May 5th, 2022 | News & Insights

Working together for the benefit of our customers
Gareth Hemming, Aviva

The BIBA Conference has always been a highlight of my annual calendar – a time to understand where we can do more, and discuss how we can work better, together, for our customers.

Like all other parts of our lives, Covid disrupted the annual BIBA conference over the last couple of years, and I realise as I write this just how much I am looking forward to being in Manchester for the first face-to-face BIBA conference since 2019!

That feels like a lifetime ago – in more ways than one. The challenges we face today – insurers, brokers and our customers – are very different than in 2019. The tumultuous challenges of the pandemic have given way to record energy prices, rising inflation, supply chain issues and staff shortages, all of which make this one of the most challenging times to run a business in recent memory.

More widely, the crisis in Ukraine presents new challenges which we must respond to, from supporting the UK’s housing of refugees to helping brokers and business customers prepare against the increasing risk of cyber attacks.

The journey so far…

The industry has been seriously tested since we were last together. In particular, the Business Interruption Test Case has knocked insurers’ reputation. And while it is understandable, I still find it frustrating that this has overshadowed all the good work we did helping our customers get back to business: from extending cover to support businesses who moved to homeworking when the pandemic struck, to extending cover for customers with Temporarily Unoccupied Buildings, there was a lot of good work that really helped our customers when they needed us most.

The low trust in insurance is compounded by the economic challenges facing businesses and families across the country, creating a paradox: despite low trust in the insurance industry, the need for the assurance that insurance can provide is at an all-time high.

An opportunity and a responsibility

I think this is a unique chance for our industry to show how we deliver for our customers – to demonstrate the value of sound advice from our broking partners and the certainty that insurance can provide. This is not just an opportunity, but also a responsibility. We need to have the right programme of insurance in place for our customers to ensure they can survive the unexpected. Our insurance contracts should deliver absolute clarity around the insurance cover our customers are buying.

While being prepared has always been sound advice, the last few years have rather painfully underscored this. Businesses who are low on reserves coming out of the pandemic face supply chain issues, inflation and, in some cases, a shortage of workers. Our challenge is to help them understand the value of insurance when they are faced with a dozen other pressing priorities.

I would argue that in times of financial stress, insurance becomes even more important, playing an almost existential role in securing the business’ survival. Yes, we are in the midst of a hard market that most of us have never before experienced. But this only reinforces the need for us to deliver the best we can for our customers.

Broker advice never more important

And this is where brokers come in and can really demonstrate the value that they can offer to their customers. The challenges we are seeing in the current trading environment only serve to put a premium on broker advice. Brokers’ knowledge of their customers is crucial to helping them put the right programme in place to protect their customers’ business.

I’m not pretending that this will be easy. The hard market that has been with us for some time now looks likely to continue through the end of the year, at least. Our business customers are likely to be short-staffed, short on cash, or short on inventory – or a combination of the three. Meanwhile, inflation is pushing the cost of claims up, which is driving continued premium increases. Insurance will not be an easy sell.

Brokers can help their business customers by being able to explain the factors behind increasing premiums and preparing and understanding where there are trade-offs around price and cover. Further, being close to their clients and really understanding their business will also help brokers as they work with insurers to review options around cost, cover and levels of retained risk.

Insurers have to step up, too

But it’s not just down to brokers. Insurers, too, must also step up to support brokers and their customers with a first-class service and responsiveness. To this end, at the start of the year we announced that we are accelerating our investment in the broker channel to strengthen and provide greater access to our regional underwriting capability, helping commercial brokers deliver for their clients.  I’m pleased to say that we have made good progress against this, with more than 20 in situ already supporting brokers trading digitally and regionally, adding to the more than 400 underwriters we already have dedicated to supporting our broker partners.

Insurers should also help brokers determine adequate sums insured for their customer. Using sophisticated data analysis can help brokers provide faster and more insightful responses to their clients.

At Aviva, we have developed a Commercial Intelligence Tool (CIT) which gives brokers unique data-driven insights. For example, we will be able to help brokers quickly identify buildings with potential underinsurance, assets which haven’t been reviewed for a number of years and other potential gaps in cover for their clients.

Insurers need to be more responsive when customers come to claim, as well. That’s why we have given our own loss adjusters financial authority aligned to the size/complexity of the claim, to make sure our customers get the right capability adjuster to tackle their claim.

Our Insurance Community  

And so, the theme of this year’s BIBA Conference seems particularly apt: “our insurance community”. Because it is only by working together that we can deliver for our customers to provide covers for the broad range of risks they face in a rapidly changing world.

I also think that this year’s face-to-face conference is a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate the best of our industry. Despite the challenges that the last few years have brought, when we work together, we have shown that we can – and do – deliver for our customers.

So, despite the current challenges, I am confident that we can make good on our customer promise and deliver all the benefits that insurance can – and does – provide to businesses. This year’s BIBA conference is perfectly timed for us to get together – at last! – and agree how we can grow stronger, together, for the benefit of our customers.

Join Aviva at stand C20 to talk to us about the investment we’re making, how it’s working for you and how we can grow stronger together.