Jessie Burrows talks to Luke Holloway about her new role and joining the Society of Claims Professionals board
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and self-service technology are just some of the tools that Jessie Burrows and her team are harnessing to make claims easier, serve customers better and help build public trust in insurance. “We should never be standing still,” says Ms Burrows, managing director of customer sales, service and claims at Direct Line. “The insurance profession needs to evolve and adapt to stay relevant, something that overall we are very good at.
“Self-serve is so important because not only is it what our customers want, it is what they now expect. It can remove simple steps and quicken up processes, meaning we can spend more time on the interesting things which require our talent. It is win-win for customers and claims.”
With a background that spans accountancy, financial planning and reinsurance, Ms Burrows feels she has had a rather unorthodox career path compared to many claims professionals.
“I have been in insurance for more than 25 years but only in claims for around three years. I still feel like a newbie!” she jokes.
If the great work we do can be translated and communicated to customers more effectively, we can break any negative perception the public has of insurance
“Claims is often seen as right at the heart of insurance,” she tells us. “If you want to understand insurance you really need to understand claims, because when it comes to customers, that is the moment of truth. Whether they are individuals or businesses, that is what they are buying – the promise of an excellent claims service when they need it most.”
Since starting her new Exco role in June, Ms Burrows has set out a range of strategic priorities, including further investment in data technology and innovation, improving performance in the indemnity market and continuing to join up the customer journey, from the moment a policy is taken out to when a claim is made. “We want to maintain the high standards we have and double down on customer service. That includes working closely alongside the regulator in terms of customer duty.
“We want our people to be proud to work for us. We spend a huge amount of time and investment on upskilling our teams for the future.” Ms Burrows says this is one of the main reasons she was keen to be involved when she was recently invited to join the board of the Society of Claims Professionals.
“The Society is all about technical competence, ethics and professional standards, and these are absolutely central to what we want to do,” she says.
“I hope that with my background I can bring a slightly new perspective to the board as we look at how claims professionals position themselves for the future. Technical skills, professionalism and good practice of course are crucial, but the world is changing so much when it comes to customer expectation and digitalisation, and the claims sector needs to have a voice at the top table.
“A huge amount passes through claims, so claims professionals are in a great position to view how the whole business works. I want us to focus on the broadening out of the claims profession, so we are seen as business leaders as well,” she says.
In a space that is changing so rapidly, what will be the major trends of the next five to 10 years?
“The whole motor landscape is changing. Car technology, electric vehicles and levels of autonomous driving will have a profound effect on claims frequency and on severity trends,” she says. “While it is still early days for whiplash reform, that could also create unexpected trends in claimant behaviour, which we are monitoring closely. “
Our customers are becoming increasingly energised about the greener economy concept. Our focus is now how do we influence our supply chain to be able to become a net-zero business.“We absolutely want to be a force for good – both in insurance and in general within the economic ecosystem.”
Like many professionals in the past 18 months, Ms Burrows has seen working patterns evolve and is a supporter of giving team members the freedom to choose where they work. That in turn, she says, is creating even more opportunity in terms of recruitment from a wider pool of talent, meaning insurers have access to new and different skills.
Ms Burrows says that during Covid-19, various terms that insurers set out for good reason later caught people by surprise, especially in terms of business interruption.
“Insurers must work out how they can address this expectation gap,” she says.
“Trust is important because if it does not exist, then people may see insurance as a grudge purchase. I would say 99.9% of insurance professionals are incredibly dedicated and the profession is full of talented individuals who are willing to go the extra mile every day for customers. If the great work we do can be translated and communicated to customers more effectively, we can break any negative perception the public has of insurance and help them realise that we are a force for good.”
Luke Holloway is editor of The Journal