Modern Insurance Magazine

Quick Fire Questions

Penny Searles

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Q. Has the industry changed drastically since you started working in it?

A. In short, yes! That’s thanks to a small number of innovators who have made big changes to how insurance is priced based on actual rather than presumed risk and who have used this knowledge as a force for good to help drive down road casualties, particularly amongst young motorists.

It has also become more automated and price-driven with aggregators now dominating the scene, making it very difficult for smaller brokers to make a profit on a standard policy.

Motor insurance has certainly become a much harder industry to work in. Increasing regulation brings its own unique set of challenges. For example, in what other shopping experiences are you given the price you paid last year and told to shop around before buying the same item again? This is simply creating a price-driven market, which is unsustainable. It will ultimately be to the detriment of consumers as smaller operators simply won’t be able to survive, leading to less choice and less competition.

Q. What has been the key positive or negative impact of change in your area of the market?

A. I am obviously going to say telematics in terms of positive change. I  passionately feel that telematics empowers motorists in so many ways but the industry has done a poor job of demystifying the concept of usage-based insurance and so it’s remained an insurance product that’s almost solely focused on young drivers. When I launched Smartdriverclub Insurance, I wanted my proposition to appeal to all demographics – they just needed to be good drivers. Simply offering insurance wouldn’t be enough, I needed to make my proposition stand out and provide benefits that would appeal to motorists of all age groups. I was only able to do that through the telematics data and technology.

I feel passionately that telematics empowers motorists in so many ways but the industry has done a poor job of demystifying the concept of usage based insurance and so it’s remained an insurance product that’s almost solely focused on young drivers

I am a broker so my customers are also my insurer partners. Through telematics, I can offer them the opportunity to underwrite and reward safer drivers. I can also give them insights to help manage claims efficiently and reduce fraud. Unfortunately, not all insurers are quite geared up to use telematics data at the claims stage. It’s a source of great frustration given the huge cost of fraud, which impacts every premium and every policyholder.

Q. Who inspires you and why?

A. My family inspires me – it’s that simple! I am lucky enough to work with my sisters – you can’t get better loyalty and commitment than that, and that’s not to underplay the fantastic team I work with – some of whom I have known for over fifteen years and are therefore part of my extended family.

Outside of my family, Mike Brockman is a key source of inspiration for me. Mike started insurethebox when everyone said black boxes in cars would never work. He has a gritty determination that I admire. Apparently we’re Mr. and Mrs. Telematics! Being a great believer in equality, Sam White of Pukka also hits the list because of her strength in the face of adversity and absolute drive to achieve for herself, her family, her team and she is a great champion of women in FS.

Q. Have you had/got a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice they gave you?

A. I have had a lot of mentors along the way and I try to do the same for others and help other businesses where I can. I find when you give in this way you get it back tenfold.

Sandy Dunn is a long-time friend, colleague, and mentor, the most valuable advice he has ever given me is to listen and think before you speak. Although I’m not always very good at following his advice!

Q. If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?

A. I would like to find a way to encourage the government to change the curriculum to help young people learn the realities of working life, how to manage money, and the different roles available and what they entail. I think there is very little focus on preparing school/university leavers for work. Expectations are so high of how their career will unfold and what their days will be like and it’s not an ‘INSTA’ world out there, it’s real.

Read More; Richard Forrest Smith | CEO | ECIC