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Managing Director of Networks and Products, Jaime Swindle, discusses her thoughts for the year ahead

As we’re now into February, New Year’s resolutions may feel like a distant memory at this point. Usually at this time of year, we’ve set our strategies for the months ahead and we’re now putting them into motion; however, establishing plans in 2021 will understandably be different, as so much is still up in the air. That said, I believe that there are trends across the industry that brokers and insurers can tap into. Here are my predictions for 2021, as well as my goals for the Network this year.

A real focus for me this year is to drive Network’s Members and Insurers Partners to succeed in delivering better customer outcomes by demonstrating the value in insurance protection. The public needs to be aware that cheap policies often aren’t worth their weight in paper, as they don’t provide adequate cover.

It’s the Network has a role in supporting brokers with communicating complex and difficult messages and situations, such as the hardening of the market, and facilitating more informed conversations that ultimately result in better connectivity with their clients.

Forecasts for the year

We have only been out of the EU for less than a month and as the year goes on, I believe we’ll start seeing the true impact of Brexit. Time will show what it means for market access for brokers and insurers, but also what the impact is on clients, including everything from the supply chain and logistics to extra paperwork, such as Green Cards when driving in EEA countries. In fact, according to a YouGov survey, almost four in 10 (38%) SMEs say they feel unprepared for Brexit, and this figure is higher still among SMEs that import from outside the UK at 46%.

Of course, we’re also going to see the economic impacts of COVID-19, as well as the effect it has on the insurance industry. According to the latest figures by ONS, monthly gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.6% in November 2020. Also, a recent Which? survey revealed that one in seven (14%) Car and Home Insurance and three in ten (29%) Private Health Insurance (PMI) customers have struggled to pay their premiums during the pandemic, all of which no doubt will have an impact on the growth of the industry as a whole.

Last year saw independent brokers go above and beyond as trusted advisors for their customers to help them navigate COVID and Brexit, and our Members were no exception. To assist them in retaining and strengthening client relationships, we armed them with a series of shareable packs that outlined the latest Government updates. I have no doubt that the broking community will continue to be a backbone for SMEs across the UK in 2021.

In terms of the policy requirements clients are going to be asking for, (dare I say it) non-damage BI, as well as litigation, affordability and accessibility. Going forward, we need to be clear about the value and cost of policies is to the customer, and we should be far more conscious about what that means. This could be flexible policies and trading or reducing costs to demonstrate better value.

There is still a lot of new capital entering the market, meaning there is more to deploy and potentially fewer clients to measure that against, which will ultimately lead to continued pressure on rates.

Redefining the workplace

The one thing that has been abundantly clear throughout the pandemic is that admin tasks and clearing emails are easier to do when working from home. But, collaboration less so. Therefore, I think when lockdown eases again, we will start to see a much more flexible approach to working, with a blend of office and homework. This will naturally be individual to each business – some may have more of an office presence, while others may operate with a focus on remote working.

AXA for example has introduced a smart way of working, aiming by 2023 to combine remote working and office presence by enabling employees, on a voluntary basis, to work remotely, with two days as a rough guide.

 Like many businesses, we have been operating remotely throughout the pandemic, but it won’t always be that way. Connections are vital for the industry in which we work in. Our teams have missed the interaction with Members just as much as the brokers have and are looking forward to networking with and supporting them in person again, and I know insurers feel the same way too.

In the long run, we need to be more imaginative; for us, it will be a case of striking that balance between effective use of time at home and offering in person meetings and events. By playing smart, my teams will be able to undertake admin tasks for Members while working remotely and then offer trading, collaborative and auditing opportunities face-to-face when the guidelines allow.

Representing our clients

How can we better win over the customer as an industry? Diversity, equality and inclusivity.

The workforce of the insurance industry needs to reflect the customers we serve, which means bringing a diverse range of people, thoughts, experiences and backgrounds together. Our clients don’t look, sound, or think the same way; they haven’t all had the same opportunities or gone through the same events. So, how can we really say we understand the needs of our customers if we aren’t representative of them?

Another key area of focus should be creating a culture of awareness around people’s circumstances in the industry – its reputation has been somewhat tarnished by a genuine lack of understanding. Therefore, there is perceived lack of trust by the general public, and the reporting on the BI test case in particular has exacerbated this.

At Broker Network, our L&D and HR teams have done a huge amount of work to support our Membership in both these areas. We have launched our Kickstart Collective as a Network, utilising the Government’s initiative to get young people back into work by creating opportunities within our Members’ businesses. Our teams are then there to facilitate that and provide training and support along the way. We’re also going to be introducing a future leaders’ programme to foster the next generation of leadership in the market. I am hugely excited about how both initiatives will bring new talent into the industry.  

Looking after the planet

With the recent floods, it has highlighted the effects of climate change once more. As an industry, we feel the impacts of the increased severity of flooding and more extremes of weather every year, as more properties are flooded, the number of claims increase. Climate change is the biggest concern we are facing not only as an industry but globally and should be a huge priority for 2021 and beyond.

From a corporate and social responsibility perspective, we all need to look at our contribution and our carbon footprint. It could be assessing whether journeys need to be made or can the task be carried out virtually or could the trip be made in an electric vehicle, analysing our energy consumption and recycling in offices. It is also about the businesses we partner with and what their environmental and sustainability policies are, looking at whether they align with ours. This is something I will be championing throughout the Network, so we can set the tone and show how it can be done.

Technology driven solutions

InsureTech is on the rise and while we aren’t a technology company, we have seen a demand for tech-led products from Members, as their clients are starting to ask for them. To meet this need, we have added two innovative motor insurers to our panel – By Miles and Zego – who both offer pay-as-you go Car Insurance, which empowers drivers and businesses with fleets to take charge of how much they pay, based on the number of miles they cover.

A purpose-built model

The purpose has remained the same throughout the journey of the Network and that has been to Grow, Protect and Support Members. Under the ‘Grow’ pillar it is about helping independent brokers to attract new customers, while retaining their current client base, enhanced access to markets and products, as well as providing the skills they need to strengthen their business development plans.

For ‘Protect’, it’s the Network’s job to help brokers navigate the regulatory landscape. I have a team of experienced Risk & Compliance professionals, who have their finger on the pulse and provide Members with regular updates, documents and webinars, so they can stay on top of their compliance requirements. In terms of ‘Support’, it’s about providing brokers with best practice to develop their people.

The Network’s strategies are always driven by brokers’ feedback, and everyone within the business responds to their needs, no matter what. Myself and my teams will always look at where things can be adapted and refined to support Members with the challenges they face, so that the Network continues to be a steadfast ally for independent brokers.

Click here to here more from Jaime in an interview on Networks TV.

If you’re not a Member of Broker Network and would like to find out more about joining, get in touch today.

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