The year 2021 - what's in store for you

CEO Milo Bogaerts and Commercial Director Ozlem Ozuner | Euler Hermes UK and IE

In the face of our new reality, we’ve learnt to improvise, adapt and overcome challenges. Hear from our CEO Milo Bogaerts and Commercial Director Ozlem Ozuner, how we will continue to support you in 2021.
 

1. Looking back on 2020, what was the journey like to get to where we are now?

Milo: The journey throughout 2020 has been challenging yet satisfying. In Q1, the business and economies were thriving, and we were doing an excellent job. Suddenly we faced lockdown in Q2, transforming from a physical company to a digital one. Luckily, we were able to deal with this quickly as our set up was already in place to work remotely. We were very responsive and kept in close contact with our customers and brokers while adjusting to the new norm. The reality is, a car will eventually stop if petrol runs out. After a few months of novelty, we realised that juggling between work, home schooling and other confinement factors was a strain on everyone. And so, we knew we had to reach out and engage even more than before with people on a more personal level. From virtual coffees, fancy dress Friday to mental health awareness surveys, it was an opportunity to vent our feelings and maintain morale. While summer sprinted past with fewer aeroplanes flying above our head, we signed the State Support Scheme with the UK government, protecting UK businesses together with the trade credit insurance industry. Unlike in 2008 and 2009, for customers this meant we could maintain substantial level of cover. It was engagement, communications and execution that brought our company to where we are now.

Ozlem: For me, the journey has been motivating. I joined the team from abroad after the lockdown started, you can imagine the challenges I faced. Nonetheless, our past investment in digital platforms has paid off. The technologies and communications allowed me to reach out to the team, customers and brokers adequately and vice versa. Communications played a crucial role throughout the Covid-19 crisis in 2020. Thanks to our digital mind-set, our business performed well after Q2, and we were pleased to receive positive feedback within the trade credit insurance market on the support and services we provided.

2. What are your three key messages for 2021?


#1 BE PREPARED FOR UNCERTAINTIES

Milo: Last year, we predicted the economy would deteriorate substantially, and the number of insolvencies would surge with more than 80%. We were right about the economic situation. Nevertheless, with the support of the government in the form of tax relief or loans, insolvencies didn’t peak as we thought it would. With uncertainties luring in the background, such as whether the furlough scheme and other financial support schemes will be extended, we are prepared to continue providing the most accurate information and supporting our customers.

Ozlem: I see 2021 as a year of transition. We remain hopeful that the transition will emerge from the shell of the Covid-19 crisis in the second last quarter of 2021. We will stay vigilant and continue to work closely with the government, so our customers, prospects and intermediaries benefit from the State Support Scheme. We will also continue to manage the Covid-19 crisis in terms of buyer, sector and country risk and help our customers navigate the storm as if they were in normal times.

#2 WE ARE ALWAYS HERE TO SUPPORT YOU

Milo: It’s not just a saying, it’s embedded in our value. We provide predictive protection and economic insights for our customers, so their businesses are protected. For our broker partners, we will provide easy access to our insights and solid proposals on new business and renewal. Overall, we will offer the best tools so our stakeholders can approach us anywhere anytime.

Ozlem: Echoing Milo’s comment, we want to emphasize our commitment to you. In 2020, we hosted a few webinars on trending topics such as the State Support Scheme and Brexit economic insights. We are pleased to learn that an average of 94% of the participants found the webinars very useful or useful. We will continue to stay transparent and communicate with our customers. Our job is to respond to future volatility and unknowns and remain alert for this year.

#3 DIGITAL INSIDE OUT

Milo: We invest in innovation that matches our customers’ need and make their life easier. This year, we continue to invest more efforts in enhancing our online tools and products, such as Tradelock that offers insights and risk assessment for small businesses against non-payment, and Credit Risk Analyser that allows companies to analyse their portfolio and understand their credit risk in just a few clicks. What’s more, we will continue to develop more and more features on MyEH, so our customers and brokers can manage their policy seamlessly. We will also continue inviting them to join our webinars to stay ahead of economic insights. Digitalisation is the backbone for a better future.

Ozlem: Our digital transformation journey will continue through omni-channels. We are progressively rolling out our new policy administration and claims system called 'Compass', giving our customer a new digital experience. Our online tools mentioned by Milo are taking their early steps in the market, but we won't stop there. We will actively look for digital trends that allow us to be more robust and fit for the future of our customers and risk markets. What we learnt in 2020 was creativity increased productivity. In 2021, we will look into collaboration tools so these two elements work together more effectively and allow us to further develop customer-centric products.

3. What are the biggest challenges our industry will face next year?

Ozlem: I will say pinpointing emerging sectors. Covid-19 has transformed everything we knew about the world, and global trade will be different after we come out of the Covid-19 crisis.  According to a recent McKinsey article, new businesses in the UK rose by 30% in Q3 2020. This interesting statistic shows that there are still new companies forming. Therefore, we need to look for new sectors and supply chains that will emerge globally, as well as follow and position ourselves in the green economy trend. It is important to focus on seeing opportunities where others see threats, by staying agile against these challenges, we can address our customers’ needs going forward.

Milo: From a risk perspective, the challenge will be observing and dealing with the changes in business models. A good example is the retail industry. Its business model seems to be ever changing. If we connect with Ozlem’s point on new supply chains and new flex of life, it will be disrupted even further. Risk transfer will continue to exist, this means predictive analytics and risk analysis will be more critical to give customers power and accuracy when making forward-thinking business decision. Coming out of the Covid-19 environment, the industry will need to learn how to assess and address these challenges when different business models pop up. Our goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to provide a best assessment of what will happen tomorrow.

4. How do you keep your team motivated despite the current challenges we are facing?

Ozlem: Humour and sympathy have played a significant role. We are conscious of the fact that not everyone has the same comfort at home. Our regular catch-ups with the team are not only meant to discuss work towards the year-end target, but we also transformed them into a safe space to open up to our feelings and share of our daily stories. This does a lot to keeping teams motivated. Adding a splash of humour brought their energy back. A simple opening of ‘are you ok?’ goes a long way to show you care.

Milo: We‘ve learnt that celebrating success and giving compliments matter. Compliments don’t just make others feel great, it has a magical power that enhanced self-confidence and motivation. Adding a surprise element was a bonus. I was thrilled to put a smile on our team’s face when they received a little surprise at home during the festive season. We also reminded our team to pursue self-development on our learning Fridays. Lastly, transparency was the foundation to building trust. Whether it’s townhalls or meetings with customers or brokers, I am always ready to address people’s doubts by answering openly so they feel reassured. Not to mention regularly exchanging info, ideas and personal stories also strengthen trust and motivation.

The UK has left the EU and new rules for business with the EU came into force on 1 January 2021. Even though a deal has been secured, doing business with Europe has changed. You need to follow new rules on exports, imports, tariffs, data and hiring. Unless you have checked that you are ready, your business may face disruption.
There are several options and tools to mitigate credit risks. You should weigh the costs and benefits of these options and investigate carefully to determine the best fit for your company.