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Going for gold
Resilience is one word that has characterised the industry over the past few years. In addition to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, insurers remained resilient as they faced regulatory changes, catastrophic events, climate change, talent flight and inflation. However, when this year’s winners looked at these challenges, they also saw great opportunities.
Through the 2022 IB Brokers on Insurers survey, scores of brokers ranked a dozen insurers in 11 different categories – awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals for first- through third-place achievements. Despite myriad challenges, each of these 12 winners were able to distinguish themselves in various service capacities, and now they have medals to prove it.
“Insurance is still a people business, and it is our people who make the difference”
Tony Wheatley, Berkley Insurance Australia
What matters most to brokers
According to IB’s survey, the most important category was “turnaround times – new business”. Among the respondents, 20.24% said that times had improved in the past 12 months and 77.38% said it had worsened, citing near universal work-from-home arrangements as the main reason. The overall gold medal winner, Berkley Insurance Australia (BIA), won the gold in this category as well.
“Our focus and absolute aim are to turn quotes around quickly,” says Tony Wheatley, CEO of BIA. “We understand that if we provide quotes within 24 hours, that makes the broker’s job easier and increases the chances of that broker winning the business.”
The next most important category was “BDM support”. Of the brokers surveyed, 19.05% said BDM support had improved, 80.95% said it had worsened due mostly to a lack of face-to-face encounters resulting from the COVID pandemic. Once again, BIA won the gold.
“We do not adopt a standalone BDM role in our model,” says Wheatley. “Our underwriters are our BDMs, and we provide them with a level of authority and autonomy to provide a high level of service to the brokers they deal with.”
Tied with “BDM support” was “online platforms and services,” for which BIA got bronze. The company has a new BindIT platform in addition to its Steadfast Client Trading Platform.
After that, the category of most importance was “product range”. The overall silver medal winner, Chubb, was awarded a gold medal in this category. “Chubb prides itself on our underwriting discipline and listening to our customers’ needs and our broad appetite means we are in a unique place to enhance both existing product capabilities while also innovating to craft solutions for our clients that are relevant to their industry and scale,” says Chris Gough, the company’s head of property and casualty, Australia and New Zealand.
Next was “overall service level,” for which AXA XL won the silver medal. Catherine Carlyon, AXA XL’s country manager, says: “We combine the best of the local small carriers with a flat structure and fewer than 200 people in Australia, which means it is very easy for all our people to collaborate and communicate to meet clients’ needs, and we have the expertise, resources and financial strength of AXA supporting us globally.”
Tied with “overall service level” was “product innovation”. Gold medal winner BIA attributes constant monitoring and improving product wording to align with market conditions. With Chubb winning the silver medal, Gough echoes BIA’s sentiment: “With an ever-changing economic and risk landscape, it’s important that our products remain relevant and respond when our clients are in need.”
“The Chubb claims service is critically important to our business. We pride ourselves on our technical excellence and providing the highest service to our customers”
Chris Gough, Chubb
Next among the categories of most importance was “brand recognition and reputation,” for which Chubb won the gold.
“We have continued to increase our investment in building awareness of the Chubb brand via our sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis grand slam and broad advertising campaigns across various channels,” says Gough. “This higher profile activity is also complimented by regular national and local broker campaigns, such as the current ‘Selling in Uncertain Times’ campaign, as well as insights, articles, thought leadership and a suite of tools to support our brokers.”
Tied with “brand recognition and reputation” was “commission structure,” in which BIA got the silver. The next most important category was “broker communication, training and development” in which BIA won the gold and Chubb took the bronze.
“During the COVID lockdown period, we put a huge amount of effort into providing webinars and other training opportunities that were relevant and came from the same underwriting teams that deal with brokers day in and day out,” says Wheatley. “At the end of each session, we took the feedback provided and fine-tuned our approach to ensure we were meeting brokers’ needs.”
Next up in category importance was “premium stability”. Among the brokers surveyed, 22.62% said premium stability had improved in the past 12 months and 77.38% said it had worsened. BIA also got the gold in this category. “As a general rule, we try to avoid putting ourselves in a position where we need to increase rates substantially across the board,” says Wheatley. “We were probably one of the first specialist insurers to start raising rates in certain classes and by doing so, we have been able to maintain a consistent approach to these increases.”
Meanwhile, the least important to the brokers was “turnaround times – claims”. Of the brokers surveyed, 21.43% said that turnaround times for claims had improved and 78.57% said that they had worsened. BIA won the gold, Chubb the silver.
“The Chubb claims service is critically important to our business,” says Gough. “We pride ourselves on our technical excellence and providing the highest service to our customers.”
“We drive an open, collaborative culture – open to challenges and supportive at the same time”
Catherine Carlyon, AXA XL
Challenges and competitive differentiators
For the medal winners this year, it hasn’t all been victory laps. For example, AXA XL had to manage numerous mergers and acquisitions while dealing with rapid growth over the last seven years. Then there’s COVID.
“In 2019, the technology and our team’s ability and desire to work remotely was largely untested,” says Carlyon. “COVID then struck and we transitioned to remote working extremely successfully with the right support from both technology and people’s approach and attitude. Fast track to 2022: The business has survived for two years largely working remotely and we are currently navigating through changes in expectations and work practices to a successful hybrid working model, targeting an overall three-day office and two-day remote working balance.”
Persistence isn’t the only thing that differentiates AXA XL from the competition. “Our talent – our people – are what makes the company,” adds Carlyon. “We drive an open, collaborative culture – open to challenges and supportive at the same time. This enables us to focus on servicing our clients’ needs and to continually challenge ourselves to learn and improve.”
Meanwhile, Chubb was able to fly in overseas-based team members to help with recent weather events in New South Wales and Queensland. The extra resources helped them scale up quickly. “I’m really proud that in some cases, we were able to pay claims within hours of the initial notification, truly helping customers get back on their feet in their time of need,” says Gough.
Resourcefulness isn’t the only thing that differentiates Chubb from the competition. “At Chubb, we say: ‘we assess, assume, and manage risk with insight and discipline,’” adds Gough. “We are a company that successfully balances the rigour of our craft – underwriting, claims management and all the enabling functions that support the business – with the active empathy required to understand and deliver against what our clients need.”
And what helps differentiate our gold medal winner from the competition?
“At BIA, we focus on a limited number of products and aim to do them very well,” says Wheatley. “Our service philosophy is ingrained in the business and every person who works for BIA understands that is at the core of what we do. We have highly regarded underwriters in each of our state officers and they are trusted with significant authority to respond without complex referral triggers and processes. Our underwriting appetite, while quite broad in the classes we participate in, is very transparent and we communicate that as much as we can to avoid disappointment or confusion.”
Wheatly emphasises that ultimately, what makes a difference is the commitment from BIA’s employees to work hard for their brokers and insured customers – an ethos that is essential to a people-centred business like insurance.
Brand recognition and reputation
Broker communication, training and development
Online platforms and services
Overall service level
- (tie) CGU
- (tie) Liberty Specialty Markets
Turnaround time – claims
- Liberty Specialty Markets
Turnaround time – new business
- Liberty Specialty Markets
- Hollard Commercial Insurance
Brokers from across the nation were invited to rate the performance of a selection of insurers currently operating in Australia. To ensure results were relevant and timely, respondents were asked to rate only those insurers they had dealt with in the past 12 months.
Twelve insurers were rated by brokers in this year’s survey: AIG, Allianz, AXA XL, Berkley Insurance Australia, Berkshire Hathaway, CGU, Chubb, Hollard Commercial, Liberty Specialty Markets, QBE, Vero and Zurich. The brokers rated each insurer’s performance on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (very good) across 11 different categories.
For each category, the insurers were ranked in order of merit according to an average score calculated from a tally of their ratings. The top three companies in every category received a gold, silver, or bronze medal. The insurers’ combined average score from all categories determined the medalists for Insurer of the Year.