handl Group's CEO and CCO on what 2021 holds for the company

How has the 'people plus tech' angle been accelerated by COVID-19?

handl Group's CEO and CCO on what 2021 holds for the company


By Mia Wallace

For so many businesses across the spectrum of the insurance sector, 2020 has been a case of ‘ready or not’ when it comes to digital evolution. From GRP’s acquisition of a new digital and affinity hub to Zego snapping up the telematics pioneer Drivit, this has been reflected by the strategic decisions being made by insurance companies as they face into 2021.

For the portfolio management company handl Group, which recently completed its acquisition of online alternative dispute resolution provider Autoresolutions Ltd, such digitally-focused additions to its portfolio have been a key focus throughout 2020. The group is a keen investor in start-ups, said Chris Chatterton (pictured above), chief commercial officer at handl Group, and is particularly interested in digital start-ups and those businesses which can reinvent the traditional way of managing supply chains.

“That’s been very flavour of the month over the last year with COVID,” he said. “But we see technology plus people as being an interesting mix that gets it right in terms of delivering services to customers. COVID has made that mix much more interesting, much more challenging and brought it forward much more quickly.”

The focus for the group over the last couple of years has been on branding its extensive portfolio as handl Group, said CEO Graham Pulford (pictured below) and now it’s in a position to start solidifying its status in the marketplace. In 2021, when the impact of COVID, of the downturn and of the stress of the last several months has started to diminish, handl will be looking to showcase its brand and the value it brings to the sector.

“I think that’s the key to moving forward,” Pulford said. “Each of the businesses within the portfolio have their own life, and their own management team and their own P&L objectives, and they are enabled to go out and deliver those products and services and to be experts in their fields.

“We buy best of breed businesses and link them together in a strategic way, looking at industry-wide issues to see where we can use various products from different group companies to help. Or, if there are specific insurer needs, we look at joining these together through the handl umbrella that sits above each business. And that’s where Chris and I spent most of our time, looking for opportunities across the brand to bring them further together.”

The group’s brands fall under four distinct categories, Pulford noted: claims handling services, medical and rehabilitation services, expert witness businesses, and businesses which sell insurance products for its broker network. Looking to 2021, handl will be actively pursuing further acquisitions which will support the existing businesses within the group.

Looking to the claims business, he said, 2021 is all about the reforms that are sweeping the sector at this time and about pushing out more LEI policies that will ensure customers are protected following the reforms in terms of receiving the services they require. The reforms implemented will have a knock-on effect on other businesses in the group, particularly its medical businesses as the new portal will deliver medical evidence.

The rehabilitation business will also be looking at aggressive growth in 2021, Pulford said, in terms of providing new products and services to help insured clients better and faster. That’s key to handl’s relationship with insurance businesses as it allows it to provide them with real services that impact their customers’ livelihoods and wellbeing.

It has been interesting thinking about the reforms, said Chatterton, as nobody is quite sure when they will be implemented or exactly what they will entail. One thing which has become clear, however, is that brokers and insurers are really thinking about how they can look after people in an unknown, uncertain environment. This concern is stretching beyond just their customers to include the people claiming against them.

“Once upon a time this would be a question of ‘how do we avoid these claims and how do we minimise what we’ve got to’,” he said, “and you don’t get that anymore. You get this desire to provide services, both digital and physical, and a desire to get it right for customers. And we’re all stuck with this great uncertainty of knowing how things are going to be transacted but I think there’s a great will out there to provide good service to customers.

“And that creates a lot of opportunities because not every insurer or every broker wants to do it by themselves - many want help but they do want their customers looked after. They don’t want to do the cheapest thing anymore, they want to do the right thing, which is a big difference.”

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