Straight talking from the Editor;
As everyone in the insurance industry knows, COVID-19 cover is NOT standard with most Business Interruption, critical illness or travel policies. But that stark, brutal fact needs to be sweetened with some good news and fast.
Criticism of the UK insurance industry has come from all sides; from the pub sector last week, who initially thought that a government order to close would automatically trigger claims payouts. Then armchair experts on social media piled on and vented their spleen, followed by mainstream media pundits and politicians. Nicola Sturgeon raised a case in the Scottish Parliament where a company found they were covered for Smallpox, which was eradicated back in 1980, but not covered for a modern viral disease like COVID-19.
There is a serious problem here, which the industry must address this coming week.
It is absolutely pointless to keep repeating the blunt message to `check your terms and conditions.’ If you look at the reaction to the way Britannia Hotels sacked – and evicted – staff by letter recently, you can see the long term brand damage that insurers, MGAs and brokers all potentially face this year. Turning a deaf ear isn’t a strategy, it’s a business suicide note.
Let me give you just one example of how big insurers could communicate better. Explain to customers that some companies using legacy systems can’t always tell all staff to work from home. The IT system sees a remote login as a hacking attempt, trying to breach the system. Explain that it takes some time to set up Cloud-based portals where customer data is truly secure, when 100s of employees are processing that data at home.
Ask for a bit of patience and say calls and emails will be triaged because of this IT security riddle that needs to be solved. People will understand – if you take time to tell them.
TRAVEL, MOTOR & BUSINESS COVER – TRUST NEEDS REBUILDING
Right now travel insurers should be coming together to formulate co-funded emergency rescue and support plans. Let’s be honest with customers, some of them are going to have to stay put for now, and triage assessments on which customers need urgent repatriation is the only fair and reasonable response for now. Publicise that effort. Man helplines with new freelance support staffed by people who have lost their jobs already in this epidemic – do something positive and shout about it on social media.
The industry has to forget about the BIBA show 2020 and instead set up an online association of brokers with expertise in business insurance, employee safety, wellbeing etc. Webinars and video calls need to replace conferences and events from now on, this HAS to be the way forward for the broker sector. Expertise has a real value for SMEs, and knowledge sharing needs to happen faster and get to the clients who need that advice urgently. This is a matter of survival – you could lose your clients if their business folds.
In broader terms, once some type of co-ordinated industry response is hammered out on business interruption, freelance cover, company/trade credit insurance etc, the ABI should do a daily briefing online, with a team of people from travel, business, fleet and life/health on hand to answer questions. As the Corona crisis eases, this briefing can really help people get trading again, plus as an industry we can rebuild some trust.
Insurers need to reach out to customers, not form the wagons into a circle.
Listen. Explain sympathetically, and then formulate some new ideas; MIB type emergency funds for the future, new insurance platforms that pull together several products in one place. Car drivers get an insurance NCD ID, like a passport, so that’s one more question off the template and everyone can provide their NCD to a new insurer in a single second – not a three week paper chase. Give customer greater consumer control and they will build their own bespoke insurance product portfolio.
An industry-wide commitment to offer immediate AI responses to questions and policy claims, with an auto generated case number and guaranteed weekly updates, would be a start towards better claims handling.
Finally end MTA charges. This practice really must stop, before it becomes the PPI of the insurance sector.
OK rant over, I don’t have all the answers, these are just ideas. If you have another idea then post a comment below.