Bobbi Sills highlights four key takeaways from the Insurance Society Panel session at the Spring 2021 Professional Focus Conference
The CII’s Professional Focus Conference went digital for the first time this year, providing members with a full day of virtual continuing professional development (CPD) content.
Featuring a host of keynote speakers from across the profession, the conference explored the latest hot topics, from the hard market to Brexit negotiations, vulnerable customers and mental wealth.
How insurance professionals can adapt to navigate the unchartered waters of the hard market was discussed during a session hosted by the Insurance Society Panel. Here are four key things we learned:
1 Communication is key
Taking the time to get to know a client and communicating information transparently is paramount if brokers are to be seen as trusted advisers, said Liz Foster, non-executive director of the CII Society of Insurance Broking.
Ms Foster said: “The biggest challenge that we need to overcome to move forward is regaining some of the mistrust that has developed in the last 12 months.”
“A key differentiator from the last hard market is that more people are now talking about insurance and wanting to listen, because a certain fear has crept in as a result of the pandemic, which we can allay with the right messaging.”
The recent Financial Conduct Authority business interruption case shone a spotlight on the need to better support customers by providing greater clarity on the products that they buy and the service they receive.
Ms Foster said that when she recently explained the background to pandemic insurance to a large business and asked them if they would have bought that cover, the conversation brought her closer to that client.
Jeremy Trott, claims director at Ecclesiastical, agreed that building trust is also a key focus for claims professionals, who must ensure crystal-clear communication when explaining the type of cover and the extent of that cover.
“We are often in danger of hiding behind insurance jargon, which is not helpful to the broking community or to the end customer,” noted Mr Trott.
“Ideally, pick up the phone where possible, however if you are forced down the route of email because you cannot contact somebody otherwise, be very careful about how you choose your words and use plain English to explain why you are taking certain positions on things.”
2 Joined-up thinking
The hardening market calls for an alignment of interests and closer collaboration between brokers, insurers and underwriters, acknowledged Ms Foster.
She said building a lasting relationship early on is the first step in ensuring the needs and concerns of the customer are fully addressed.
Mr Trott agreed that underwriters should seek feedback from claims colleagues when agreeing new policy wordings and endorsements, to ensure that they are clear and accurately reflect the intentions of the insurer.
He said: “The silver lining of the pandemic is that underwriting and claims departments have worked more closely together on things such as the interpretation of wordings. This should create a firmer base to move forward, with a more progressive relationship in the future.”
Ms Foster said the CII is also ideally placed to begin the conversation and encourage collaboration at both central and regional level.
She explained: “Bringing the CII board closer to the regional institutes will enable greater cross discussion, as well as the sharing of ideas about issues that we have in common, which is a useful starting point.”
3 Emphasis on customer value
Phil Williams, managing director of Simply Business, said customer value must remain at the heart of decision-making in the underwriting process.
As insurers refine their appetite for risk and reduce the capacity they are willing to offer, those that succeed in the hard market will be the ones that not only focus on pricing but work alongside brokers to provide value in delivering the right products to the right customers.
Mr Williams said: “Underwriters are going to be in position where they will have more information than ever before, because risks are being presented in the best possible light.
“While it might be possible to take a certain view on an individual risk, underwriters need to have the ability to stand back and think about the portfolio they are writing and whether the overall balance is remaining where they want it to.
“The responsibility in a hardening market ultimately lies in providing customers with good-quality products that they want to buy, with an emphasis on the importance of customer value,” he concluded.
4 Opportunity on the horizon
Ultimately, the key takeaway from the webinar was that in among the challenges lies significant opportunity for advisers who can adapt to best serve their clients on the rocky road ahead.
With high-quality trusted advice in greater demand than ever, now is the perfect time for insurance professionals to assess and improve their processes, said Ms Foster.
She noted that developing good communication skills and sound technical knowledge is the key to success, particularly for the younger generation of insurance professionals who are experiencing a hard market for the first time.
The Society of Insurance Broking is working hard to help equip members with the skills and knowledge required, through a range of interactive webinars and guidance, which members are encouraged to make use of.
Ms Foster concluded: “The next global risk event could be just around the corner and for the future we have got to think about the unthinkable.
“If we have got our messaging right, if we have got the right skills under our belt, we can galvanise and rebuild trust and create opportunity to advise more strongly and engage more meaningfully with clients.”
To watch the full spring 2021 Professional Focus Conference, visit: https://gateway.on24.com/wcc/eh/2726439/lp/3049620/professional-focus-spring-conference-2021
Bobbi Sills is communications executive of the CII