Post Interview - Adrian Furness

Adrian Furness sat down with Will Kirkman of Post Magazine to discuss his new appointment

(Reproduced with permission from Insurance Post)

Adrian Furness was recently appointed claims and operations director, having previously held the role of claims director. He sat down with Post's Will Kirkman to discuss his new appointment.

How did you get to where you are?
I believe that you don't choose to come into insurance. I went through a load of roles as a graduate trainee before ending up with Endsleigh. The reason I chose that company was that it was a little bit different: there was a younger feel and it seemed to have a different way of doing things to most of the traditional industry.

It was a really good grounding as an organisation and culture at the time. After that, I ended up with a French company called AGF. It was trying to make big noises in the UK.

Again, it was an interesting time and it showed me a different side of the industry and a different way of doing things. I'd gone from a family feel organisation to learning how to operate in a very large company that was losing money. So I learned how not to lose money at AGF. I then ended up with Provident, and became claims director at Covéa in 2012.

What new responsibilities are you taking on in the new role?
I'm claims and operations director, which in most organisational structures is the chief operating officer role. I've retained responsibilities for all aspects of claims and customer service management across personal and commercial lines. But I'm now also responsible for all people and process operations, and IT and technology.

I look at the market we're in and I see insurance as way behind the curve. And I see where customers are going. I look at my kids and see what they're doing with technology, and then I look at what insurance companies are doing and it's frightening.

When I started out years ago, the technology we had at work was far greater than what we had at home. Now it's the other way around. I've got a nine-year-old using better technology than an insurance company would do. It's got to change. One of the things I want to do is start that change. I really want to get us at the forefront of this. I really want us to interact with customers in a different way, and I want customers to take ownership of the whole process. It's a real passion of mine.

It's really important for a company like Covéa. You look at the industry and you've got the big insurance tankers, who have lots of advantages, but aren't flexible. We've always been a speed boat that can get to the places they can't get to. Some of the big tankers are starting to launch their own speed boats; we're seeing Aviva Lab and things like that. We've got an advantage, and we can do this quicker and more effectively than the tankers can do, if we get this right. 

 

What are your thoughts on the Ogden discount rate change?
I understand the argument that there's a danger that seriously injured people need a better rate. Is it any surprise that the government has taken action? No. But the decision of that negative rate is a knee-jerk reaction. It's out of the blue, without proper consultation. The reality is, premiums will go up again. Insurers need to be honest and say that premiums will go up from this, and that it's the customers who will end up paying for this.

The rate change will push premiums up disproportionately for young drivers, and it will lead to them being priced out of the market. That will lead to uninsured drivers and all sorts of societal problems. Should there be a change? Probably. Should there have been a better consultation process? Certainly. Are there other methodologies they could look at? Absolutely.

Who's the loser from this? It won't be the insurer's profits. Motor insurance is not profitable generally; every single penny will be passed on to the customer.

What can be done to encourage diversity?
We signed up to the Women in Finance Charter. When you look at our lower end it's a 50/50 mix, we've got loads of women coming through. We recruit young and bring that into our culture. However, at the top end, that funnel dies down. So for us it's about how we create those opportunities. 

Twenty years ago, we put a graduate recruitment programme in place. We went in a bit gingerly at first. We partnered with a local college in Halifax, and expected initially to have quite a high dropout rate but that we might have one or two successes. But it's been brilliant. The quality of the people coming in is really high.

They're a bit younger, and they come from different backgrounds, but their commitment and passion is amazing. We're extending it even more now into Reading. The dropout rates are really low, and we take a lot onto full-time positions.

I'd encourage anyone to look at different options for recruitment. It really opens your eyes.

We get school kids in to talk about our product wordings. When we talk about premiums and excess, not everyone understands those terms. We have these school kids asking ‘Why don't you just say price?' and it's a good point. That's what the apprentices bring in as well. They're challenging us all the time.

 

Interview first appeared on Post Online on 22nd March 2017

 

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About Covéa Insurance

Covea Insurance plc is the UK underwriting business of leading French mutual insurance group Covéa, who are number 1 for property and liability insurance in France and served 11.5 million policyholders, generating over 16.4 billion Euros in premiums in 2016.  

Covéa Insurance handles the insurance needs of 1.5 million policyholders; delivering financial reassurance through its Standard & Poor’s A+ stable rating, as a guaranteed subsidiary of Covéa. 

The company offers motor, household, protection, mid and high net worth insurance and a range of commercial insurance products, designed to meet the needs of most individuals and businesses. Employing over 1500 people, Covéa Insurance has a strong people and service ethos, having Investors In People Gold accreditation and featuring in the 2015 and 2016 Sunday Times Top 100 Mid-sized Best Companies to Work For. It also has World Class service accreditation from the Institute of Customer Service for its Motor Claims, Home Claims and Underwriting Services teams as well as Chartered Insurer status for its Commercial and Mid/High Net Worth business.

In January 2016, Sterling Insurance Company Limited became a fully integrated part of Covea Insurance Plc, following a Part VII transfer under the Financial Services and Markets Act. 

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