Insurance gets a digi-makeover

Do you remember back in the 70s when insurance was sold by doorstep salesmen working on commission?  And policy payments were collected fortnightly – in cash? I do. My mum kept a tin of spare change and a little notebook and pencil to keep a record of what she’d paid.

How times have changed. Digitisation is taking over the insurance sector faster than streaming replaced Betamax.

It’s no secret that outdated tech and slow new tech adoption have lingered in the insurance industry. But even the most risk-averse and traditional insurers are under pressure to reassess their business models and take the leap into digital transformation.

Tech takes over tradition

A recent global survey found that 99% of insurance organisations plan to update their technology systems this year including their broker and MGA platforms and claims, renewals and policy administration systems. Some are even introducing drones into their risk assessment armoury.

This transformation is being accelerated by the impending requirements Consumer Duty compliance requirements and Lloyd’s Blueprint 2.0. This digital strategy aims to deliver better, faster, and cheaper solutions to help all insurance participants navigate the complex and fast changing risk landscape.

Your AI claims adviser will be with you shortly

When it comes to customer experiences and claims handling, the bar continues to be set high. From paperless, peopleless claims filed online to payouts and policies issued in minutes.

The switched-on customer of 2024 wants speedy, seamless, streamlined and stress-free processes. They also demand user-friendly portals, on-the-go apps and access to 24/7 support – delivered how the customers need it. Whether that be with a ‘real’ person, a chatbot or a website with accessibility adjustments.

Claims departments are often the butt of insurance customer complaints. It can be the only time a customer interacts with their broker or insurance provider. Insurers that don’t embrace technology to refine and speed up their claims process may risk losing even their most loyal customers.

In 2023, Lemonade shook up the insurance industry by settling a claim in a record-breaking two seconds. Although that’s not a realistic benchmark for claims handling best practice, it demonstrates what can be done with the wonder of AI.

AI take-over

Last year, ChatGPT was the fastest-growing consumer software application in history. It now has over 100 million users prompting the launch of several competing products as businesses reaped the rewards of what AI could do – and learned from what it couldn’t.

These products will continue to influence how the insurance sector operates and will utilise their capabilities for underwriting, claims handling, and new product development.

A SaaSy business

Legacy insurance solutions were designed to be off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all but now thanks to the trajectory of SaaS software, bespoke solutions that suit the needs of very specific cohorts and niche businesses are becoming more mainstream.

Companies that gather and interrogate data to produce risk assessments and actionable evidence are growing in number. Emerging technology plays a big part in delivering these insights to insurers, brokers and MGAs. Geospatial images and drone footage can prove to be invaluable in many high-risk, high-profile claims cases.

So, whether you love, loathe or tolerate tech, it is here for the long-haul, so best keep up.

April 2024

International Women’s Day 2024 #Inspire Inclusion

Everyone everywhere can build on IWD’s achievements in forging positive change for women and girls worldwide – from equality in education to breaking the boardroom glass ceiling. Everybody can ‘inspire inclusion’ by embracing diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image and gender identity.

Today we celebrate Irwell’s Head of Operations, Sophie Doel’s professional and personal achievements on International Women’s Day.

Sophie passed the bar and worked as a solicitor specialising in liability before joining Irwell.  She has extensive insurance experience in property, legal expenses, employment protection and commercial liability. Passionate about developing people and corporate culture, Sophie is the Complaints and Vulnerable Customer Champion, as well as the HR, Training and Development Lead at Irwell.

Outside work, she is mum to two girls, so on International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to ask about her journey from Harwood Park Primary School to Irwell’s Senior Management team and how she juggles being a working mum.

#IWD2024 #InspireInclusion

What do you most appreciate in your work environment?

The people make a workplace and I’ve made some lifelong friendships in each role I’ve worked in. Having people you trust, and who you can speak openly to and being entirely yourself with make the difference between somewhere you feel at home, and somewhere you know isn’t for you. Irwell is full of great people who I feel lucky to have met and work with, both personally and professionally.  

A typical day as Head of Operations

Hectic and no two days are alike! My role is all about providing operational excellence in every area of our business, from improving seamless client services, product development, claims procedures to mentoring. In one day, I can be in an underwriting review with senior management then training my team about Consumer Duty implementation before dashing across town to attend a BIBA event to network with industry peers. I love the variety and the challenge of spinning many plates!

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given? 

Always be the hardest worker in the room – there are going to be great people in any environment you find yourself in, but natural talent will only take you so far. Be disciplined, even when you’re not feeling motivated and eventually, you will outshine the competition and get where you want to go.

What career advice would you give to your daughters?

Don’t expect to love what you do all the time. The journey of getting anything worth having is tough; if it wasn’t, everyone would do it. But be happy – this is all that really matters and, if whatever path you’ve taken doesn’t bring you this, choose a new path as best you can.

What was your first job?

My first job was in a boarding kennels when I was 13. I worked all day every Saturday for £10!

Which woman do you most admire and why?

Judge Judy – I have always found her so inspiring to watch! She’s so intelligent and intuitive, I can’t imagine anyone outwitting her! I love that it’s clearly the ‘real’ her we’re seeing, she’s not putting it on for TV. She’s not afraid of anyone and quickly gets the measure of people.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You don’t have to be perfect. I am a real perfectionist which, although has maybe served me well in my career so far, as it makes me push myself that little bit harder, it’s tough to maintain in every facet of your life. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is ok; you have to know when to give yourself a break (something I’m still working on).

What advice would you give young women looking to work in Financial Services?

Grab every opportunity you can. Network and meet people, learn about the industry, the individual business and how it all pieces together. Look for a good Graduate Programme (like ours at Irwell!) to get your foot in the door, as you can often get a breadth of experience of different areas on these schemes, giving you the opportunity to work out where you will best fit.  

3 tips to working mums about managing the work-life balance

I’m not sure I am the best to answer this one, but I’ll give it a go!

1. Accept you’re sometimes going to be doing a better job of one thing than the other, and that’s ok. You can’t give 100% to two demanding roles all the time.

2. Remind yourself what an example you’re setting to your children. If they grow up and want a successful career as well as raising a family (which I accept, not everyone does!), they can do it.

3. Be kind to yourself and make time for little pockets of ‘you’ time. When children are young, these can be few and far between but it’s not selfish to take time to re-charge.

How does Irwell inspire inclusion?

We have a very diverse team here at Irwell – we are an eclectic mix of ethnicity and religions, new graduates in their twenties, employees who have been with us for almost 30 years and people from Brazil, Dubai and Denton. We even have City and United fans who work well together! My aim is to mentor my team to help them achieve their career aspirations and get them onto the Board if that’s their ambition.

March 2024

Consumer Duty

Putting customers first and foremost.

Having successfully implemented Irwell’s approach to the Consumer Duty, Chris Breakwell, our Chief Risk Officer has just returned from the Informa Consumer Duty 2024 Conference. Chris took part in a panel discussion with an audience of financial services delegates to discuss how communications can be best adapted to meet the needs of customers with vulnerable characteristics.

The Consumer Duty introduced a new Consumer Principle – to deliver ‘good outcomes’ for retail customers. This is built upon the cross-cutting rules that require firms to:

  1. Act in good faith.
  2. Avoid causing foreseeable harm.
  3. Enable and support customers to pursue their financial objectives

Sounds sensible. Seems reasonable. But what does this mean in practice?

In short and sweet terms, Consumer Duty is all about putting the customer at the centre of what your business does.

Your customer may not always be right – but making sure you understand and listen to your customers’ concerns will help you to achieve good outcomes for those customers. Clients need to know they matter. Don’t take them for granted. Never be complacent. This may sound like wise words from a marriage guidance handbook, but building long-term, trusting relationships is just as important in business.

So, first and foremost, cast aside your preconception that your business is one of the ‘good guys. Even good guys can always do better. Best practice is a movable feast, not a final destination.

Customer Duty compliance

Some products and services don’t provide the same good outcomes to customers forever.

What started out as the perfect product or smart service for a first-time property investor, a new business start-up or growing hospitality or hotel chain may not necessarily satisfy their evolving needs throughout their lifetime journey. It’s your job to ride alongside and ensure your products continue to deliver what customers need in the face of their evolving circumstances.

This goes over and above simply treating them fairly or charging a fair price. It’s about recognising that customers are unique, and their circumstances change over time – and so must the way you service their needs, the products you develop and the way you communicate with them.

Sheldon Mills, from the FCA, explains that the duty is needed because all too often consumers are “not given the information they need to make good decisions and are sold products or services that do not offer the benefits they might expect.”

Undoubtedly Consumer Duty should – and will drive change in company culture. Successful financial services firms will put customers at the heart of what they do. Successful businesses will innovate and develop products and services that meet consumer’s expectations and deliver good outcomes.

Those that don’t, face being held accountable by the FCA.

Raising standards in customer products and protection

Consumer Duty is all about achieving ‘good outcomes’ for customers.

But what will these ‘good outcomes’ look like?Good outcomes relate to products and services, price and value, consumer understanding and consumer support. In summary, Consumer Duty demands that businesses must:

  • Provide products and services that are specifically designed to meet the needs of customers and sold only to those whose needs they meet. 
  • Make it as easy to switch or cancel products, as it was to take them out. 
  • Give helpful and accessible customer support. 
  • Supply timely, clear, and understandable information about products and services, so that people can make good financial decisions. 
  • Provide products and services that are right for their customers and that provide fair value
  • Focus on the real and diverse needs of customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances.

From the way companies support victims of financial fraud to ethically and professionally handling pension transfers, investments, or insurance claims, the FCA is watching. Communications with vulnerable customers, and those who are, or could be, in situations that could lead to vulnerability, will all be under the scrutiny of the FCA spotlight.

Be prepared. The devil is in the detail.

Is your brand font legible? Do you supply accessible communication formats such as audio, braille, or Moon? Does your employee training and mentoring enrich a customer-centric culture and ensure employees have the skills to give your customers a safe environment where they can comfortably and confidently discuss their vulnerabilities? Do you have a customer engagement process that tests your customers’ understanding of your products and services? Do you welcome – and act on feedback?

Businesses need to look at their entire customer journey and make sure it starts – and ends with the customer.

Consumer Duty applies to existing products and services that consumers bought or renewed from 31 July 2023 and products and services in ‘closed books’ from 31 July 2024.

For further information visit: Consumer Duty | FCA

February 2024

ABI membership

We are delighted to announce that Irwell has joined the Association of British Insurers (ABI) becoming part of the voice of the UK’s leading insurance sector.

Irwell’s membership demonstrates our commitment to providing reliable and knowledgeable advice and support to our clients and growing team. We are very excited to work in partnership with the ABI to develop best practice and raise awareness of the invaluable contribution of the insurance sector to the UK business community.

Mervyn Skeet, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Irwell into the ABI’s membership. The legal and liability insights and experience they can bring will be vital in our efforts to support businesses of all sizes against the wide variety of risks they face.  We’re really looking forward to working with them.”

About the ABI

The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world leading insurance and long-term savings industry. A productive, inclusive, and thriving sector, we are an industry that provides peace of mind to households and businesses across the UK and powers the growth of local and regional economies by enabling trade, risk taking, investment and innovation.    

More information is available at www.abi.org.uk

Prudence in Property

With rent arears on the rise and the impending Renters Reform Bill, we look at the private rental market and how landlords can mitigate their exposure to rental risks.

Like the housing market, the UK private rental market experienced a volatile 2023 despite increased demand.

The unstable economy and unforgiving cost-of-living crisis is crippling many homeowners with mortgages and preventing millions of first-time buyers from getting on the property ladder. Frustrating for buyers and estate agents but good news for private landlords. Or so it would seem.

Research by The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found that 71% of landlords reported increased rental demand in 2023 –  triple the demand of 2019.  This trajectory of the rental market means that almost one fifth of UK homes are now privately rented resulting in over 4.6 million rented properties

The average cost of private rent in England was £825 between April 2022 and March 2023 compared to London where this figure jumps to £1500.  With the average UK tenant spending around 40% of their monthly income on rent, it is hardly surprising that 38% of landlords with 5 or more properties have more than one tenant in arrears.

Despite governmental limits imposed on deposit amounts and deposit protection schemes to uncertainty over the impact of the impending Renters Reform Bill, a quarter of private landlords plan to expand their Buy-to-Let portfolio in the next 12 months.

But forewarned is forearmed. What does the Bill mean for landlords and how can they prepare for potential changes in legislation? If people are considering investing in property to bolster their income, what do they need to know before they commit to becoming a first-time private landlord?

The Renters Reform Bill  aims to enhance the rights of private renters, improve the quality of rental properties and protect landlords through streamlining legal processes for both parties.

It should also help address the issue of homelessness sweeping the UK – a plight caused by the controversial Section 21 notice in a growing number of cases.

The number of tenants losing their home to no-fault evictions rose by almost 50% last year.  According to government figures, 9,457 households in England saw their homes repossessed by county court bailiffs in 2023 after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice.

In the last three years, nearly 230,000 private renters have been served with a formal no-fault eviction notice. This equates to one renter every seven minutes.

The Renters Reform Bill at a glance

The bill, which is currently at report stage in the House of Commons recommends the following initiatives to formalise landlord rights and help renters escape insecure and unjust housing arrangements.

  • scrap section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions which allows landlords to evict a tenant without having to give any reason for doing so, with just two months’ notice.
  • make it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent properties to people who receive benefits or have children and a change legislation for pets in lets
  • create a national landlord register which will give renters the information they need to make an informed choice before entering into a tenancy agreement
  • introduce new grounds for eviction for landlords who genuinely want to sell their properties or move back in

How can landlords protect their property investment?

With rent arears on the rise and new legislation reforms, it pays for private landlords to be prudent. If disagreements arise, legal costs can quickly escalate, and some clients may not have the resources to pursue potentially lengthy and expensive legal proceedings against a tenant. That’s where Irwell can help.

Irwell’s landlord’s legal expenses protection allows clients to pursue or defend their legal rights and provides invaluable legal advice throughout proceedings. Likewise, if a tenant has taken them to court for breach of contract or has damaged the property, our insurance covers the associated legal costs.

Our residential policy can extend to include rental income protection for added reassurance – whether the landlord is chasing rental arrears or pursuing an eviction notice.

Turning hospitality fears into cheers

The season of goodwill can be a rewarding and lucrative time for the hospitality sector. But as one of the hardest hit casualties of the pandemic, for those that survived, Christmas 2023 could also be their ‘last chance saloon’. Could this festive season be the turning point to bring bars back into the black and restaurants out of the red?

The UK hospitality sector that demonstrated its resilience against successive lockdowns, rising energy costs, food price inflation, staff shortages and a cost-of-living crisis now faces the threat of train strikes to boot. Could the planned strikes from Christmas Eve until December 27th signal a nightmare before Christmas if friend and family gatherings and parties get cancelled last minute? Or staff can’t get to work? Christmas is a lifeline for many hospitality businesses – December can be equal to three months of trading[1], so the timing couldn’t be worse.

Wishing you a happy and HSE compliant Christmas!

While potential train strikes and supply issues cannot be avoided, Giles Reading, CEO of Irwell looks at some of the risks associated with December trading that can.

He shares some of the ways that the hospitality sector can manage and mitigate their festive liabilities through Christmas and beyond – into a prosperous New Year 2024.

Keep customers merry and safe

The hospitality sector has a moral and legal obligation to prioritise customer and employee safety and wellbeing. While there are health and safety risks all year round, some become more prominent during the festive season.

All businesses want to see increased footfall at Christmas, but this shouldn’t compromise customer and staff safety. If a venue becomes over busy, people would find it difficult to evacuate in the event of a fire so ensure that measures are in place to avoid overcrowding and never go over capacity limits.

Of course, Christmas is a time to sparkle and dazzle with lights, candles and decorations but businesses should ensure that cables and connections are fit for purpose and comply with British Standard regulations. Make sure Christmas trees aren’t blocking fire escapes or access to fire extinguishers. Read here for more detailed advice about Christmas fire safety when decking the halls of hotels, bars and restaurants.

12 Days of Christmas Fire Safety Tips | Keep Safe in 2023 (firerisk.co.uk)

Keep staff secure and in good spirits.

From slips, trips, knife injuries, burns, dermatitis and musculoskeletal problems to dealing with the general public, working in hospitality can be a risky business. Around 565,000 employees sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey and 135 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2022/23[2]. Christmas can be more chaotic than ever with extra temporary staff so it’s imperative that they are fully trained in health and safety procedures and policies – just like full time, permanent staff.

Last year 477,000 workers[3] suffered from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. More Christmas deliveries mean more manoeuvring and lifting heavy boxes of food and drink so make sure manual handling legislation is followed.

Dealing with the general public goes hand-in-hand with a career in the hospitality sector. But too much Christmas spirit can often dampen the ‘cheer’ of some members of the public. Staff should be given training about how to handle physical and verbal abuse that often accompanies drunk, disorderly behaviour.

A less obvious risk is that someone is struggling with their mental health. This can become more pronounced at Christmas. Additional workload, zero hours contracts and longer hours are synonymous with the hospitality sector at Christmas but it can take its toll. Be mindful that Christmas can be a lonely or difficult time for some.

In fact, according to HSE, 914,000 workers[4] suffered work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year. Employees have a duty of care to take care of employee mental wellbeing as well as protecting their physical safety. Staff aren’t just for Christmas so take care of them and they will be loyal and keep your diners and drinkers happy.

Read more about the dos and don’ts, to be hospitality HSE compliant.

Health and safety basics for your business (hse.gov.uk)

Stay safe this Christmas.

Public or employee liability claims are always a concern for the hospitality sector. From employee claiming unfair dismissal or harassment, customers slipping on spilt food, a burn from an exposed candle or food poisoning, claims are a fact of life for hoteliers, restauranteurs, and pub landlords.

But if you have H&S procedures in place and are protected by employee and public liability insurance, hospitality owners have one less thing to worry about, allowing them to focus to what they do best – giving everyone a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons.

That’s why Irwell is proud to be the only liability insurer that offers a health and safety assessment as part of their service. We believe that you shouldn’t have one without the other.


[1] Second ‘lost Christmas’ for UK hospitality as Omicron hits sales | Hospitality industry | The Guardian

[2] Health and safety statistics (hse.gov.uk)

[3] Health and safety statistics (hse.gov.uk)

[4] Health and safety statistics (hse.gov.uk)

Flex Appeal

Putting employees first – from day one.

Life expectancy in the last 40 years has increased, with more people than ever before living to the age of 100 and beyond. The rise has resulted in the growth of the Sandwich Generation – adults in their 40s and 50s who support their parents at the same time as supporting children – often while juggling full time employment.

This generational shift presents new challenges to individuals …and the workplace. For employees who have dual responsibilities for parents and children, the impact on mental wellbeing can be overwhelming. Especially if they do not have the support and flexibility they need from their employers.

This is all set to change from April next year.

ACAS will produce a new statutory Code of Practice on the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. (currently only employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks have the right to ask).

Employers will need to be prepared to put strategies in place to facilitate this new era of flexible working if they are to avoid costly claims and tribunals.

In Q1 of 2023, the Employment Tribunal received 7,900 single claims and there were still 35,000 ongoing open cases by the end of June.[1] When the new legislation comes into force next year, if employers do not comply, these numbers could rise considerably.

In times of acute work-life juggling, workers need employers who will provide as much support – and understanding as possible. Some companies have already responded by offering flexible working as the norm and additional periods of carer leave to employees. Others have been more reticent.

However, with 1 in 7 of the UK workforce caring for a loved one and an average of 600 people a day leaving work[2] because of caring responsibilities, from next April they may have no choice but to comply.

An urgent mind-set and strategy shift may be necessary if employers want to create conditions that allow staff to remain in the workplace – and collect children from school or take elderly parents to hospital appointments.

With Irwell’s Employment Dispute Protection Insurance, clients can help them defend against potential lengthy and costly employment tribunals which could be a much-needed lifeline for many businesses.

[1] Tribunal Statistics Quarterly: April to June 2023 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[2] Research: More than 600 people quit work to look after older and disabled relatives every day | Carers UK


 

 

SafeCheck makes business sense

Once vulnerabilities and areas for improvement are identified, your clients will be provided with a confidential, detailed report with pragmatic recommendations, handy tips, actions and advice to aid minimise legal and business risk. It will also highlight areas that they are doing well!

SafeCheck helps clients understand their health and safety obligations and duty of care responsibilities – to employees, customers, contractors and the general public. It helps the business promote industry best practice and maintain standards which are pivotal to their reputation and growth.

SafeCheck makes business sense. Why would you choose liability insurance from a provider that doesn’t include this service? It’s a win-win.

Specialists in Commercial Liability and Legal Expenses

Every organisation and every sector face unique business critical risks.

From SMEs and sole traders to larger corporates, we understand the associated risks and rewards of running these businesses. That’s why we are best placed to protect them. 

Liability, legal and health and safety experts at your service 

Keeping your food and catering business better protected

Food Vendors and caterers are exposed to many internal and external health and safety risks including food hygiene, use of sharp knives to kitchen equipment and fire hazards. 

From event catering companies or festival pop-ups to street food or markets and mobile bars and burger vans, protecting employees and customers is of paramount importance. 

But for many food vendors, the first time they find out that they are non-compliant with health and safety legislation is when it’s too late. Following an accident, a claim or an enforcement visit. 

At Irwell Insurance, we believe that prevention is always better than cure. 

That’s why we are proud to be the only liability insurer to offer a health and safety assessment included as part of your policy.