Eighty five job losses and an office closure
– that was the stark headline that broke yesterday afternoon as Aviva
announced a significant shake-up to its underwriting network. However, Gareth Hemming, director of SME commercial at Aviva
, spoke to Insurance Business UK
to explain the reasons behind the move and the long-term benefits he believes it will bring.
“We’ve got a business that’s growing and a business that’s improving its profitability and the context of these changes is about focusing our development and activity on two parts of our business that are working really well at the moment – both the digital side of things and the local trading,” he said.
Aviva will be creating a commercial digital hub in Perth which will bring its online and national trading broker teams together. As such, it will be moving work from Leicester into this digital hub in Perth or into one of its local underwriting teams with only a smaller underwriting team to be maintained in Leicester and 82 roles to go. Meanwhile, it will introduce a mobile team in London City working from its St Helen’s office for those SME and CSR brokers who have a presence in the Square Mile; and its Cambridge team will become ‘mobile underwriters’ with its office there to close.
However, rather than compacting its service to brokers, Hemming believes that these changes are going to ensure they get a better service with assistance from teams that understand all aspects of their business.
“What we’ve got at the moment in Leicester is the combination of what we call a national trading centre and a local trading centre,” he explained. “What we’ve decided is that our local trading team will actually grow in size and we’ll focus on trading with brokers in and around that area. Meanwhile, we’ll bring together our digital work and our other work in Perth so that brokers will have people who understand their whole account rather than one bit of it.”
“One of our strategic directions is to use digital wherever it makes sense and wherever it contributes to better customer relationships,” he added. “This is about bringing our development of that into one area where we can focus on how we can use digital technology to work better with brokers and work better with their customers.”
Of course whenever an insurance company pushes its digital operations and jobs are lost, there is a natural fear among many that this is yet another example of an insurer becoming less people-focused. However, Hemming stresses that in this case the opposite is true – and that in fact there will be greater emphasis on offering a localised, people-driven service going forward.
“Our network of local underwriters is not going to change at all,” he said. “We are still going to have the same number of people on the ground and working in brokers’ offices. Our network of local underwriters is untouched by this.
“In fact, more brokers will benefit from a local underwriting service – and by local we mean people actually working in their offices not in a building nearby. We’ll be able to do that for more brokers.
“Then there are those who use our digital service Fast Trade and who typically do other business with us as well but they feel the two aspects are a little bit disconnected. This gives us the opportunity to bring those together. So our intention in doing this is to deliver a better service to brokers and it’s driven by that understanding of what works.
“While it’s regrettable to have roles being lost out of the business I think we have a lot of understanding about the strategic context. It’s obviously a shame to be losing people but I think in the broader strategic context it’s understood.”