Gordon Rutherford, head of ecommerce at AXA, an insurer delivering commercial lines to big corporations all the way down to sole traders, joined AXA specifically to set up a direct channel. Speaking at the recent Insurance Marketing & Distribution conference in London, Rutherford said that: “It was recognised that it was only a matter of time before commercial lines, especially at a micro level, started to become much more like personal lines.
“People were searching for insurance digitally. They were ready to buy digitally and buy direct because intermediaries didn’t have the proposition to do that,” he said.
Rutherford acknowledges that the insurance market, speaking broadly, is a very intermediated market, but he thinks “it’s absolutely obvious” that the market will move away from intermediaries and go direct because that’s how consumers behave now.
“Maybe it’s not for the big corporations as it’s too complex a proposition, but especially smaller businesses will go direct,” he said.
Rutherford advised insurers to “ take a leap of faith and build a direct proposition and speak to consumers about it, but not to use phrases like “cut out the middle man”, at the risk of upsetting the broker community. “That will alienate where you get most of your business from, but when the market is ready to turn, it will turn to you.”
He said that’s how it has worked out for AXA, “We’ve been able to grow the intermediated side of the business and the direct side simultaneously, and we haven’t cannibalised any part of the other.”
The head of ecommerce at a leading international insurer has said that it’s only a matter of time before commercial insurance purchases move away from intermediaries and go direct.