The claims function should play a bigger role going forward in offering pre-loss activities to clients, says the new COO of Aon Benfield UK, Leonora Siccardi
Claims Media (CM): Congratulations on your appointment as COO of Aon Benfield UK. What are your new responsibilities and what are their synergies with your responsibilities in claims and client services?
Leonora Siccardi: In my new role as Aon Benfield UK COO, I lead and oversee the strategy, development and execution of policy and practice in all operational areas of the UK business. It is my responsibility to ensure that the operational side functions as efficiently as possible, while delivering a high level of service to all business units and to our clients.
I find that there are close synergies between the client services and operations functions. My dual role gives me knowledge of both the back and front side of our operating model, and this is invaluable when helping me to:
- Bring these areas together by increasing cross-collaboration and improving our coordination
- Leverage best practice and expertise so as to introduce a consistent approach to how we engage with our clients
- Use the knowledge I have gained on driving the business to help us define and implement a unified operational platform which supports our growth
In addition, the increased speed of change and the pressure on efficiency provides a great opportunity to improve the way we work, across the different areas of the business, by adopting new technologies while improving the client experience.
To be successful in leading and executing operational and client services change, it is key to demonstrate the value we bring internally and externally and engage with all Aon colleagues. It is important that we empower our colleagues to positively embrace changes and help them understand the operational and regulatory implication so that we can all align on strategy execution. At the end of the day, both roles are about people!
CM: What are your ambitions for 2018?
Siccardi: My ambition is to strategically work with our CEO, leadership team, and each function to build a unified and integrated platform across Aon Benfield UK that keeps the business performing at its peak while driving efficiencies and best practice.
CM: Was 2017 a busy year for Aon Benfield in claims?
Siccardi: In 2017, we saw a high level of claims activity—collecting billions of dollars in claims for clients, a significant proportion of which came from the Q3/Q4 hurricanes and wildfires in the Americas. These events, which included multiple hurricanes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes, truly demonstrated the value of our industry and of our claims service.
In addition, we have seen considerable growth in claims activity emanating from the liability side, including in the pharmaceutical area.
On the facultative book, aside from the natural catastrophe events that defined the second half of the year, we have seen a number of large losses related to product recall for the automotive industry, and claims in the chemical industry, where contingent business interruption has made a significant contribution to the overall quantum.
CM: What did you learn that can be used to improve this client service?
Siccardi: Our clients are interested in buying products that perform well when there is a claim, and having their claims paid quickly and efficiently. If I think about the 2017 catastrophe losses, we have definitely seen a good response from the market. Our claims teams have working tirelessly after the catastrophe losses to ensure claims were paid in a timely fashion—impressively collecting these in an average of less than 10 days.
I think that the claims function should play a bigger role going forward in offering pre-loss activities to our clients, in learning from the claims experience to enhance wording, and in using claims insight to develop new products.
These are the areas where claims can be a differentiator, and where good claims colleagues are a hugely valuable asset in retaining clients and attracting new business. Let’s not forget that our reputation as an industry is built on our ability to offer certainty and pay claims quickly, fairly and without the element of ‘surprise’.
CM: What kinds of digital projects are you undertaking to modernise the Aon Benfield claims function?
Siccardi: I see technology as a great tool to:
- Improve our clients’ experience by making the process more efficient, faster and transparent
- Improve the work experience of our colleagues by allowing them to focus on added-value activities for clients
- Access worldwide data and insights, which we can share with our clients and brokers, with a view to continuously improving performance
At Aon Benfield, we are continuously focusing on optimising and simplifying our claims operating model. We are currently working on a global project aimed at leveraging our global IT platform to create a unified client services offering, and a consistent approach to our clients by:
- Standardising, streamlining and implementing one claims process worldwide
- Making the most of new technologies—such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—to reduce process cycle time, improve process quality and the experience of our colleagues and of our clients
- Investing some of the efficiencies and savings achieved from digitalisation into areas where we can add value to our clients, and develop expertise which will help us to understand the risks of the future