The etrading of commercial risks has been promising greater efficiencies and better customers outcomes for more than two decades but, while adoption has grown in that time and success has been delivered, it hasn’t quite reached the stage of universal usage that many had expected by now.
There are many reasons for that - the quality of the technology not matching the promise and the fact that old trading habits die hard in some people - but there are signs that the universal adoption of online trading in SME risks is finally on the horizon.
“Over the last five years it’s been growing,” says Deepak Soni, Director of Commercial at AXA Insurance.
“It’s a combination of people being more familiar with the tech, it’s easier to use and delivers greater efficiencies and also, there’s been a lot more promotion from insurers and other industry bodies to look at this as an opportunity.”
But rather than seeing this as the end of a mission, Soni believes this increased uptake is just the start of the next revolution in online trading: “The next big step is to take what we have, something that works but isn’t ‘brilliant’ and make it something that’s brilliant.”
He says that the balance between brokers who insist on taking a more traditional approach and those that prefer a digital solution is now firmly weighted in favour of the digital crowd and that, he believes, will be driven further by growing consumer demand.
“This isn’t just about trading within the industry – this is about the whole fulfilment piece,” he says.
“All of us have to create good customer outcomes so we have to invest in those digital channels that customers prefer. One causes the fulfilment of the other. If a customer has an expectation, then to enable that to happen there are a set of steps that have to be taken, one of which might be online trading.”
He says that direct channels are seeing an uptick in enquiries as more and more of the population adopt digital tools and that will have knock-on effects.
“That’s beginning to set a certain level of expectation and all of those metrics will feed their way into the intermediary channel and we need to gear ourselves up for that.”
As part of that gearing up to meet growing client demand for speed and efficiency, he explains that AXA has responded by pooling all of its SME expertise, be that online or over the phone, together to ensure no matter which channel a broker chooses to use, they have access to the same level of underwriting expertise.
“We get and understand SME business and customers - it’s our heartland,” he says.
“The way we are set up is designed to push our expertise back into those markets. We’re convinced that digital trading and fulfilment is the future of SME – it’s what the modern business wants, and we have set ourselves up to deliver just that.”