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Brokers urged to improve customer focus


GLASGOW, Scotland—Insurance brokers need to ditch the old "nine to five" working mentality and make sure they are available for their customers as and when needed.

The brokers need to make more use of new technologies like the internet to enable them to respond to buyers' needs immediately.

And it is likely that the managing general agency system, whereby underwriting decisions are delegated to brokers, will grow in popularity in the UK as small to medium sized companies in particular demand decision-making "at the point of sale" rather than waiting for a remote decision from the insurer's head office.

These were some of the key conclusions to emerge from the U.K. Chartered Insurance Institute annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland this week.

Andy Homer, Group Chief Executive of Towergate Partnership said: "Customers need access to their local brokers when they want it.

The nine to five mentality does not work with the customer and if brokers want to compete they need to provide access via the internet. But it needs to include some sort of client line where customers can get in contact with the broker to have their questions answered."

Mr. Homer said the market would move towards a system where the underwriting was done at the point of sale on behalf of the product manufacturer rather than remotely.His views were backed by Royal & SunAlliance Insurance Group P.L.C. Managing Director Brendan McManus.

He said the MGA model was increasingly being seen as the structure for the future and that small-to-medium enterprise brokers may well move to single or multi-tied agencies as the demands for more underwriting at point of sale increased.

But he warned that there does also need to be a focus on core underwriting skill as commoditisation would risk a return to the excesses of the softening cycle.

"Individuals will need to continue to not only concentrate on their core roles but also develop rounded business skills to be underwriters of the future."

David Constable, Active Underwriter for Limit Underwriting at Lloyd's of London, told delegates that the art of underwriting will change as new business models emerge.

He also said, however, that this should not abrogate underwriters from taking responsibility for their decisions.

"As underwriters we are often asked whether there is a walk away figure when it comes to a risk. We have to maintain that integrity because we are judged on our combined ratio and the combined ratio remains key to our decisions on pricing," said Mr Constable.

However, he added: "We cannot forget that we are risk takers, it is what we do and we cannot be afraid of sticking our neck out from time to time on a risk."