At a glance
- When the coronavirus hit the UK and triggered a nationwide lockdown, there were immediate fears that daily life would grind to a halt
- A key area that has witnessed the power of technology is the risk survey
- By conducting the survey remotely Zurich were able to help keep the construction on schedule of a new site for Beavertown Brewery
When the coronavirus hit the UK and triggered a nationwide lockdown, there were immediate fears that daily life would grind to a halt.
But as soon as the lockdown came into effect, technology came to the rescue. Businesses up and down the country and in every sector switched to remote working almost overnight, and on the whole, it seems to have gone pretty smoothly.
The priority in insurance, understandably, was making sure that claims continued to be processed and paid. Indeed, the regulator provided the industry with an early nudge on this, making its expectations clear.
And again, it seems that technology was the answer and the industry has, by and large, managed to keep the claims process moving with remote adjusting and desk top assessment taking the lead.
But another key area that has witnessed the power of technology, is at the other end of the process – the risk survey.
It may not seem as critical as getting a claim paid but for those businesses affected, it can mean the difference between getting a project off the ground, finished or going through a frustrating period of inactivity.
The answer? Conducting the survey remotely. The very idea may strike fear into the hearts of risk engineers up and down the country, but Zurich did just that to keep the construction of a new site for Beavertown Brewery.
“We’ve insured them for a number of years now and while they have traditionally been a small brewery, this new project is very large,” says Mark Almond, Risk Engineer at Zurich.
The new brewery was at a crucial stage in the construction process when the lockdown was imposed, and the operational risk couldn’t move to the underwriting stage without the input of a full survey. So, Mark turned to technology for a solution.
Using mobiles and webcams, Mark and the Zurich team were able to conduct the survey remotely with the help of the client’s broker. Joining them on the session, were the H&S expert, the project manager and the builder – every party necessary to complete the survey.
“It’s all video so you still have eye contact, can see the body language, go through all the questions and share any necessary documents. It’s almost the same as face to face,” says Mark.
He does admit that it was quite frustrating not to be able to look around the brewery as he usually would, but the broker, Jason Cobine of Cobine Carmelson, was on hand to act as Mark’s proxy.
“I got what I needed from Jason, but it takes more trust in each other to do it like this,” says Mark.
For his part, Jason was delighted that Mark and Zurich were willing to conduct the survey in this way as it removed a bottleneck for his client’s project. Although he had no real concerns about conducting the survey in this way, that was more down to the existing relationship with Mark than anything else.
“I wasn’t worried when it turned into a virtual one as it was Mark doing it but if it had been a new surveyor, I would have been slightly concerned,” he says.
But everything that both the client and Zurich needed was secured digitally and not only that, it appears that the whole process was much more efficient.
“We were able to secure an earlier date for the survey than we would have done had people had to travel,” says Cobine.
“And the follow up was quicker. Typically, Mark would have to travel back to the office and he would have had other surveys to do before he could write up our report. But this time, he was able to do it very quickly and we were able to speak to underwriters the next day. The usual frustration was replaced by prompt progress.”
A long-term solution?
There’s no doubt that the remote survey worked and there is a sense of pleasant surprise from all parties about that. So, does this means that we can expect remote surveys to become the standard in the future?
Not quite. Despite the convenience, there are some limitations.
“What is missing? Being close to the customer,” says Mark.
“I want to be onsite next to them, face to face and I missed that interaction with the customer. The technical side of it is fine but it’s about relationship building.”
Cobine agrees that the human contact was sorely lacking but while he doesn’t believe the remote approach can be applied across the board, he does see areas where it can bring real benefits.
“Now I have experienced it, I think it would work well for smaller sites,” he says.
“There are a lot of sites that don’t get surveyed at the moment because it’s not cost effective, but this remote approach could fill that gap for clients and insurers.”
He adds that the remote approach could also mean the end of follow up or repeat visits to a site once the initial, face-to-face survey has been completed.“That is a real cost and time-saving benefit,” he says.
For now, while it appears that conducting surveys remotely will continue to be the exception rather than the rule, there is no denying that, as in many aspects of our working life, the lockdown has forced us to reconsider the real applications and benefits of technology.
“We need to make tech work better in insurance,” says Cobine. “There are so many applications we are not using, and a huge amount of time and money is wasted as a result.”
He hopes that the new approaches to work that we have discovered, such as remote surveys, won’t fall by the wayside once life returns to something resembling normal and that they will be used to improve the customer experience.
“We love this client and Zurich really stepped up,” says Cobine. “Even better, Beavertown’s fresh delights will be on sale on time …”
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