What's the year been like for Suncorp New Zealand?
2017 was a challenging year for the industry due to cyclones and the response to the Kaikoura earthquake, but it was also a year of change. We’ve embraced new digital technology and new ways of working that will enhance the experience of our intermediated customers and policyholders.
What's gone well this year?
A big priority for 2017 has been to improve the customer experience for our intermediaries and policyholders, while building a sustainable and long-term business. We’ve looked closely at how we could improve our systems to provide easier access and greater capability. Driving a better holistic customer experience, through elevated claims management standards and a consistent and high-calibre support service, is essential for success.
Core to our strategy has been the improvement in our digital ecosystem. We have embedded Guidewire’s ClaimCenter and we have also invested further into other new technology platforms. Some of that is still behind the scenes and we expect to roll more out in 2018, but a good example is the Symbility platform that Vero has signed up for with CoreLogic.
Symbility is a cloud-based claims assessment and management workflow solution, that we’re using to speed up the process for property claims. It deliveries efficiencies and offers full visibility to all participants in a claim. We will be implementing further initiatives over the next 24 months that will enhance our service delivery, speed of service and consistent high levels of engagement with our intermediaries and our policyholders.
Vero was also delighted to launch the first New Zealand SME Insurance Index this year. This index helps brokers to identify specific customer needs, and tailor the brokers service proposition for greater success.
With 97% of New Zealand businesses being in the SME category, it’s an incredibly important segment for New Zealand’s economic well-being and a vital component of our insurance community. Just as every business faces the challenges of change, we expect the SME Index to indicate how SMEs will view the changing insurance landscape and how they will respond.
We’ve seen in Australia (over the last six years) what a valuable tool the SME Index has been for brokers, so we’re delighted to be producing it in New Zealand.
What challenges has the industry faced this year?
We’ve all had to face the impact of the Kaikoura Earthquake and, to a lesser extent, the impact of Cyclone Debbie and the Edgecumbe flooding, on our businesses.
I think one of the highlights of the year has been how, as an industry, we’ve shown that the Kaikoura model and the MOU with EQC (where insurers manage claims on behalf of EQC) has been a more effective way to deal with major disasters. A year on, as an industry we’re sitting around the 70% settled mark which is great for customers, and we know the process has been easier for them.
Vero has been particularly proud of our response to both those events. We were first on the ground in Kaikoura and we worked really hard to triage and assess claims in the aftermath, and to help out remote or vulnerable customers and do our part in that community. In Edgecumbe, we expect that most of our customers will be back in their homes by Christmas, and the remainder in early 2018.
Another big challenge for the industry has been the rising cost of motor claims. The number of vehicles on the roads, the number of accidents and the rise and rise of better, more expensive technology in vehicles has meant we’ve had to find new efficiencies in the motor space.
We’re just in the process of opening our third SMART Repair Centre, which is certainly helping to manage high volume, low-impact repairs and take the pressure off the panelbeating industry for bigger jobs.
SMART technology is enabling us to turn around minor damage to cars in three to five days, so our customers can get their cars back on the road as quickly and safely as possible.
What are some of the biggest trends you see for insurance in 2017 and 2018?
Sustainability and affordability continue to be big issues in our market. Protecting Kiwis during their time of need is a core objective for Suncorp New Zealand.
We’re committed to making sure we’re here for the long term, which means offering products that are sustainable for our customers, pricing appropriately, working closely with our reinsurers, brokers and business partners.
But affordability is a growing concern, particularly with the increased claims costs we’ve seen in some parts of our business and the increases in levies on premiums this year. That adds to the pressure for brokers, customers and insurers to make sure that our products are as efficient as possible.
It’s also a good time for us as a business to examine how the sum insured model has impacted those customers' claims. I don’t think we are where we need to be in terms of educating customers about the importance of setting an accurate sum insured.
What do you hope 2018 will bring for Suncorp?
One of the big things we’ve done in 2017 is develop new ways to use technology to support our business, and I expect to see more of those initiatives begin to roll out into market next year.
As Suncorp, our focus is still on creating a financial services marketplace where customers can meet their needs across the spectrum of Money, Self, Mobility and Home.
In New Zealand, and especially for Vero, the intermediated focus of our business mean that brokers are an important part of that process. Right now we’re working with brokers to understand how that marketplace will work for them.
We’re also looking at our digital offering as it stands today, and how we can support customers through an intermediated journey and make sure they understand the value of the broker proposition.
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