When you are in charge of what is already the largest commercial lines insurer in the UK, finding room to improve seems like a major challenge. But that is the task for Angus Eaton, managing director of commercial lines at Aviva
, and the man seems up for the task.
In an interview with Insurance Business UK
, Eaton said the size of the group and variety of products it offers already puts the company in a great position.
“We feel strongly that’s a great proposition for our customers, and in fact it’s the bedrock of the group’s strategy,” Eaton said. “The group’s strategy I love because I can say it in seven words. The group’s strategy is ‘true customer composite, digital first, not everywhere’.”
Eaton said Aviva
Group has been on a transformative journey over the last few years.
“Our current group chief executive has been with us three years now. As he would put it, he arrived at the fixed stage, and now we’re moving into the growth stage.”
With the balance sheet looking sturdy, a strong core business already in place, one of the biggest names in the industry looks only set to improve.
“Our belief is, the way the world is going, is that digital is everything, and therefore every investment decision we’re making, and the approach we take is very much digital first,” said Eaton.
Recent uses of modern technology within Aviva
include the use of drones to check for flooded properties in potentially inaccessible areas. The company has also trialled equipping risk surveyors with thermographic cameras to identify overheating circuitry in walls, potentially identifying a fire risk before it happens. Eaton said customers have been extremely supportive of efforts like this, largely because it means they see a tangible benefit to their insurance premiums.
“As you can imagine it works for us as well, and also it overcomes that slight dissonance you can have with insurance. It’s a sort of funny thing. Yes, people pay a premium and hope they never use it and don’t know how it works, but when they need to make a claim that sort of brings it alive.”
The use of digital technology is a key focus of Aviva
“The exciting thing in that for me is we’re actually doing it properly,” Eaton said. “We’re not doing it in a way that says ‘we’re insurance people in grey suits and we’re really good at doing digital’, we’re actually realising that we need to get different capability in.”
Getting assistance to brokers
, Eaton explained educating and supporting brokers is key for the growth of the business. With services like Marketplace, a one stop shop for product information, the Aviva
Development Zone which has access to over 200 courses for brokers, and Aviva
’s Marketing Mentor online resource, broker development is already strongly supported by the company. For a giant company, staying connected to brokers is important.
“One of our philosophies is that it’s good to remain local,” Eaton said. “The way we set ourselves up organisationally is on a regional basis. The underwriters that actually write the business, and have the relationships with the broker on the ground, are not very far from the broker.”
Almost 20 per cent of Eaton’s underwriters don’t work in Aviva
’s offices, instead operating as bonus underwriters that sit in brokers’ offices.
“It’s like any great relationship, you just invest time, effort and are really good at listening,” he said. “We’ve got a very strong sales and relationship team, who spend their time building the relationships.”
One of the biggest concerns for brokers currently is the Insurance Act, with many keen to understand what it means for their relationship with insurers and their customers. Aviva
has been involved in the Insurance Act from its inception. Eaton explained the company supports it because it will result in a strong outcome for customers. Because of Aviva
’s work developing the act, it is in an excellent position to help brokers understand it and has done so through workshops, masterclasses and one to one engagement.
“One of the big issues in the Insurance Act is about making sure that they’re presenting everything that they should know, and this is both for the customer and the broker, to us to help us underwrite,” said Eaton.
“In our smaller end of the business we’ve given some guarantees around saying, ‘don’t worry, if you do this, we’ll be happy’. We’re not about to turn around and say ‘hang on, you’ve missed that small thing and therefore it’s not valid’. We’ve really acknowledged the challenges that they’ve got there but equally set something up in a way that we can all succeed.”
What’s next for brokers?
On the subject of broker commissions, Eaton said it’s always best to keep in mind what is best for the customer.
“With that in mind, we would be supportive to a move towards more transparency for customers, in terms of commissions but more generally as well. We think that’s the secret for delivering the best service to customers.”
He also praised the value that brokers already deliver to customers.
“There are many of our broker partners who take their CII
membership very seriously, and are very proud of the professionalism of which they deliver their services to their customers and the commitment to their customers. And that is actually true added value for customers, and I think we’ll get too distracted if we spend too much time just seeing it as a monetary transaction.”
Eaton explained the biggest challenge he sees for brokers in the future is evolving at the same pace of customers.
“Underwriting wise, we define people by trades, and what we’re actually discovering in a lot of the work we’re doing is actually a hairdresser, for example, also happens to have a coffee shop on the side,” said Eaton.
“They’re very adaptable now customers, in ways they previously weren’t, and I suspect that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge brokers face. Keeping up to date and relevant to what their customers want.”
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