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BIA 2023: Winners Q&A with Personal Lines Broker of the Year Co-op Insurance

Charles Offord Co-op Insurance

One of the things that impressed the BIA judges was the transformation Co-op Insurance has undergone without disruption to customers and staff following the acquisition by Markerstudy. How did you do it?

It’s been a great team effort between Co-op colleagues and our insurer partners.

From a colleague perspective we’ve worked incredibly hard to build engagement levels, which has been a cornerstone in our success. Colleague engagement is an absolute priority for our executive team and all people managers across the business. We’re relentless in terms of open, honest and two-way communication and being able to demonstrate continuous colleague development is a critical measure for us. We believe with a passion that great colleague engagement is fundamental to turn our strategy into action.

From a customer perspective, we’ve managed to ‘change the engine with the car still running’. Our car and home customers have been migrated onto new and contemporary products and systems, and our pet, travel and life products have all been transformed to benefit members and customers. We couldn’t have achieved this without deep co-operation with our expert insurer partners, who now manage most of the customer journey on our behalf.

How have you managed to create value for the Co-op Members and customers during this period of transformation?

As a Co-op we’re owned by our members. Creating value for members is at the heart of what we do and it’s why we’re here.

We’ve invested in upgrading our whole product suite, so we now have a great core proposition for members and customers. Also, if you’re a Co-op member you get exclusive discounts on your insurance. These are generated in partnership with our insurers based on unique risk-predictive Co-op retail and member data. In tough times like we’re in today, it’s even more important that our members can get extra value and great deals through Co-op Insurance.

Of course, it’s not all about price and financial value. We only work with partners who can consistently deliver good customer service and great customer outcomes in those critical moments of truth.

How has the Co-op Insurance culture evolved during this time, and how has this benefitted staff?

Our Co-op insurance culture is now much more inclusive, open and diverse. In our new operating model, in which our partners manage much of the value chain, we’re quite a small team of less than 40 colleagues. This has definitely helped us focus on creating a culture in which every colleague has a voice, feels listened to and can be themselves. We’ve managed to maintain that ‘small company agile feeling’, despite being part of a much wider group.

Colleagues have benefitted in terms of their professional and career development. If you work in an open culture that’s also high challenge and high support, there are always great learning opportunities. The good news is that our colleagues have well and truly grasped the opportunity.

We are creating a culture in which every colleague has a voice, feels listened to and can be themselves.
Charles Offord

The Co-op very much has the ‘community’ at heart, how have you delivered for these communities over the past 12–18 months?

Putting something back into our members’ communities is really important to us.

As an example, our car insurance offer for Members delivered an expansion to the communit

y fridge network across the UK through the Co-op’s partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, providing more sustainable and dignified community food solutions.

Our insurance has raised money for Mind, SAMH and Inspire, which has seen the Co-op collectively raise £8m and to date has helped 22,000 people to access mental wellbeing support.

As well as our community work, we know how important it is at these difficult times to help those around you. We ran a specific campaign in the second half of last year for our Members where we put £50 on our members’ card to spend on groceries in their local Co-op store when they bought or renewed their car insurance with the Co-op.

Partnerships were also key to your success, and helped contribute to this award, could you expand on what you have done here?

In our new operating model partners are key to our success. It’s important to us that partners enjoy working with the Co-op team and enjoy representing the Co-op brand when dealing with our members and customers. Co-operation is obviously a key value for us at Co-op and we’re at our best when we work with partners who share our philosophy.

We’ve made some partnership changes to get where we need to be for our Members, but we’re now well set up for the future. We’re grateful for and appreciate the teams at the Markerstudy Group, Amazon, All Clear, Royal London, Legal & General, SRIS and Axa.

What plans do you have for the future to continue to build on this BIA success as personal lines broker of the year?

We’re all about delivering value for our members, which is our North Star and won’t change. Our co-operative business model means we don’t have to focus on delivering financial value to shareholders.

This gives us a unique opportunity, even though we know it’s an extremely competitive market out there. So, we won’t be resting on our laurels and our growth plans are significant. It’s going to be an even more exciting journey ahead for our customers, colleagues and partners.

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