Trust is about having a track record of delivery. Trust is about expectations being met and exceeded. Trust is about putting people above profits. All of these points ran through my mind when I read in the Deloitte Insights 2022 insurance industry outlook report that trust levels in insurers, agents and brokers actually improved during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite all the business disruptions that took place.
It’s good to hear that we are trusted, and it speaks to an understanding of our industry’s fundamental role, which is to protect businesses, individuals and industries against financial ruin. We like to think of insurance as the lifeblood of an economy because without it, the financial fall-out of unforeseen events could be devastating.
But trust is not easy to come by. To be a credible player in the financial services industry, you need to have a solid track record, a healthy balance sheet and a strong capability to support business. And, of course, core to any insurance company’s success is its ability to pay claims.
It’s critical to adapt to the changing environment, like when we were quick off the mark in offering Covid-related travel cover at the onset of the pandemic. But we need to blend flexibility with resilience. I like to use the portmanteau word “stagility” – being agile yet at the same time stable enough to provide cover when it’s needed most. That’s how you build trust.
I would like to think our wide variety of cover that encompasses almost every kind of risk relating to insurable perils – ranging from motor vehicle accidents to catastrophes – has served us well in a market where consumers and customers are increasingly selective about which businesses to support. But a trusted and credible insurer is not built from bricks and mortar – it’s a carefully assembled hive of competent, skilled people whom we trust implicitly to deliver expert advice and create products tailored to customers’ needs.
And, of course, brokers are a critical building block in – I would even say cornerstone of – every insurance business. Intermediaries are our boots on the ground and are ideally placed to give the best possible advice to customers, who can then proactively mitigate any potential risks they might face and have peace of mind.
Our broker network has an intimate understanding of our products, as well as customers’ needs. Therefore, I would argue that the broker is one of the most crucial links in the insurance value chain and that trust begins right there, at the source.
Covid has accelerated technological changes to the way we do business, and some might speculate that virtual interactions have the potential to erode those carefully forged broker-customer connections. I take a different view: I believe that these have now evolved into “bionic” relationships, where the broker is the human element using digitalisation and digital tools to serve customers better.
However, there is absolutely no replacement for physical interactions and eyeball-to-eyeball encounters – after all, people do business with people, not with machines. Machines are there to enhance and modernise businesses.
That is why we back our brokers as the human, expert interface behind any digital tools our customers use to make claims or update their policies. So, yes, investing in technology to make processes faster and simpler is vital, but it will never replace the flesh-and-blood human encounters that make up a holistic, quality insurance offering.
Actions over rhetoric
Being a compassionate insurer that practises what it preaches from an environmental, social and governance (ESG) point of view – not just ticking boxes and parroting corporate jargon – also helps to build trust. To create and secure better futures for our customers and our country, we need to be good corporate citizens in both thought and deed. In this regard I can honestly say Hollard shows up. Our team members buy passionately into this shared-value social compact, and it forms part of our corporate DNA.
Ultimately, what does the notion of trust really mean in the insurance game? It boils down to more than price, that’s for sure. It’s about offering the best solutions for customers’ needs. It’s about being there through thick and thin – including providing support and paying claims when customers need us the most. It’s about supporting brokers to deliver on their promises to customers. It’s about standing up and showing up.