their IT with their client-facing systems so the client can have a better and simpler user experience. That’s something most brokers are trying to do – but currently with varying degrees of success.”

Austyn Tusler: “It’s worth paying for good third-party expertise”

Austyn’s three decades of insurance industry experience includes roles such as Head of Group Strategy at underwriters Barbican Insurance

“The market has seen an accelerated speed of transformation in the last 10 years and digitisation has come on very, very quickly. However, insurance – particularly centred around London and Lloyd’s – has generally not kept up with the pace of change. What’s more, 10 years from now the market will look very different again, and this is the challenge that all firms have now: how do they keep up with the pace of change and the speed at which insurance tech is driving that through the industry?

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to forge ahead, if you’re willing to take them. Important questions to ask are: Do you understand the size of the gaps that are there? Do you know what technology is available to you? Do you know what your desired outcomes are and what your end state is going to be?

To answer these, a lot of insurers are choosing to go to a third-party consultant as they will have a broader overview of the market and are likely to be working with a wider range of clients. Good ones should have an informed view on the trends that are shaping the industry, the biggest disruptors, the technology that’s going to have a shelf life longer than 18 months, and so on. That expertise is often worth paying for, rather than finding yourself being held back by legacy systems because people aren’t prepared to make the tough decisions to change.”

Branko Bjelobaba: “Take compliance seriously”

Branko has been advising the insurance sector on compliance issues for more than 20 years

“There’s always uncertainty with regulatory change and, since last year, general insurance brokers have been hit with two massive areas requiring a lot of their attention.

Firstly, GDPR has been a wake-up call on the importance of using client data legally and also protecting their own business and their clients from cyber-attack (as bank robbers these days don’t need to use sawn-off shotguns!). So, the creation of accurate privacy notices and policies has taken time.

Secondly, the Insurance Distribution Directive saw a substantial rewrite of the Insurance Conduct of Business Sourcebook (ICOBS), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have pushed brokers to be abundantly clear as to when and why advice is provided. All firms now have to act ‘honestly, professionally and in the best interests of clients at all times’ which will catch out those aiming to harm customers – and since the issuing of a very telling ‘Dear CEO’ letter, the sector knows the FCA has genuine concerns.

Good compliance practices are the key to dealing with this. Having been an auditor at PwC (of what was then the ABI Code), and subsequently having been self-employed for 15 years as a provider of FCA support services, I can almost feel good compliance. It’s clear to me that those firms that demonstrate a professional culture, take compliance seriously and keep up-to-date with training are in a better position to do the right thing for clients and employees – and to deal with whatever lies ahead.”

Renaud Million: “Define, then prioritise, the challenges your customers face”

Renaud is co-founder and CEO of insuretech automation specialists SPIXII

“Customer needs are ever-changing. For example, right now your customers expect immediacy and convenience from their insurer – like the experience of ordering on Amazon or dealing with banks through an app.

Many customer pain-points are being addressed by large insurance firms through the use of technology, such as enabling the easy purchase of insurance products online, self-servicing policies online and most importantly, increasing the ease of notifying a claim online.

However, most insurance policies are sold through intermediaries, such as agents representing insurers, brokers and price-comparison sites. These firms generally have a smaller budget than insurers and are less aware of the technologies available – yet often have a closer relationship with customers, especially at the moment of buying a policy. With the growing adoption of technology in the insurance industry, intermediaries should also adapt by learning from the best practices of the larger organisations. For example, traditional processes, such as servicing customers only by phone, are being revamped to match those new customer expectations.

We see most successful companies first defining, then prioritising, the challenges their customers face when engaging with their services. Tackling such challenges in an effective and robust manner often requires expertise which can’t be found in-house, so finding the right partner is key. And for the collaboration to be successful, it’s often best to start small, learn a lot and then expand.”

Andy Nellis: “Become agile and ready to pivot”

Andy is Managing Director of Cognition24 and has been helping to improve businesses across a wide range of sectors for 25 years

“In any industry these days – and insurance is no exception – the old adage that the only constant is change has never been more relevant.

A wide range of disruptors have been creating a perfect storm in insurance, particularly for smaller businesses such as brokers. These are changing customer expectations, the pace of technological change and adoption, and huge regulatory changes, not to mention market pressures and the knock-on effect Brexit may have on all businesses.

In the face of this, it’s clear to me that insurance firms are staring two options in the face: either to bury their heads in the sand, or to act now. Those that follow the latter path need to take a long, hard look at the landscape around them as well as other sectors such as banking and retail, build a clear understanding of where they need to be as a business in order to stay relevant in this landscape, and then choose the right partners to help them along the way.

On top of that, it’s also essential to create a structure and processes within the business that allow them to become agile and ready to pivot when new, unexpected disruptions strike, as they surely will. Those that do have the best chances of sticking around for years to come.”

Ready to find out more?

If you want to start thinking about the right steps to take to help your business deal with the uncertain future, you can find out more here: