At a glance
- Carl Gebhard explains why Zurich is one of the first ports of call for many construction or engineering risks
Zurich is recognised as being one of the market leaders within the Construction and Engineering insurance and inspection markets, but both sectors have their challenges and thus someone with plenty of experience at the helm.
Carl Gebhard has enjoyed a long and varied career with Zurich, which he joined back in 1985. His current role is a high profile one involving plenty of broker contact – but he clearly relishes the opportunity, and says the two divisions, while different, are complementary.
Known for his insight and down-to-earth approachability, combined with plenty of energy, Carl has acted as a government and industry adviser on insurance issues and is a regular media commentator. He represented the Association of British Insurers on the Constructing Better Health Action Forum Group and has worked in partnership with the Health & Safety Executive, industry accreditation programmes and the Police Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit. It’s a lot of responsibility, since he is in charge of delivering the strategy, profitability and performance of both businesses.
However, he is quick to emphasise it is made possible by the depth and strength of his specialist teams within Construction and Engineering. Of course, brokers are most likely to know Carl and his team when talking business – and hence Zurich is often one of the first ports of call for many construction or engineering risks.
Striving to improve access
Speaking about his priorities, Carl says: “Before taking on this role, I spent 10 years on the sales side and I know from first-hand experience what brokers expect from an insurer, the pressures they face from customers and why they want empowered local branches. You can’t pay lip service to regional expertise and I want us to be highly visible with brokers wherever they are.”
He continues: “While we underwrite some of the biggest risks, we’re keen to work with smaller brokers and are currently on a big push to grow mid-market business, with turnovers of £10m to £50m, through our Zurich 360° Contractor proposition. This brings benefits that were previously only available to larger brokers. The emphasis is on risk management and incentivising businesses to improve their risk profiles, as well as providing significant premium discounts for those with good claims histories. We provide a wide range of assessments, audits and risk management services to assist.”
He says while companies may want to reduce insurance expenditure, there is a place for brokers who take a more consultative approach. “It’s not all about simply providing quotes. We work with brokers to ensure their knowledge is industry specific, whether it is through training at seminars, briefings or fact sheets.”
Keeping up with health and safety and other legislative changes matters – and impacts across Construction and Engineering.
Brokers also need to ensure clients are fully aware of the claims service an insurer provides as part of the buying decision. “We’re increasingly promoting our strength in this area, and ensure that brokers’ customers can find out about how any claims will be handled in addition to understanding our risk management capability.”
Our aim is to create a ‘One Engineering’ team, aligning our business with our customers’ needs, providing distinct customer propositions and a superior service experience.
Olympics and Crossrail provide a boost
Looking at Construction, Carl says: “I think the markets are going to be difficult for 18 months or more, but there are signs the sector is picking up and we’ve had a real boost from the Olympics. It is also fantastic the Crossrail project is going ahead – which in terms of its economic impact is even bigger. On a day-to-day basis, we want to continue providing brokers with stable premiums no matter how volatile the market is and any growth we achieve will be controlled.”
Referring to Engineering, he explains that in recent months, a number of changes have been made to the division around his vision of making Zurich easier to deal with. “Our aim is to create a ‘One Engineering’ team, aligning our business with our customers’ needs, providing distinct customer propositions and a superior service experience.”
The business has been restructured to focus on complex major customers, mid-market commercial and operations – the latter having emphasis on developing the service provided to brokers.
He adds: “Engineering insurance and inspections differentiate us and we’ve a long pedigree. We underwrite the smallest to the largest risk and in terms of inspection, have over 550 surveyors out there, which is a lot of scale.”