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Insurance Lessons from the UK

What we might learn from the land of strange light bulbs

I lived for several years in the UK. London’s Tottenham Court Road was my Mecca because of all the great bookshops, and I still marvel that you could buy a bottle of gin in ASDA for £4 when a salad was more than £5. I miss Sainsbury Indian takeaways. I miss a prompt postal service. I don’t miss sinister, suffocating CCTV surveillance or the “leaves on the line” that delayed my train’s pulling into Waterloo. (Leaves? Are you kidding me?)

I’m left with ambivalent feelings towards my Motherland, but suffice to say, I chuckled in recognition when I heard that Travelers Canada CEO Brigid Murphy learned the hard way that you need the right shoes for cobbled streets. I’ll see her cobblestones and raise her the inexplicable “pin and bayonet” style British light bulbs. If you try to screw one into a socket, you can wind up destroying the fixture (and making your hosts very ticked off).

But Murphy was definitely onto something when she addressed the “At the Forefront” breakfast in Toronto last month and said our companies should pay attention to how things are done overseas. In Britain, “models like Hiscox [are] coming to the fore, where they’re basically looking at the delivery aspect of our business and basically shaving it down to a sort of micro size, and making the bet that price is going to be the driving force in that business.”

Around the time of the breakfast, our website ran an interesting item out of the UK, courtesy of Aviva, which found that gangs are responsible for a good share of the ol’ whiplash scam. In fact, Aviva says it has more than 6,500 suspicious injury claims linked to known organized crime. Well, I promise you that our gangs probably have a healthy slice of the “crash for cash” scheme in this country, too. Far more interesting is how Aviva is trying to deal with it in Britain. It’s asked the government to consider treating minor whiplash injuries with rehab, not financial compensation. Kind of sucks the whole life out of the fraud, doesn’t it? No easy money, no point.

Great idea. Do we have this? If we don’t, why not? And there are more examples to learn from in other markets—check out our Snapshot feature in this issue. We had lunch months ago with an industry rep who expressed a similar desire to know what was going on in foreign locales. What are they up to over there? (Wherever “there” might be.) What can we borrow to do better here? But if you want the light bulbs of imported ideas, first you have to go look… and learn how to plug them in.

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Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Transcontinental Media G.P.