How winning insurance firms choose the right consultants

If your insurance firm is ready to tackle head-on the many challenges that lie ahead, choosing the right consultants to help you find a way through can, in itself, be one of the biggest headaches you’ll face. However, if you get it right, the rewards can be huge when it comes to leveraging the right expertise to select, install and manage the optimum systems to deliver against your business goals – and maximise the value of those investments for long-term gain.

Here, we take an in-depth look at how to choose the right partner, with two long-standing insurance industry experts: Richard Storey who has 35 years’ industry experience, including senior executive roles at brokers RKH and Howden; and Austyn Tusler, whose three decades of experience includes roles such as Head of Group Strategy at underwriters Barbican Insurance. And your host: Andy Nellis, Managing Director of Cognition24.

Solving the biggest problems in insurance

Andy: As we all know, businesses in the insurance sector are facing a whole world of disruption at the moment. But what would you say is the biggest problem that a consultancy can help them solve?

Richard: Insurance broking is struggling, from a client perspective, to bring itself into the modern world to make its customer experience as simple, seamless and time-saving as we frequently see in other sectors. That should be a key objective – it’s essential to get that right.

Andy: I guess it’s fair to say, from a customer perspective, that a good experience in one area leads to a similar expectation right across the board – whether you’re buying insurance, a holiday or your weekly shopping…

Austyn: I agree. Service is a key differentiator in the insurance market – and technology is a key enabler here. There are other industries that do it way better, so there is absolutely room for improvement in our sector. A good third-party consultant can help bring in a broader view of the market – and also a picture of what good looks like in other industries – as well as an understanding of the trends and disruptors in insurance, and the technology that will help to deliver long-term value.

Richard: I think there’s also the challenge of being able to integrate systems. The three key areas where IT can make a difference in insurance are a broker’s main broking software platform, the client interface, and the CRM [customer relationship management] system. To be able to get all three talking to each other and therefore enhance the customer experience – without having to double-key information into each one, which is a recipe for disaster – is a very hard nut to crack. But the businesses that can get some way to solving this will be the ones most likely to succeed in the future.

Killer questions and key processes

Andy: What should insurance firms ask consultancies like ours in order to make sure they’re picking the right partners to solve their challenges?

Richard: For me, it’s about two things:
1. Finding people who can demonstrate a good understanding of the nature of the problems brokers face
2. Being sure they have an answer to your problems that can be implemented easily, can integrate with at least some parts of your existing systems, and is simple for their employees to use – and very, very simple for their clients to use.

Austyn: If you want a project delivered on time and on budget, you need to put sufficient preparation into that project before you go to market. Time and again, businesses think they know what they need without pulling back the covers and looking at the detail – which can lead to finding they actually need something different, or scoping something which they didn’t really need after all. So that comes back to the key components of RFPs, which include things like: giving a good organisational overview so a potential vendor knows exactly what they’re dealing with; looking at project deliverables and specifications (for example, something too broad can cause delays); and clearly defining the goals (if you don’t, it can easily lead to scope creep).

And then you need to ask: If they don’t deliver what you expected on time and on budget, what are they going to do about it? It’s not just about financials here, it’s more important to understand how they’d actually fix it.

Andy: And how can you be sure a supplier really will deliver on your expectations?

Austyn: I strongly believe consultants are only as good as the people they employ. You should insist on meeting with some of the key individuals who are going to be delivering the work. You also need to go through a test and validation process of the niches in which they claim expertise – whether it’s operational, tech, procurement and so on.

I would always insist on references and case studies. Plus, it’s worth visiting their other clients’ offices to see their systems in place and in use. Then you can take the opportunity to talk about the quality of vendor staff, ask whether they had the right milestones and check-in points in place – and most importantly of all: did the solution do what they said it would do?

Richard: Another important thing to consider is the long-term support and relationship you’re likely to have. You need to ask how sustainable it is. You definitely don’t want a supplier that will just come and go. They may install fantastic new systems, but if they’re not around in a few years, can they be supported by someone else?

Setting expectations

Andy: Is there a danger of falling into the trap of believing in a magic bullet?

Richard: Yes, many firms think they can buy some software from a consultant, get one person trained and then Bob’s your uncle. But generally, it doesn’t work like that – you’ve got to have a hearts-and-minds process first, you’ve got to have most of the people wanting to improve, wanting the change, wanting the systems that will get them there.

Austyn: To add to that point, you must think very clearly about people and roles in your business now, and what the implications after the project will be – for example, a role might change dramatically if a layer is removed. You also need to give a sufficient amount of time to the consultancy to allow them to do their job and make a difference!

Andy: How can you go about finding a good “fit” between the two businesses?

Austyn: It’s important to check you’re speaking the same language as your supplier. Never make assumptions, and regularly validate they are building and delivering what you actually want, rather than what they think you want.

Another good way of measuring a vendor is to consider whether their size and capability is similar to your own business. For example, if you’re a small broker trying to get PwC to do something for you, it’s just not going to work. So try to align to someone where the size of your account is meaningful to them – and therefore you can lean on them when you need to.

And, even more importantly, look for partners who want to build a long-term relationship, rather than seeing your project as a one-off commission. The key word to bear in mind here is “partnership”!

Ready to find out more?

If you’re ready to start thinking about the right partners to help take your business forwards, you can find out more here:

Alternatively, drop us a line or give Andy a call on 01462 412021. We’d love to get to know your business and help you make the best tech decisions for your future success.