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Mapping a route to success in construction

At a glance

  • Stewart Walker, Zurich’s new UK Head of Construction - Broker, lays out his vision
  • Stewart explains why expertise is crucial and how Zurich stands out in crowded marketplace
  • Zurich to launch new construction proposition in early 2014

Stewart Walker, Zurich’s new UK Head of Construction – Broker, sees many similarities with the challenges he faces in the insurance market and that of cycling, one of his biggest passions outside work.

To succeed in today’s volatile construction insurance market, Stewart believes that endurance and hard work are going to be key to overcoming many of the twists and turns in the road ahead.

The construction sector is one of the lynchpins of the UK economy, employing nearly three million workers and contributing over £90 billion to the economy.

Key insurance-related issues facing the construction sector

  • Claims culture
  • Cost of premiums
  • Obtaining adequate cover
  • Health and safety changes

Insider sat down with Stewart to discover his immediate goals and also his long-term vision in shaping Zurich’s construction strategy, including a new proposition set to launch early next year.

Q: So Stewart, you have been in the job for a few months now, what have been the biggest hurdles you have had to overcome so far?

A: One of the most volatile things is how the insurance market operates in the construction sector. From our vast experience, we know the market needs rates – at the very least in line with claims inflation – plus we’ve seen a big increase in claims costs, especially in public liability, and yet some insurers are targeting business at unsustainable levels, so there is a slight disconnect there. We think that we need to drive rates selectively and in the aggregate, but the market is still very soft. So that is providing the biggest challenge at the moment.

Q: What is your vision for Zurich in the construction sector?

A: I would like our brokers to view Zurich as the number one construction insurance provider – not always the cheapest but the most professional, with a great range of products and with teams of people who are experts and care about customer and broker service.

I want to build a compelling proposition underpinned by service excellence and talented teams so that as the economy recovers we align ourselves perfectly to the economic growth and an upturn in the insurance opportunities that exist for the industry.

This is not Zurich jumping into the construction sector and jumping out again. We’ve been in it for over a decade now and we still aim to be here in a strong position 10 years from now.

Q: How is Zurich standing out in this competitive marketplace?

A: There are a lot of things that differentiate us, including our proposition value adds, around things like risk management and claims defensibility, our market leading Z360 and Major Customer products, claims account managers and dedicated construction market underwriters.

Zurich also stands out by enabling brokers and customers to select a flexible solution which focuses on delivering value for money, but which also provides a high-quality product and service.

Q: Why is expertise so important in construction?

A: I think because it is such a distinct industry sector. If you take our corporate segment, for example, we provide expertise for a number of specific industries such as wholesale, sport and leisure, and food and beverage within one segment. Construction is very defined and requires specific liability and engineering covers.

So, we demonstrate not only construction insurance expertise, but also true construction industry expertise to enable us to make informed decisions and engage closely with our customers and brokers.

For instance, findings from recent independent broker research revealed that six out of 10 large brokers would select Zurich first for large construction risks and a further 30% would consider choosing Zurich. This demonstrates brokers’ faith in our expertise.

Construction customers and specialist brokers see the benefit of dealing with an insurer who is specialist in dealing with what is a particularly volatile sector from an insurance perspective.

Q: An ex-broker yourself, why does Zurich’s construction offering appealing to brokers?

I would like our brokers to view Zurich as the number one construction insurance provider – not always the cheapest but the most professional, with a great range of products, people who are experts and care about customer and broker service

A: We are working on our proposition, especially in the mid-market area, and much of that is focused around not only the proposition and pricing but broker distribution.

But as an ex-broker the key differentiator for me is service. Again, it is an over-used term but generally the service that insurers provide in the insurance market is not great and insurers sometimes forget that a broker’s time is precious and if we can make their life a little easier and minimise their operational costs and maximise their resource then actually they are more inclined to deal with us.

If we can build relationships off that then that is a good foundation basis for a longer-term relationship with our brokers. We are always aiming to engage, speak to and listen to our brokers and customers to continually adapt and change and continually strive for success.

Q: Finally, can you tell me a little bit more about Zurich’s new construction proposition for early 2014?

A: Watch this space! We are looking at specific segments that sit within the construction sector with a view to ascertaining how we target particular client groups and how we then price them accordingly and provide a wider risk management approach for each

The segments we are looking at are builders, civil trades and finishing trades and then we will break it down further. Rather than a one-price-fits-all, we will be looking at things more dynamically.

Image © Getty

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