1- How do you assess the adverse effects of COVID-19 on insurance brokerage? And how did you manage the crisis and challenges associated with the pandemic?
It goes without saying that this has been the most challenging years for all industries worldwide, including the insurance sector. One of the biggest challenges for our industry, which perhaps became fully apparent during the pandemic, is over-capacity. The result was some high-profile exits from the region, with many citing pressures on pricing and an inability to dictate terms.
Covid-19 increased the pressure on already squeezed margins, renewals and new contracts. It also triggered a reduction in premium volumes as lockdowns resulted in organisations implementing cost reduction plans and, in some cases, downsizing.
Thanks to ACE’s 65-plus years’ experience of client service excellence, a desire to go beyond what is expected and add value through the extensive local knowledge of our in-market teams, we have been able to manage the crisis.
The inability to meet clients face to face was undoubtedly an adverse effect of Covid-19 but the efficiency of our IT teams ensured we could continue communicating virtually without impacting on delivery. This is complemented by the robust succession planning we have in place to prepare us for all eventualities and guarantee clients receive continuity of service even if one of the team is unable to communicate with them. Furthermore, meticulous attention to management meetings during this time has kept the focus on client retention and business growth in these challenging times.
One positive effect of the pandemic is that organisations have been encouraged to embrace employee empowerment. It is something that we have always place great focus on, yet the current situation has allowed us to increase training, leading to improved communication and making sure our country managers and in-market teams are fully compliant with regulations and can support business growth.
2- What are the key challenges that you are currently facing?
In addition to pressure on premium volumes, the biggest challenge we are facing at present is the inability to travel to aggressively pursue business growth and explore new markets. Technological developments have made video conferencing and communication easier than ever before, but in an industry such as ours you cannot put a price on face-to-face interaction.
Employee welfare is another challenge, with the pandemic affecting different people in different ways. We have entrusted our HR department to check in with teams across the region daily to ensure they are safe and well.
Ever-evolving regulations constantly challenge us so it is paramount that we continue developing the technical knowledge of our teams so they are up to speed with regulatory changes even before they come into force.
As we have addressed the challenges of the past 12 months, we have reviewed our procedures to maintain agility and continue delivering to the highest standards for our clients.
This has led to honest reflection on where we are as a company and where we can develop so we are ready to meet any challenges head-on.
3- Digital platforms have played a vital role in business continuity for various sectors throughout the past period, do you foresee reduced need for a human broker, and more reliance on digital solutions?
Organisations that embrace digital transformation will be successful and enjoy longevity in the market. Without question, digitalisation boosts efficiency while helping to drive down costs. New technologies such as AI, machine learning and big data allow for deeper, more insightful analysis that, consequently, result in an ability to provide more specific tailoring of products to exceed client requirements. Digitalisation will also, in time, help readjust premiums and products in real-time – adding real value for clients.
Additionally, blockchain and insurtech solutions are already making an impact in improving risk awareness, reducing time taken to settle claims and boosting compliance. However, the adoption of technology cannot be done in silo. It must be performed in tandem with product innovation and continued investment in human capital, empowering your employees to help grow the business.
While technological advancements will increase potential for all business lines across the insurance sector, including underwriting, risk assessment and reinsurance, human interaction is, and will remain a crucial element. For an industry that continues to face trust issues, striking the right balance between digital and human workload is key.
At ACE, we have embraced the digital era, yet at the same time exposing our workforce to the right level of training to achieve global best practice, allowing us to gain a competitive advantage across our markets.
4- What are the most recent developments in your business? what are the potential growth opportunities?
The current situation with Covid-19 has provided an additional unforeseen challenge to what was already a challenging business landscape. However, it has also given us the opportunity to assess our operations across all regional offices and we have worked closely with governments and regulators to ensure we are aligned, or in some cases, ahead of regulatory changes.
We have also grasped the opportunity to focus on the specialty lines answering market demand on Directors & Owners (D&O) Insurance products and cyber insurance in the face of the pandemic.
Diversification and investing in human capital have been identified as clear areas of growth for our business and align seamlessly with our mission to provide bespoke services for our clients.
There remains a regionwide perception of insurance as a cost-based product, yet in an age of increasing cyber security risks, we have an opportunity to change perception, with more of a focus on risk assessment and risk management.
Yolla El Khoury, CEO of ACE, was nominated & awarded the “Woman Leader of the Year” category award.
4 November, 2021