Interview: Phil Ost, Head of Personal Lines of Zurich UK and Stephane Baj, Head of A&H UK and Multinational Zurich
While travel insurance offers a wide range of benefits, a high level analysis of a coverage benefits table does not tell the customer everything they need to know and that is why we have the document. insurance product information, policy documents, FAQs and a trained client. service representatives to help fill in the gaps.
I do think, however, that the media generally treated insurers fairly throughout the pandemic and helped educate consumers better about the benefits and limitations of travel insurance and that although it is a purchase essential, it is not always the first line of defense, with travel providers and financial institutions playing a key role from the start when travel arrangements need to be canceled or rearranged.
Pricing in the UK market is a competitive activity; do you think the market is big enough for all the players involved? How can companies stand out?
PO: Competitive prices aren’t everything. There is a market both for cheaper coverage and for better offers. It’s more about having proposals that meet a client’s needs and continually improving the proposals as those needs change.
Proposals can stand out from the crowd for a number of reasons, including being the cheapest, offering the most coverage, and not quibbling over claims during tough times.
Customers should look not only at the price of coverage, but also at the quality of the offer, the reputation of the insurer and the levels of claims. Having this information readily available and comparable would help carriers to differentiate themselves and make it easier for customers to make an informed decision when purchasing coverage.
How does Zurich aim to retain customers at a time when brand loyalty is an increasingly difficult task?
PO: We have remained open to direct renewal activities throughout the pandemic and have updated and relaunched our travel proposals, adding coverage for the limited cancellation and reduction of Covid -19. We’ve also added benefits for domestic travel, made our policies more flexible with customers being able to book travel up to two years in advance, and the ability to move travel bookings on a comparable basis at no additional cost. . We also completed a premium refund program in 2020, providing refunds to 17,000 customers who could not travel and use their insurance policy. Our reward for putting customers first is their continued loyalty.
What do you hope to see from the travel insurance industry in the coming year with travel reopening?
PO: The rules keep changing around us so it’s very hard to predict, but I don’t believe international travel will reopen this year as we all hoped. It’s an incredibly difficult time for the travel market in general and I think the return to the level of travel we enjoyed in 2019 is a long way off, probably in 2023.
Our greatest hopes are that the current vaccination program proves effective globally and that tour operators, carriers and travel service providers can get creative through this difficult time.
In terms of business travel coverage, what requirements do your customers make of your products and how is that evolving?
SB: Across a wide range of industries, large companies have generally been very active in reviewing the security and incident management portion of their travel policies, as they address some of the emerging issues they are facing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many small and medium-sized businesses have shifted from business travel to virtual meetings. The majority of our interactions with this group focused on canceling and reducing trips. This was especially the case at the start of the pandemic, when some of their staff faced sudden travel interruptions, a change of plan during travel, or a disruption of future travel plans.
All in all, we have seen a very significant drop in the volume of complaints. Attrition losses in particular – such as international medical expenses or lost baggage – have declined, offset by an increase in the average cost and severity of claims, particularly higher cancellation losses due to cancellation of events, conferences, seminars or trade shows.
Add to that the fact that we have worked to expand our services, and we have been extremely busy. It was a unique opportunity to innovate to cover new perils and unexpected and unforeseen events with new benefits and services. For example, we have refined the wording of our business travel policy to cover all incidental costs associated with situations where people are grounded due to a forced disruption of air traffic, are subject to an unforeseen forced quarantine. or an unexpected change in public traffic rules.
We are entering this new, hopefully final phase of the pandemic with a product offering that has never been so comprehensive and strong. This puts us in a good position to address the concerns and issues of our customers and their employees as international travel resumes.
Managing travel risks, both before departure and during a trip, is essential. What does Zurich include in its policies for business travelers to mitigate the risks they might face?
SB: Zurich has extensive in-house expertise and experience working with support providers in the areas of travel risk management, medical care and security. Some of our own team have professional expertise gained through direct experience in this area, and many have worked for years with travel risk management and assistance providers to support clients.
The Zurich group has built its own network of assistance partners and has acquired and developed World Travel Protection, its own global travel risk management and assistance company, which has managed these operations for over 20 years with a presence in several continents.
The likelihood of a multinational company having international staff exposed to terrorism-related incidents remains high, and the impact for a business traveler can be severe. This is why prevention, preparedness and effective response to such events are so important. In managing these risks, digital tools offer the best cost / benefit ratio and are therefore very useful, even if they are only effective if staff use them. Promotion of internal use of these tools by employees can be done through policy and education. This is why we offer online travel risk awareness modules, some of which are accompanied by mini-videos. Our travel assistance and risk management partners also invest in edutainment education. For companies with very high exposure (volume of travelers, nature of destinations, type of business, etc.), investment in more powerful technologies than those based on GSM can be considered to cover their needs. The application of specific travel risk policies for a given category of destinations and activities, automated integration with airline and hotel reservation systems, and even satellite geolocation technologies, are part of this. who is available to take care of these special cases.
As travel gradually begins to reopen in the US and Europe, will business travel ever return to previous levels, or do you think we’ll be on Zoom forever ?!
SB: We have all discovered how videoconferencing software such as Zoom and Teams can increase the ease of communication and extend the range of communication tools. However, we also saw their limits. The need for human interactions in international trade will not disappear and the need to overcome the cultural barriers that a local presence allows will remain. As the globalization of exchanges does not stop, the needs for meetings and local experiences will remain essential.