The commercial lines market finds itself at a crossroads: does it stick to the tried and trusted road of face-to-face interaction and relationships or does it follow personal lines down a digital highway?
With increasingly digital-savvy insurers targeting the commercial market, particularly at the smaller end, I would argue that a blended approach is required for anyone who wants to be successful over the medium to long term.
I'm not advocating a purely technology-led approach, there will always be the need for the human touch and the power of relationships should not be underestimated. But insurers and brokers alike need to harness the benefit of digital to improve their service and lower their costs.
Changing customer demand
The world we operate in is changing and as an industry we've failed to keep up. Customers' buying habits and service expectations have been transformed by the likes of Amazon. If Amazon can deliver a book or CD in a matter of hours, why should they wait days for an insurance document?
And this trend is not restricted to the personal lines market, buyers of commercial insurance are quite rightly becoming more demanding too.
The smart use of technology can increasingly replace or automate some of the lower value transactions currently carried out by employees, leaving underwriters and brokers more time to focus on the higher value activity.
Investment in digital tools and processes to provide the best customer service makes life easier for everyone and saves our brokers time and money. Yet developments like these need to be underpinned by products that remain relevant in a changing market.
Products need to flex to support brokers' needs and should be tailored for medium-sized risks, online solutions for smaller commercial risks, sector specific or scheme propositions so they enable brokers to create a unique bespoke client offering.
I'm excited by the opportunities in the commercial market. It's a growing area but one where we've still only really scratched the surface. We've got some great traders, underwriters and relationship managers, our challenge is to develop the digital tools and capability to enable them to serve their brokers and customers better for the long term.
When facing that crossroad, I would encourage everyone to take the right route. For too long we've lagged behind other sectors and we owe it to our brokers and customers to catch up.
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