Introducing Passenger Blog 002

Despite the most challenging trading conditions in memory, we’re continuing to invest in our underwriting capabilities across our commercial business lines.

At the start of 2021, we welcomed two graduates from the ERS Underwriting Academy – Callum Lewis and Morgan Cadogan – into our Passenger Carrying Vehicles team. With Callum and Morgan now settled in their roles, we thought it was a great moment to introduce the whole team and quiz them on where they see passenger insurance opportunities emerging in the post-lockdown world…

Who are you, and what do you do?

Darren Shulver: I’m senior underwriter for taxi, and I’ve been with ERS for more than a decade. I write the majority of our commercial products but predominantly Passenger Carrying Vehicles policies.

Victoria Littlechild: I’ve been with ERS since 2014, starting out in fleet underwriting before moving to commercial. Today I’m a senior underwriter for coach and minibus.

Sam Beamish: I joined the commercial motor insurance industry around ten years ago and have been with ERS for just under four years. I work as an underwriter, predominantly specialising in taxis.

Morgan Cadogan: Unlike the others, I began my career working in ERS’s commercial operations team in Swansea before moving into underwriting via the ERS Underwriting Academy. I’ve been underwriting for Passenger Carrying Vehicles since January 2021.

Callum Lewis: I also graduated from the ERS Underwriting Academy at the start of the year. In fact, before this, I’d been working on our Enthusiast team for five months, so it’s been great learning all about the world of commercial motors.

James Hayward: I’m Product Manager for Passenger Carrying Vehicles, so I oversee the team.

How would you describe your team?

James: Expert underwriting underpins everything we do at ERS, and we’re fortunate to have an incredibly talented team full of complementary specialisms. For example, Vic knows everything there is to know about minibus licensing requirements across the UK, a real complex subject. Darren is one of the most experienced taxi underwriters out there. Sam is developing a reputation as a commercial opportunity-spotter. And Morgan and Callum have both made a great start to life on our team.

First and foremost, though, they’re all great underwriters, and that’s what sets us apart in the market.

How has ERS responded to the challenges faced by Passenger Carrying Vehicle owners since the start of the pandemic?

Darren: We adapted quickly by offering restricted usage and cover for taxi drivers. Most of these drivers are self-employed and pay their policies monthly, so when they were locked down, we tried to reduce their cover to social, domestic and pleasure usage. We also saw a lot of drivers diversifying into deliveries for app-based retailers and other delivery services, again something we were able to factor into our policy adjustment.

Vic: From a coach and bus perspective, our main challenge was to retain the policies. We were one of the first insurers to offer laid up cover and reduce the financial burden on the policyholder, which made a big difference.

Do you see the diversification in the taxi market continuing now that society is reopening?

Sam: The taxi market is starting to return to normal now, but we’ll probably see many of these drivers hanging onto their combined cover policies because these delivery services offer extra revenue during quiet periods. Many of our clients are linked to the hospitality trade, and while venues are reopening, it could be a while before they’re seeing pre-Covid passenger numbers again.

James: We could be reaching saturation point in the goods delivery market. It all depends on whether the current high street renaissance is a blip or a genuine longer-term trend. If it’s the latter, it could quell the growth in demand for online deliveries and see more taxi drivers returning to conventional passenger carrying.

How will the further easing of Covid restrictions impact the market?

Vic: It will have a big impact on coach and minibus operators. International tour-operated travel isn’t happening at the moment, and we also need to find out what’s happening about future social distancing requirements. For most coach operators, it’s only financially viable to operate once they’re able to fill up the coaches to capacity.

Morgan: We need to be realistic. Even once social distancing measures are removed, people can’t just flick a switch and return to their pre-pandemic behaviour. It will take time for widespread confidence to return, which is why we need to keep communicating with our brokers about where opportunities may be emerging.

What sort of opportunities are we talking about?

Vic: Minibus operators have been paying more attention to the leisure market given the lack of commercial sector opportunities, so providing minibus cover for social, domestic and pleasure usage is a good opportunity for our brokers as the summer gets underway.

Darren: We’ve had a few requests about taxi owners who have been asked to take customers over onto the continent because they’re worried about the health risks of flying. This isn’t a problem from a policy perspective, and while it’s not a common request, it’s a good example of how the pandemic is changing the passenger transport landscape.

Callum: The thing about Passenger Carrying Vehicles is that demand always seems to re-emerge, even if it’s not necessarily in the same areas or the same use-cases.

Finally, how can ERS help brokers to capitalise on these new opportunities?

James: We get so much more information than the average motor insurer because we’re using skilled and experienced human underwriters to communicate with the market, share information and collaborate with one another.

We don’t always know where the new opportunities will come from next, but we have our ears to the ground. And, as we’ve shown throughout the pandemic, we have a versatile product that can adapt swiftly and flexibly to meet customers’ changing needs, even in the most exacting trading conditions.

What’s more our Commercial and Passenger Transport products can now be traded online via ERS eTrade, providing access to speedy quotes at a touch of a button

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