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The key to rebuilding trust

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by Adrian Saunders, Commercial Director, Ecclesiastical Insurance (UK)

2 March 2022

This guest blog was written by Adrian Saunders, Commercial Director at ICMIF member Ecclesiastical Insurance (UK). The article was originally published by Insurance Age and we are sharing the article for the benefit of other ICMIF members with the kind permission of Ecclesiastical Insurance.

After two challenging years for the insurance sector which saw public trust in the industry fall, 2022 presents insurers and brokers with a clean slate to help restore the trust lost during the pandemic.

It’s fair to say that the dynamic between insurers and customers is one of the more challenging to manage and maintain. Insurance is often seen as a necessary evil in the eyes of the customer and taken out begrudgingly, immediately forcing the sector into working harder to demonstrate its value in a competitive environment. At the same time it’s rare to see the good that the insurance industry does coming into focus, while any shortcomings often do.

Against that backdrop there is no doubt that trust in the industry has been eroded in the last few years – not just between customers and insurers, but also between brokers and insurers. From my experience of working in insurance I can’t help but be disappointed in that and I, as well as many others within the sector, am determined to do my best to help rebuild that.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 shows there was a decline of public trust in governments, the media and the financial services sector in the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021.

In terms of the impact on the insurance industry, both personal insurance and property and casualty insurance experienced a 3% drop in trust, on a par with banks and second only to digital wealth management.

Against the backdrop of the issues such as COVID-19 losses and an increasingly hardening market, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see the sector take a hit in the eyes of the public.

The question now is ‘how do we collectively restore public trust in the sector and halt the slide we’ve seen in recent years.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 43% of adults expect CEOs to lead on societal issues, while two in five also expect them to speak out on community issues. It also found that customers are more likely to trust financial services businesses that lead on economic prosperity and prioritise long-term thinking over short-term prosperity.

Our own research found that nearly three quarters of brokers believe the insurance sector needs to contribute more positively to society to rebuild trust.

At Ecclesiastical – we believe that businesses can, and should, be a force for good. We believe charitable giving and capitalism can sit side by side to generate incredible social impact and strong commercial results.

We know, from our own experience as the only financial services group with a charitable purpose, that the positive impact we’re making to communities motivates and attracts staff and resonates with our brokers and customers.

Brokers themselves are practising what they preach and the survey found that the most popular ways of ‘giving back’ were supporting a charity (61% rising to 97% among national brokers), sponsorship of a club or team (46%), providing work experience opportunities (37%), membership of a business forum (35%) and partnering with a community group or school (24%). When asked the motivation for contributing to society, 71% of brokers said making a difference, followed by giving something back to customers (49%).

This shows us that the majority of brokers recognise the importance of giving back to society and that it brings them closer to their customers and that can only be good for business. It also presents us, as insurers, with an opportunity to support brokers in their ambitions and achieve mutually beneficial output – in this instance to help restore trust within our customer bases.

But building trust isn’t just about doing good – it’s about getting the fundamentals right. Ensuring a high quality of service while focusing on transparency and ensuring that customers understand what they’re paying for, what they’re covered for and what they aren’t covered for.

We have to gain trust over time and make the most of every opportunity and interaction with our customers that we can. Whether that’s the expertise we show when our risk managers are front of customers, how our claims handlers support them or working with brokers to do the best for customers case by case – that’s the route we are following and we’ll try to keep doing it in our own very ethical way.

As always, out of adversity comes opportunity, and there’s a huge opportunity for the insurance industry to tell its story better, stronger and more positively. How the industry reacts and the actions we all take that will be critical to restoring trust.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group is the UK’s fourth largest corporate donor, having raised almost GBP 100m for good causes over the past five years. The findings of the broker survey were released to coincide with this year’s launch of Ecclesiastical’s Closer to You scheme, which see grants given to selected brokers. The scheme has seen GBP 550,000 given to good causes since it launched six years ago.

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