Vanessa Bl

What does your day-to-day role involve at ERS?

I’m largely responsible for fleet renewals as well as underwriting new business, so most of each day is spent speaking to brokers, looking at each individual risk and establishing a price for the policy in question. It’s a nationwide role so I get a chance to build relationships with brokers from all over the country.

And what first led you to a career in fleet motor insurance?

A chance encounter at a wedding! I graduated from University with a First in History and the goal of becoming a teacher, but when I tried it, I realised it wasn’t the right profession for me. I held some roles in retail management – including in the car rental market – but I quickly outgrew the positions and needed something that presented more of a challenge. Then, in 2017, I got chatting to a friend at a wedding and she told me all about her role at ERS. It sounded interesting and, as it turned out, the fleet team was hiring.

So you’ve really had to learn your trade from the ground up?

I was quite honest at the interview about the need to train me up, but I think the team liked the interest and enthusiasm I brought to the table. They started me off looking at smaller risks such as sub-£20,000 car and van risks, and it’s all progressed from there.

Now, three years down the line, I feel fully immersed in the fleet world, I’m still learning from my team colleagues every day, and I want to remain in this market for a long time to come – hopefully as a Senior Underwriter at some point!

When you’re renewing a fleet policy, what do you normally take into consideration?

A lot of risk pricing is based on claims experience – the frequency and severity of claims, or whether there are any trends in the claims data, such as individual drivers with a high incidence of claims or regularly recurring types of accident. Ultimately, you’re using your expertise and your judgement about past performance in order to make a call on how the risk is likely to perform in the year ahead.

We try and make it a collaborative process with our broker so that they understand how we’re arriving at our decisions and can communicate this back to the client. We also encourage brokers and their clients to look at ways they can improve performance or give us more insight – such as installing telematics or dashcam technology – so we can give them the best and most accurate price.

How difficult is it to assess performance given the unique conditions created by the pandemic?

It’s one of our biggest challenges. So many vehicles are taken out of action or restricted to local journeys during the lockdowns and we’re still not at pre-Covid traffic levels and overall mileage is significantly reduced.

So while many policyholders will have seen improved claims performance during 2020, we have to determine whether this is due to genuine changes on the client side or whether it’s simply a consequence of the pandemic, and something that may not be repeated this year. We can often solve this by taking a longer-term view. For example, if a client had two poor years followed by a squeaky clean 2020, that would give us cause to question the more recent data.

Has there been any pushback from brokers, given that Covid isn’t showing any signs of disappearing?

Brokers understand that that the past 12 months have been very unique, but of course, they’re under pressure from clients who may not recognise that their improved claims performance is due to external factors. It’s an ongoing education mission for us all so that we manage client expectations from the outset.

Ultimately, no one can predict what’s going to happen with the pandemic this year, and it’s too early to make realistic claims about what traffic levels and vehicle usage trends will end up being post-Covid. The last thing we want to do is offer heavy reductions now, only to withdraw them next year. We’d much sooner deep-dive into the client’s specific case and review any evidence they can show us about the steps they’ve taken themselves to improve performance.

How else have you been able to support brokers through the pandemic?

It’s been about striking a balance between identifying policyholders that are struggling and need more support, but still being able to have an honest conversation about premiums.

One thing we’ve been able to do is give more flexibility to existing policyholders, letting them reduce the number of vehicles covered or moving part of the fleet to laid-up cover. These adjustments can be made mid-policy as required, which has come in handy given the constantly evolving nature of the Covid restrictions in different parts of the country.

What else makes ERS such a good partner for fleet brokers?

A key aspect of what we do differently is manual underwriting for all fleet products. Rather than the algorithm-based decisions you get online, with ERS you’re in touch with a dedicated underwriter who can make a decision there and then. It makes us very consistent in our approach, and I think our response to Covid – and the standardised approach we’ve taken across our fleet book – is a great example of this.

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

Verbal communication is still an essential part of effective underwriting. Too often in this industry, what policyholders end up with is a generic email with the terms attached – no explanation. Instead. we need real conversations to better understand the brokers’ viewpoint, the clients’ aspirations and perspectives, as well as to explain our decisions and the reasons behind them.

What do you enjoy getting up to outside of working hours?

I live by the sea so I’m a big fan of cycling and swimming (in the pool, not the sea at the moment!). There’s nothing I enjoy more than cycling along the Southend coast at the weekends.

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

All qualifications and experience aside, I’d love to have been a barrister. No day is the same, there’s a constant learning curve, and there’s great value placed on verbal communication. I’m more than happy to be vocal when I need to be!

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Fleet team 0345 600 2297 or

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