When Be Wiser announced its results for the eight months ending January 2020, there was little hint of the sheer level of impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was about to have on the global insurance sector. Within the result announcement, however, the chairman of Be Wiser, Mark Bower-Dyke (pictured), a speaker at the upcoming Broker Connect UK event, emphasised the significant advances in technology that the brokerage has been utilising to future-proof the business and enable it to continue to thrive in an industry that is going through extensive technological change.
Read more: Be Wiser reports growth in premium income
The profound power of this pledge has been keenly felt by Be Wiser since then as the business recently moved from having a handful of offices to over 330 “offices” spread throughout the UK over a seven-day period. Be Wiser’s ability to implement technology so rapidly has been a driving force behind the business maintaining and even improving its standard and speed of service during the lockdown.
“I know some of our competitors, and businesses across the insurance industry have not been able to get out and do this, and continue as normal,” he noted. “The fact that we had already invested so much in technology which was designed so that we could expand our systems, and designed in a way that meant that changing [our systems] to allow home working, was key to this success.”
Bower-Dyke paid warm tribute to the staff at Be Wiser and how they have embraced this fundamental change to their working practices, saying that, as a manager, it has been inspiring to see what they have been able to achieve in such a short amount of time. Employees have rapidly adapted to the new technologies designed to help them embrace enhanced means of communicating with clients during this crisis and have kept engaged with the business throughout every stage of the process.
In some ways, the engagement of each individual employee with the management team at Be Wiser has only increased since the outbreak, he said, as initiatives such as one-on-one coffee mornings have been developed to help maintain the level of awareness needed for the business to thrive in these uncertain times. The coronavirus pandemic is changing the whole dynamic of how employees relate to each other and how they deal with their customers, and the virtual world being created by the pandemic is much closer to what customers are expecting from their service providers in this day and age.
There has been great time, effort and money involved in implementing these working practices but this has been repaid by the ability that this has given the business to fulfil its ultimate ambition – that of helping the customer and making their insurance journey as smooth as possible. That is not just the core of the business, Bower-Dyke said, but is the future of Be Wiser, and what has been of paramount importance has been making sure that the needs and requirements of all customers have been met as much as possible during this crisis.
“The broking market has worked really hard to help its customers during this time and to be there for them, as have some of the auxiliary trades that are tied up in this sector such as premium financing,” he said. “They have worked to go that extra mile for their clients but we, as an industry should really be responding more as a whole.
“There are an enormous amount of challenges facing insurance companies at the moment, but their customers have got a tremendous amount more. The response to this across the industry has perhaps not been as quick as it ought to be - and now it is important for insurers to try to address the issues they are being faced with head on. Brokers have really stepped up to the mark and it is important that all insurers do the same.”
Not just within the insurance sector but across all industries, the speed at which changes to company working practices have been required has been significantly elevated by this crisis, Bower-Dyke noted, and the best companies are the ones able to respond to these changes as they occur. Irrespective of whether you are part of the biggest companies in the world or part of a much smaller firm – the ability to make your business ready to look after and guide your clients is dependent on your capacity to react speedily to their changing needs.
Moving forward, Bower-Dyke said that the greatest difficulty he can see for businesses across the UK, including this brokerage, is the very reverse of the challenge that they faced at the beginning of the lockdown. With great effort and planning, every staff member was enabled to work from home within a week at Be Wiser, but the question now is how long it will take to return to ‘business as usual’ in the more traditional sense of the phrase.
“If anything, that is probably a more complicated plan and it is going to be very interesting to see how this occurs,” he said. “Will everybody be encouraged to go back to work at once or will it be more of a staggered approach? Either way, this is something we are working very hard on at the moment. If there is one thing that this [crisis] has been, it has been the best test ever of a business’s ability to develop and act upon a disaster recovery plan.”
To learn more about the key issues insurance brokers are facing around COVID-19 and how to handle them, make sure to attend the massive new insurance industry virtual event, Broker Connect UK on June 04. Attendance is free for brokers and risk managers – just register now.