Building the broker-underwriter relationship

Building the broker-underwriter relationship

HARARE, To fulfil insurance’s core mission to provide protection to clients, underwriters and brokers must have a successful relationship backed by a mutual understanding of each other’s business priorities and key drivers.

This is one of the principles that Hayley Robinson, UK chief underwriting officer at Zurich Insurance, stands by. She recently spoke with Insurance Business about how underwriters and brokers can work better together, and she believes that the understanding between brokers and underwriters, coupled with a strong personal relationship, allows for a clear and articulate plan of action to be put in place.

“We constantly ask ourselves – Are we tenacious? Do we have the clarity of vision? Have we articulated our appetite and proposition? And are our actions aligned to the benefit of both organisations?” she said. “This is an attitude we think should be shared at both ends.”

She noted that underwriters have a tendency to ask too man questions, to the consternation of brokers.

“The relationships we have with our broker communities are very strong,” according to Robinson. “That said, one of the main items of feedback underwriters receive is that we can ask too many questions.

The reason underwriters ask questions is to be able to offer the best possible price and the most appropriate terms and conditions. Obviously, we don’t want to ask too many questions, but there is a tendency in all of us to assume less favourable risk features unless we ask!”

Having been appointed to the role of UK chief underwriting officer in early 2018, Robinson looked back at her first year on the job and the challenges she and Zurich have faced from an underwriting perspective.

“I’d separate [the challenges] into three,” she said.

“The retention and development of key talent remains a perennial issue. Zurich is a people-focussed business and we thrive on good quality, informed personalities. We have a number of internal initiatives geared specifically to the retention of our talent – not just for underwriting, but the whole business.

“Secondly, we strive to remove the frictional costs around doing business. By that, I mean between us and the brokers. We constantly ask ourselves – how could we be servicing, communicating and delivering to our broker communities in a more efficient way?

“Finally, from a practical point of view, risks surrounding the escape of water and also of hot works, especially among our home, education and real estate customers, are increasingly prevalent. The exploitation of more and more sophisticated sensor and IoT tech is becoming increasingly important to us in these cases. For example, to detect a leak quickly can allow for a prompt and efficient notification of a potential claim.”

Robinson believes that these issues, without a doubt, will continue into 2019, especially Brexit-related concerns.

“It won’t be a surprise that Brexit is a topic that remains high on the agendas of our customers and distributors,” she said. “In particular, they want to know about the impact of Brexit on their policies and what this means for their relationship with us.

Throughout the Brexit process, we have continued to work closely with the UK, European and Swiss regulators and policymakers which will ensure we can continue to best serve our customers by being ready for the eventualities Brexit may bring.

“Certainly, there is impact for companies like ours who do business in or into/out of the UK. We are a global insurer operating across the world, and the UK and Europe are important for us. We are fully committed to our customers, distributors, and employees before, during, and after Brexit and will do what is right for them.”

Meanwhile, in the face of massive technological developments in insurance that have taken over some back office or manual functions in Zurich’s regional offices, Robinson believes that it is still essential for underwriters to have personnel on the ground.

“As a business based on relationships, we understand the regional nuances that are so important when it comes to transacting business,” she said. “Likewise, many of our customers and brokers really appreciate that we have a physical presence which can facilitate truly valuable face to face negotiation.

“We’re a UK business, with offices up and down the country and are committed to understanding our customers in their regions so it is unthinkable that we wouldn’t have feet on the ground. The reinvestment in our Glasgow office, which has created a collaborative space for brokers and customers alike, can certainly attest to that.” InsuranceBusinessUK