Life lessons: What can the insurance sector learn from the lockdown experience?

Peter Kenny, CEO of Quilter International

All leading life sector jurisdictions are talking about how they are going to ‘learn lessons from lockdown’ by introducing positive changes which emerged from the experience of having to find new ways to work in response to the coronavirus crisis. Those jurisdictions, and businesses within them, that back-up words with actions by adapting quickly to the new landscape that’s emerging will have a significant advantage – so what are the most important lessons that the sector here on the Island must learn in order to remain competitive? 

Closer engagement and communication with customers and the advisory community were some of the most important developments brought about by working during the lockdown, and it’s a positive change that all progressive life companies must embrace.

 That’s the view of Peter Kenny, CEO of Quilter International and one of the most experienced and respected figures within the Island’s life sector. “As is the case with all major crises,” he says, “the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change within the life industry. Developments that in ordinary circumstances may have taken several years to be accepted have now become the norm in a matter of months. That’s certainly been our experience here at Quilter International. During the lockdown, increasing the numbers of employees we had working remotely, plus the broader acceptance of using the latest communications technology, radically changed communications and it has led to a much closer engagement and a deeper level of understanding. Like all forward-thinking life companies we see these as very positive developments, and I’m very proud to say that everyone within the business has embraced these changes wholeheartedly.”

The next step for all leading life companies, he says, is to devise and implement ways of working that build on these positive changes. For example, early on in the pandemic Quilter International introduced flexible processes and new procedures to allow business to be accepted and processed remotely where appropriate – such as removing the need for wet (hand-written) signatures, accepting documents verified in a video call, and promoting the use of their online service, Wealth Interactive. An initiative to support advisers saw all the businesses within Quilter plc collaborate to develop a support hub called ‘There for You’. Through online materials and e-events, Quilter plc is continuing to show their commitment to advisers during difficult times by exploring topics such as managing client relationships remotely and intergenerational wealth planning. The support also extends to a mental health and wellbeing initiative, Thrive, sharing tools to help advisers take care of their own personal health and that of their colleagues and loved ones.  

 In addition to the support for customers and advisers, Quilter International is also looking internally to capture and sustain some of the benefits flexible working brought about as a result of COVID-19.  This includes providing employees with flexibility and choice in the way they work, and the team in the Isle of Man are currently running a flexible working pilot with a view to look at bringing about changes in the way they work.

 While technology has a big part to play in how the life industry responds to the new reality created by the pandemic, Kenny is keen to stress that Quilter International, and other successful life companies, should not lose sight of the human element. “One thing that we have learned from our experience of lockdown, both here on the Island and from working with colleagues and business partners around the world, is that we really are all in this together. It was good to see businesses within the sector responding quickly to support the local community in which we live and work. Quilter International played a major role in that response here on the Island and it has been a humbling experience to see colleagues going above and beyond the call of duty not only for the business, but also on a voluntary basis supporting organisations and individuals who were most in need.” 

 As part of its support for the Young Carers Project run by the Crossroads charity, Quilter International created special gift packs with art and craft materials for children and young people with caring responsibilities during the lockdown. As soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted, employees resumed fundraising activities to help extend the level of support that the charity provides for young carers across the Island. 

 Being resilient, flexible, and willing to embrace change are qualities which have served the Island well over many decades as an international business centre – and if there’s one lesson above all others that the life sector can learn from the coronavirus crisis it’s that those qualities are more valuable now than ever before.