Hiscox’s Tim Slattery on fast changing customer lifestyles demanding an agile response

An illustration showing the connected home

Tim Slattery, personal lines underwriting manager for Hiscox UK, argues the industry needs to both listen to what home policyholders need now and have the forethought to provide what customers don’t yet know they’ll need.

Five years ago, if you were to ask a homeowner to name their utility services, they’d rattle off water, electricity, phone and, in more urban areas, gas. Ask that same question now, and it would be a surprise if broadband wasn’t added to the list (and for those with teenage kids, it’s probably the last utility they’d want cut off).

Of course, following the explosion in homeworking, broadband is now much more than a video streaming and gaming home entertainment facilitator but also a vital link into the virtual world of work. It’s not just the kids who’ll be throwing ‘Call of Duty’ related tantrums if the broadband goes down.

It’s a reminder of how, for many of us, our lives have changed so rapidly and also a reminder of how insurance needs to be equally adept at keeping up with these changes.

Not long ago, the home insurance industry largely assumed everyone’s lives were quite vanilla and responded in kind with products that were, well, quite vanilla.

Standard home and contents cover was just that; standard home and contents.

But times have changed and our industry’s customers have seen more change in their lifestyles over the last few years than at any time before in recent generations, which means policy wordings written yesterday, probably no longer accurately reflect the risks policyholders face today.

No stranger to innovation

The good news is, the insurance industry is not the stranger it once was to innovation and imagination when it comes to thinking about customers’ needs.

Initiatives like black box telematics and pay as you go have all been tried for motor cover to reflect a more tailored approach to different lifestyles. This same innovative thinking must be applied to the home and contents arena.

That means a policy that reflects the necessity to get a customer’s broadband back up and running or provide them with a temporary fix in the same way an insurer would treat the restoration of a customer’s water supply; or providing alternative accommodation with like for like home office facilities.

It means accidental damage protection for a laptop even if it’s a piece of work equipment; theft cover for all those home deliveries marooned on the doorstep until the next Zoom break in the schedule gives a chance to retrieve them.

How about personal liability cover given more of us are visiting colleagues’ or customers’ homes? Or travel cover that definitively protects from Covid-19 disruption?

Welcome certainty

The risk profile for our household customers is shifting almost daily which means there is no longer space for a ‘vanilla’ approach; our customers expect and need much more.

In such a volatile and uncertain environment, we should grab the opportunity to bring some welcome certainty and comfort to our customers regardless of how their lives have changed.

But for the insurance industry to make the most of it, we’ll have to be agile and really listen to not only what our customers need but also have the forethought – and imagination – to provide what they don’t yet know they’ll need.

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