Nicky Harttree Bl

Our Own Goods & Trades and Self-Drive Hire product is as flexible as they come, catering for vast and diverse fleets across a wide range of industries. Nicky Harttree has been responsible for the product since 2018. We asked her about the challenges of diving under the bonnet of product performance, how her team is responding to the ongoing pandemic, and what she’s learnt from two decades in motor insurance at ERS…

Describe your career path to date.

I joined ERS as an assistant fleet underwriter in 52 Leadenhall Street when I was 22, having previously worked in personal lines at RSA. That was a long time ago now!

My journey through ERS can be broken down into three chapters; I was an underwriter for five years before leaving to have my eldest son, Thomas. After a year off, I returned to the role part-time for 14 years so I could also focus on raising my family. In 2014, after returning from an 18 month secondment to develop ICE Policy, I returned to work full-time and was offered the role of Senior Underwriter, before eventually being promoted to my current role in 2018.

You’ve been with ERS a long time. How has the business changed since you started?

The biggest change I have seen since starting ERS is our advancement in technology and automated processes. Years ago, there would be mountains of quote papers and renewal folders, huge filing rooms and we even had our own filing ladies! In Fleet it took a while for our underwriters to stop printing everything that came in via email.

Another change is the emergence of pricing teams. The relationship between pricing and underwriting has strengthened significantly over the past five years and plays an important role in what we do.

What prompted you to make the switch from underwriting to product management?

In 2017, when we were in a period of remediation, I started taking a more in-depth look at product performance, whilst I was still in my underwriting role. As we began putting measures in place to improve the performance of our SME product, I found I was enjoying the new challenge, so when I learned that a new role was being introduced, it made sense for me to go for it.

What does a typical week in your role look like?

Every week is different but each one will always be busy! My core focus is on trading performance across both product areas, ensuring underwriters are on point with their trading and that we’re delivering against our business plan. On top of this we’re constantly driving initiatives forward to improve efficiency and trading performance.

Clearly these are tough trading conditions for all businesses. How has your world been affected by the Covid pandemic?

For Self Drive Hire, it’s been a tough time for operators. They are heavily reliant on tourism and overseas hirers, which have reduced significantly and their every day hire activity has also suffered given that so many other UK businesses have been brought to a standstill by the pandemic. Many operators have now reduced their stock of vehicles to match the drop off in demand, so I don’t expect to see this market bouncing back until Easter next year at the earliest.

Own Goods & Trades has been the least impacted of all our fleet products since Covid – this is likely due to the range of Government support and recovery packages that businesses have been able to access. It may be that we only start to see the ‘true’ impact of Covid on these businesses in the next few months as schemes such as furloughing are withdrawn.

What does all of this uncertainty mean for ERS’s business going forwards?

Own Goods & Trades is a hugely competitive space – just about every insurer covers car and van fleets. What we’re seeing at present is a handful of providers quoting unsustainable rates, either to quickly replace lost revenues or because they’re taking a short-term view of performance.

Our underwriters have a really strong underwriting discipline and we aren’t prepared to play ball on this – we know where it will ultimately lead. There’s over 200 years’ underwriting experience on our team and we’ve seen moments like this before when markets have softened before hardening again.

Our head of class has recently written about the need to keep educating the market on how to price risks correctly in light of Covid, and the importance of maintaining our underwriting discipline. Whether it’s our brokers, their customers, or our own internal teams, it’s important to get everyone on the same page about what’s happening in the market and why.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?

Avoid complacency, and never assume you know it all. There’s always more to learn, and it’s important to try your best and put your heart and soul into what you do.

What are your passions and pastimes outside of working hours?

Working full time in my role and being a mum of two boys gives me little time for pastimes. We have a very sociable household so any spare time is spent with my family and friends.

I cherish my family time and the boys have grown up quickly and are now 19 and 15 years-old. Children are just on loan to you so it’s great to make the most of them while they’re still at home.

I enjoy cooking and when I get some down time, I enjoy reading the odd psychological thriller.

If you weren’t working in motor insurance, what would your dream job be?

A criminal psychologist. In college, my A-levels aligned to a pre-nursing course which would lead onto a career in nursing or university. I quickly became fascinated in Psychology and was accepted at university to continue my studies. But having had a change of heart, I decided to apply for an ‘A’ level entry scheme at RSA and here I am, in the world of motor insurance!

If you're looking to place a specialist Fleet risk, contact our expert underwriters on 0345 602 5809 or

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