From global economy uncertainties to climate changes, how did these issues affect the trade credit insurance in the year 2019? We interviewed our CEO Milo Bogaerts and Kris Macauley, Director of Risk, Information, Claims & Collections about the company’s plan for 2020 and how to be prepared for an ever-changing environment.
Looking back at 2019, what was the journey like to get to where we are now?
Milo: From an economic perspective, 2019 certainly has been a rocky road. At the first quarter, we were ramped up in conducting a full analysis of the Brexit situation. The preparation enabled us to better manage our cover and assist our customer in fastening their seatbelt for the bumpy ride ahead. We ended the year with only a 6% increase in insolvencies. Our increasing number of claims reflected the economic deterioration. We saw failures in some of the sectors from retail to travel, yet we will utilise our expertise and predictive data to help customers to get through those stormy moments and make informed decisions.
Kris: Indeed, the economic landscape was very challenging in 2019 with GDP growing slowly and the volume of claims from our customers were 33% more compared to two years ago. What was pleasing, that despite this, we managed to improve our key customer-related KPIs. 75% of our claims were paid within 30 days, up 15% from two years ago; and we responded to 95% of our credit limit applications within two days, up 5% from two years ago, despite volumes of requests increased by 20%. These record levels of turnaround time are significant for us in delivering faster service to our customers.
Milo: The second element which we focused on in 2019 was enhancing digital services. We are proud to launch our newly revamped online customer portal called MyEH, soon replacing Eolis. Instead of building the system that catered to our needs, we reversed the workflow and built it together with our customers. Through constant communications, collaboration and testing, the new and user-friendly portal will fully roll out in Q1 2020. We have also started a multi-year project renovating our internal policy admin system, providing a better service and data control that our customers can rely on in the long run.
Kris: Echoing the digital side, for us to be more efficient and predictive in providing better coverage for our customers, we switched our internal decision-making model to a new machine learning model based on artificial intelligence, hence increasing both our predictivity and productivity.
Milo: Lastly, we constantly improve and remind ourselves not to exceed our costs so that the total amount our customers pay are of value, meaning they pay for good services, coverage, collection services and claims assessment.
What are your plans for 2020 that are going to have an impact on our audience?
Milo: We strive to be a customer-oriented and productive organisation. From a digital and operation perspective, our plan for customers is to further develop MyEH, adding more features and functionalities that make life easier for our customers and eventually evolve into a self-service platform. The advantages we have are our in-house experts who have in-depth knowledge of insolvencies and sectors. Therefore, we will provide more economic data and tailored info on sectors and countries for our customers. On a more exciting note, we are building a new, flexible and simplified trade credit insurance product that is tailored to the current market needs for our customers so watch this space!
Kris: We also have some exciting plan where we will start a new Special Risk Unit soon. One of the key objectives is to improve the level of communication with customers and brokers around the decision making on the high profile risks, as well as providing a greater understanding of what we are doing.
Milo: If I have a message to focus on in 2020, it will be “Be prepared” as the world is going to change significantly for the next 12 months. If you are prepared, you will build confidence so that you can move your businesses forward.
Kris: I would say “Continue to be bold and to be brave”, have a plan, keep working hard towards it and the results will follow.
We emphasise the importance of agile learning, with your busy schedule between work and family, can you share with us how do you learn?
Kris: I learn by looking at people who work effectively, asking them questions and consolidating their ideas with my own. I’ve also dedicated a specific timeslot in my diary to learn new skills – whether it's listening to a podcast, LinkedIn learning or TedTalks.
Milo: Learning is a continuous process. I also learn by looking at others and understanding what happens around me. Sometimes, the info will come to me and I get trained to learn about the info. I’m lucky to have started in the U.K. three and a half years ago, the level of knowledge and skills related to trade credit insurance here is much higher than anywhere else. I’ve also joined network sessions where I get to learn and share best practices with my peers. The best way to learn is to hear from others what needs to be improved. So I encourage our customers and brokers with suggestions for improvements and opinions on what we do, please don’t hesitate to give us feedback as we can only improve by listening and acting on it.