While the most prominent challenge facing both brokers and insurers amid the coronavirus pandemic is adjusting to operational changes, Tony Wheatley (pictured), CEO of Berkley Insurance Australia, says it’s important to reconnect with brokers in the aftermath.
“How we respond to the personal and economic issues that arise from COVID-19 and particularly how we reengage with brokers and employees when social distancing becomes less necessary [will be a challenge],” Wheatley said.
“At the moment our goal is to ensure that our customers, brokers and employees come through the back of this in one piece. The economic factors are going to have a long-term impact, but if we look after these three key stakeholders then we will continue to operate at a high level.
“Supporting our customers and brokers in this time is what will best position us for the future and I am sure we will learn a lot of lessons along the way that will help shape how we operate going forward,” he concluded.
Wheatley says one of Berkley Insurance Australia’s greatest competitive advantages during this challenging period is the company’s preparation to work remotely. Through trialling a “testing phase”, he was able to grasp if his employees had the necessary resources to work from home.
“Berkley Insurance Australia moved to a work from home environment in the middle of March. In the weeks prior to that we went through a testing phase where each of our employees made sure they could access systems and had the resources to work from home,” Wheatley continued.
“The transition, in the end, was seamless and we achieved our goal of ensuring our employees could work from home without interruption and that our brokers continued to receive the high levels of service and response that Berkley Insurance Australia is known for.”
Despite the challenges of the virus, Wheatley believes this period provides a good opportunity for employers to gauge the advantages of working from home in case a future event pushes the industry back into lockdown.
“I think it is also a good opportunity for us to look at the positives and negatives of working from home so we can adapt our day to day operations and be better prepared for a future event,” he said.
“This represents a good opportunity to challenge our preconceived views of how an office-based industry works and I have no doubt we will be working very differently into the future.”
But during this unprecedented time, Wheatley is focusing on providing specialised support to his clientele, as each person’s circumstances are unique and, therefore, requires special attention.
“We have always prided ourselves on being a responsive insurance company with local underwriters,” he explained.
“Our underwriters are industry experts understand each client situation is different and requires a unique solution. If brokers have clients with significant issues, then speaking to our underwriters directly is the best way to obtain help or advice.”
He also added that his main role as a CEO is to lead by example and provide regular communication to customers while also ensuring his employees are supported and remain connected.
“Leading by example and staying in touch with customers and employees, not just through various social media but by personalised calls, is really important,” Wheatley said.
“Ensuring employees are well supported with resources and that our teams are connecting regularly to ensure everyone is coping with these changes is critical. It was really important to ensure our systems and processes were well structured so that the change required was minimised. In a time when we know people are going through a lot of change, driven by external factors, the need to reduce internal stresses is really important.”
Finally, Wheatley added that this uncertain time has provided an opportunity for Berkley Insurance Australia to reflect on its business operations and encourage innovative thinking.
“We value innovative thinking and encourage all of our employees to challenge the status quo and look at new and better ways to manage our business,” Wheatley continued.
“There is no better time to do that than when stress and change is being forced upon us, and we are seeing evidence of that every day - not just in our business, but in society in general.”