A year in Agriculture

Agriculture 89168 1280

2017 was quite a year for agriculture at ERS. While we’ve been in the market for well over three decades, this year saw us make some significant changes. We set up a dedicated agricultural operations team to provide our brokers and their customers with an end-to-end an end-to-end service from initial enquiry right through to claim resolution (and everything in-between). The feedback we have received from brokers since has been overwhelmingly positive and we are very much looking forward to building on this in the year ahead.

Developing our proposition

The establishment of a distinct operations function alongside our expert underwriting team has created a more compelling proposition for our brokers. Despite some of us sitting in London, with the bulk of new team members based in Swansea it is very much one team. So positive has the experience been in fact that it has inspired other areas of ERS to consider a similar approach, which is brilliant too see.

Agriculture is a complex sector, impacted by variables as basic as the weather and as complex as Brexit. Adaptability has been, and will remain, key for farmers as they explore new opportunities. Technology is advancing, with autonomous vehicles already insured on our books – an area we expect to see grow in 2018 and beyond. The addition of our Swansea operations has been invaluable in providing brokers with the speed of response required on an evolving range of everyday needs, backed with experienced underwriters in London for the more diverse and complex matters, meaning we can confidently handle any inquiry we receive from brokers, however unusual.

Ogden and Brexit

Unlike other sectors of the motor insurance market, agricultural motor has not been so impacted by the rollercoaster of Ogden. As exposure to personal injury claims tends to be lower in our sector, we haven’t previously had to account for the level of rate impact that our colleagues in other departments have.  This will change somewhat in 2018 however, as the fallout from Ogden affects reinsurance. It is a fairly safe bet to say that reinsurance rates will rise significantly in 2018 as a result of this. It will be interesting to see how other carriers react to this challenge.

It is impossible to look ahead and not consider what affect Brexit could have on farming and UK business in general. Environment Secretary, Michael Gove recently set out plans to change farmers’ subsidies. Post the 2022 election, and as part of his plans for a ‘green Brexit’, these will be awarded based on how farmers improve their local environments rather than based on how much land they have. While this will surely be good news for many farmers, many will also need to make adjustments, particularly those whose allowance may initially reduce under the new regime. With such changes afoot, farmers are likely to avoid taking on new risks. The fact that we’ve seen a rise in sales of second hand vehicles shows that farmers are more cautious about their budgets and this is a trend that is likely to continue until the Brexit talks reach their conclusion in 2019. A ruling around Vnuk is also hanging over the sector. At the moment, there seems to be little prospect of a swift outcome and Brexit may well happen first, but again farmers need to be braced for change.

Broker relationships remain key

In our world, our broker relationships remain the most important thing and we’ll continue to focus on these in 2018. The new structure has allowed us more time to see brokers face to face, which has been valuable in creating even stronger links. We plan to get out to see them more in the year ahead, and where appropriate, on customer visits to ensure we keep up to date with their issues and concerns. I’m excited about what 2018 holds and am confident that our agriculture offering will continue to go from strength to strength.