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Serial success stories
It’s hard to reach the top, but even harder to stay there. That’s why extra praise has been heaped on those who made it into the winning circle for IB’s Brokers on Underwriting Agencies 2023, as over 400 brokers selected the best in 16 categories based on:
Most are repeat winners and are celebrated for being consistently outstanding.
Nik Kanellakos, director of ADK Insurance Brokers, highlights the key elements a broker demands from a top underwriting agency:
And discussing the pain points for brokers, he says, “There are capacity issues and sometimes a lack of responses as we are forever chasing them, as there has also been an influx of new staff and inexperienced staff coming on board.”
This year’s winners have overcome these hurdles to become trusted, reliable partners with their brokers.
IB spoke to three serial winners (who also won in the same categories in 2022) to gain insight into how they have been able to dominate their respective sectors.
Construction: Glenn Ross, CEO, MECON Insurance
Commercial motor: Darryl Martin, General Manager, Market Development, GT Insurance
Cyber information and technology: Colin Pausey, COO, Emergence Insurance
What’s been the key to winning again in your sector?
Ross (MECON): “We have a very strong company culture focused on our people. Most of our senior staff have been with the company for in excess of eight years, and staff turnover is very low. This has enabled a high level of staff training and a group cohesion that enables MECON’s broker-facing staff to deliver informed and valuable assistance, particularly around our ever-evolving policy coverage.”
Martin (GT): “We really stay true to our culture in that we are very customer-centric, ensuring we prioritise the service to our brokers, and that means our service model. We’re represented throughout Australia and the different regions, which enables us to have dedicated local contacts in the broker market. Brokers still demand local and personalised service, and that’s something that we haven’t changed in our model. Speaking with our broker partners, there is a lot of stress in businesses in Australia, which means there’s extra demand put on brokers and also the insurers to be able to respond in a timely manner, so we really prioritise that.”
Pausey (Emergence): “In times when the market was hard, our rates didn’t go through the roof. We went as far as we could without rate increases. There was a period of time when other agencies were trying to reduce coverage as part of managing issues, but we just kept our wording the same; in fact, we’ve probably enhanced our wording. Another one of the keys is our team structure; they have accessibility to decision-makers and to the more experienced professionals in the firm.”
“The impact of public liability (worker to worker) injury claims remains a significant risk, and increased reinsurance costs are also an influential factor. MECON does have some new initiatives in the planning stages, but we need to keep some things up our sleeve, particularly with new entrants to our market space!”
Glenn RossMECON Insurance
Along with consistency, what additional features have you embraced in the last 12 months?
Ross (MECON): “We constantly monitor risk developments occurring in the construction industry and are quick to react to keep brokers advised and to provide innovative covers to assist clients in managing such risks. (Our quick reaction to COVID-19, our “Builders Advantage Endorsement” providing coverage for the risks builders encountered with fixed-price contracts and extended construction durations and our “Project Duration Extension Endorsement” to specifically cater for extended project durations unexpectedly encountered in annual policies are all examples of innovation to address emerging risks.) Merging with the UAA Group has seen MECON undergo change. MECON no longer underwrites contractor plants and equipment as UAA has absorbed our CPE portfolio. MECON now focuses entirely on construction, wherein we have adhered to our tried and trusted formula. Using the engineer’s vernacular, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Martin (GT): “We have invested heavily in also improving our self-service capabilities, which addresses the needs of some brokers for quick or instant response times on particular segments of motor. Our self-service platform enables them to instantly quote, but it’s also supported by dedicated underwriters behind the scenes, so if something doesn’t perhaps fit, we’ve got a dedicated team there to respond very quickly as well. The marketplace in our particular segment of commercial motor is a very competitive marketplace, and that certainly motivates our constant innovation. We also build in feedback mechanisms to ensure that we’re tweaking, so while we’ve developed a streamlined platform service for our brokers, it’s not a tool that we revisit every year or two; it’s something that we’re constantly monitoring every month.”
Pausey (Emergence): “In the new year, when you buy a policy from us, you’ll get a whole range of services at no cost to the insured. You’ll have ongoing 24/7 monitoring of the dark web, so if somebody’s already got your stuff and it’s out there, we’ll be able to tell you. I’ll be frank, some of our major competitors are also rolling out offerings like this, and I think this will make it hard for the market going forward because this is going to come as much as a service offering as an insurance offering. We can tell the insured about a vulnerability, and it’s actually a zero-day type vulnerability, and we’re just letting them know. We can’t compel them to do anything because it’s not a terminal condition of the insurance contract, but we just hope they take it in good faith. Also, we employ our own incident response people in-house, and it’s a genuine 24/7 model; everyone offers 24/7 incident response or a form of it, but we employ the people who are empowered to make decisions, and if they need to get forensics specialists, lawyers or communications experts involved, they can have a team available within an hour.”
“We look at every customer on their individual merits and try to design a program that’s suitable for their needs, and we’re largely led by the broker who is there to provide that professional guidance to ensure the customer is appropriately insured”
Darryl MartinGT Insurance
As these awards are driven by broker feedback, how do you interact with the broking community, and what part do they play in how you operate?
Ross (MECON): “With work from home being the norm, visiting large groups of brokers face to face has become almost a thing of the past. Instead, we have adapted to providing webinar training and podcasts for our broker community. (Broker training has always been provided by MECON.) We have also been fortunate in that the UAA Group BDM network is conducting personalised broker visits and is now acting across the group, including on MECON’s behalf. Each year, we conduct a broker survey. The results are closely scrutinised and help us set the scene for the year ahead. The brokers who respond to our survey are probably unaware of how influential they are in setting MECON’s direction.”
Martin (GT): “We’re an intermediate business, so our broker is also our customer. We always collaborate with our brokers to understand exactly how they see GT. Looking through the lens of the brokers is really important, and we also invest in market research, so that enables us to get a very wide cross-section of insight to ensure that we are making very informed strategies on our continuous improvement journey.”
Pausey (Emergence): “We don’t just have business development people; our people are business development underwriters; they all have the ability to underwrite as well. So, they actually go out and talk to brokers. That’s a good model, but we also invite different teams of brokers in a lot, almost once, sometimes twice a month, where we do a presentation to them. We tell them about our cyber advisory services, incident response and claims, then use examples. It’s actually a social event underpinned by about an hour to an hour and a half of presentation, and that’s incredibly successful because we only do one product, so we deal with the brokers on a very regular basis. And that’s the opportunity for the broker to say to us, ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ and if you hear it often enough, then maybe it’s something you’ve got to provide that cover, or we tell them, ‘It’s actually something we do provide, but we don’t call it that; we call it this’.”
“No two of us look the same; there’s a lot of diversity here, but we all have similar values. That’s why our people follow our lead because a lot of effort goes into getting the right person and giving them the right training, and then they just naturally buy in”
Colin PauseyEmergence Insurance