ILC ARTICLE

Ecclesiastical puts faith in its own talent


A skills crisis is afflicting all industries at the moment, but Jeremy Trott, Claims Director at Ecclesiastical, has revealed a next generation talent policy that is robust and resilient – and, more importantly, can be adopted by most organisations.

Ecclesiastical was established more than a century ago to provide insurance to churches and other buildings of faith. It has since broadened out into more commercial areas but has not lost sight of its heritage and still today insures 93% of churches in the UK.

Owned 100% by charity with all profits going to charity, the company is perhaps not a typical model for those operating in the highly competitive insurance sector but, speaking during a keynote interview at ILC’s inaugural MGA Claims Conference, which took place in association with MGAA, Jeremy outlined the successful skills strategy that ensures Ecclesiastical is never found wanting when it comes to filling key positions.

Skills

He explained that Ecclesiastical has established a number of talent development and grow-your-own schemes that are not just focussed around individual progression but are also intended to future-proof its own leadership team for the next five, 10, 15 years.

He said, “There is a significant talent drain in the market at the moment so nothing is more important in your own business than investing in talent and making sure you’re focussing on personal development plans.

“For me, it’s about looking at the key roles within your organisation and then the roles below them to identify who would step up in case of an emergency, and who might have the potential to fill those roles in the future.

“We recognise we might have to invest in someone for 10 years before they are ready for a top leadership position, so we’ve now got five or six people under each of our key roles following various progression timeframes, from ‘ready now’ to ‘ready in 10 years’. They each work with the individual on a one-to-one basis, who helps them follow their personal development plan.”

Of course, it is impossible to predict the future and none of these people is guaranteed the top job at the end of the process, but it is about getting them into the best possible position to apply while at the same time developing a healthy talent pool from which to select candidates.

“It’s a virtuous circle. You have a bank of people you can rely on and they feel invested too.”

Innovations

This is just one of the innovations Jeremy has introduced since arriving at Ecclesiastical two years ago, having spent 15 years at Allianz in commercial sales and then as Claims Operations Manager. Prior to that he was with Commercial Union for 11 years.

He continued, “One thing I’ve noticed is the people here are genuinely concerned about customer outcomes and experience. There is an incredible attachment to brand from our employees; they know the market well and really do go the extra mile.”

However, he says that even ‘good’ can get ‘better’ and admits that as a traditional insurer some of the processes within Ecclesiastical could do with a reboot.

He said, “It’s been evolution not revolution, but I’ve started to try and introduce some tools and techniques to speed up the customer settlement and make ourselves more efficient internally. This is really where the supply chain can add value. They’re specialists in their own areas and can help us introduce new innovations and techniques that benefit the customer.”

MGAs

Currently much of this focus is around exploiting data to streamline services and introducing solutions to tackle fraud, but another part of the company’s evolution is a more open approach to working with MGAs.

Jeremy said, “We’ve been in the delegated authority market for 30 years, but more recently we’ve gone into the MGA market. We’re still growing and learning in this area but we really like the way it’s going.”

What makes a good MGA partner, according to Jeremy, is someone with a clear understanding of the market and their own business, someone with a good, forward-thinking strategy, and someone who knows exactly what they want from a capacity provider. Jeremy explained that lines of responsibility can easily be blurred when working with third parties, and having a clear sense of where one stops and the other takes over is critical.

He said, “It’s about developing trust and transparency over time, sharing all details and ensuring there is good dialogue so we improve outcomes from a customer’s point of view.”

Future

Looking ahead, he believes the cost-of-living crisis is the single biggest challenge facing the sector and has the potential to be a ticking timebomb as policies either lapse or are left behind by inflation. He pointed to a recent claim for a stolen watch that had increased in value from £8,000 when insured to £30,000 when the claim was submitted.

Ecclesiastical honoured the claim, but this issue on a larger scale and repeated thousands of times could be devastating for both policyholder and insurer.

Jeremy concluded, “The number one issue at the moment is claims inflation and we need to understand what is happening in that space. There are various indices which we’re all tracking, but the main thing is we don’t leave customers uninsured or underinsured. There is a real danger of that with the way inflation is going.”

The MGA Claims Conference held in association with MGAA was supported by gold sponsors Claims Consortium Group, Clearspeed, Davies Group, DWF360 and EDAM Group, along with silver sponsors Robertson & Co, Vitesse PSP and Wiser Academy.

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