We’ve invested heavily in our Commercial proposition over the past few years, expanding our risk appetite, innovating within our service lines, and enhancing our ERS eTrade platform to make it as easy as possible for brokers to trade with us.

At the heart of our Commercial team sits James Mann, our new Product Manager for Non-Passenger Commercial business. We spoke to James about his passion for underwriting, his assessment of the market in these harsh economic conditions, and his priorities for the rest of the year…

How did you first get into insurance?

I studied sports science at college and originally planned to pursue this at university, but I opted to take a year out and save up some money first. I started working in a local call centre for Ageas selling household and car insurance, and I’ve been in insurance ever since!

That said, insurance only really became a career for me when I began underwriting. Underwriting has always appealed to me because of how much it influences the wider business – from supporting new customers to preventing leakage and assessing profitability. I’ve also been fortunate to work on a range of product development initiatives over my career, for example, working on telematics propositions when very few insurers were active in this space, and learning how to price new products.

What attracted you to ERS?

I was really enjoying working for a MGA start-up called Kitsune, where we had achieved some success during the pandemic, so I wasn’t actively looking to leave my role. However, I became aware of the ERS opportunity, and after a few conversations with the team, I knew it was the perfect role for me.

I really don’t think there are any other players like ERS in the market. Alongside their A+ rated products, It is unique in its ability react quickly to market needs and write a range of weird and wonderful risks, particularly when looking across the Specialist Commercial Vehicle book.

How is your new team structured?

Our Commercial team is split into the Passenger and Non-Passenger classes. I look after the latter, which comprises Transportation, Courier and SCV, and James Hayward looks after Taxi and Minibus. There’s a lot of shared knowledge and experience between the two areas – our teams are close-knit and work together closely..

What does a typical week look like in your role?

I joined ERS in March 2022 and I’d say it’s been the most varied, fast-paced and challenging role I’ve experienced. Transportation, Courier and SCV are all very different markets, and my job is to ensure that our A+ rated products are meeting current and future market needs, executing our underwriting strategy and that we’re making it as easy for our Broker Partners to trade with us as possible.

How much Commercial business is carried out online?

Getting brokers using ERS eTrade has been a key focus area over the past few years, and we’ve made tremendous progress, particularly in new business. Around 95% of all new Commercial quotes are made online with very little requirement for human intervention. Where there are more complex risks, the quote can be started online and then fast tracked to one of our underwriters for completion.

I think some brokers are still a bit surprised that complex Commercial risks can be underwritten and renewed effectively online, but with the support of our experienced underwriters our brokers can rely on getting the right cover at the right price, fast.

Tell us about the key trends you’re seeing in the Commercial market

EV is a hot topic across product areas, and one that’s sure to grow for many commercial markets – which is why we’ve adapted our products to write EV – after all, specialist electric vehicles need specialist motor cover

Transportation is an interesting area at the moment – from a supply chain perspective and environmentally. There’s a drive for the industry to become more efficient and environmentally friendly, but what fuel will meet the needs of major haulage clients –will Hydrogen be the fuel of choice for long distance drivers or EV? we’ll have to wait and see, it’s definitely an exciting space to follow.

Alongside this, the pandemic remains a talking point in our world. It affected Commercial customers quite differently from personal lines, although not everyone was a beneficiary. SCV customers struggled because these businesses relied on outdoor events and human interaction, whereas Transportation and Courier saw a massive increase in demand.

While the demand is still there in the post-pandemic world, these businesses are currently being affected by a perfect storm of economic troubles – the price of fuel, HGV driver shortages, massive issues getting new vehicles on the road, rising second-hand vehicle costs. They’re having to contend with so many factors that are out of their control.

What are the insurance implications of these challenges?

The biggest knock-on effect is claims inflation. Repairs are taking longer and costing more, and it’s also more costly to provide replacement vehicles. So, for example, when a Transportation customer bumps a car, we are seeing much higher claims costs than in previous years. The rise is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before, and it’s affecting the entire industry.

It’s a difficult time coming into this role with so many economic challenges that are out of our control , but my life is made much easier by the fact that ERS has maintained its underwriting discipline over the past few years, so we’re in a better position to avoid the pain that some insurers will likely suffer in the months ahead. We haven’t gone chasing volume or taken chances just to get business through the door. Throughout Covid, ERS’s priority was always on putting the right rate to the risk.

What’s your main focus for the next six months?

Alongside the continuous development of ERS eTrade, my core focus is building our long-term strategy for Courier and Transportation – assessing our distribution model and looking at how we can support channels which aren’t currently integrated with ERS eTrade. We have some really strong products and there is a lot more of the market we can reach, providing we get the strategy right.

Alongside this, I’m going to be looking at how we can expand our relationships with brokers, and I intend to work closely with our specialist teams so that we’re continuously finding ways to make it easier to trade with us.

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

Relationships with Brokers are key. By having strong relationships with our brokers, It allows us to work together, gain even more insights and build compelling solutions for our customers.

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

With two young girls to look after, I don’t have much free time. I spend most of it playing Disney princesses or having my nails painted!

When I do get time to myself, I’m a big sports fan and a lifelong Fulham supporter. I try to get out to Craven Cottage as often as I can, before going home and getting my nails done!

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

I love poker and play as much time allows, so I think I’d be pretty happy spending half my time in Las Vegas playing the World Series and making my fortune.

Connect with James on LinkedIn here

Looking for a Commercial motor quote? Find out more about ERS eTrade and how to sign up here

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