Keeping scaffolding businesses better protected

Scaffolding businesses are essential to so many sectors as well as the most obvious construction industry.  From building inspection and civil engineering to window cleaning, painting, TV production and events. 

But working on suspended, aerial or supported scaffolding comes with many unique health and safety risks that can expose employees and the general public to H&S risks on a daily basis.  

That’s why scaffolders need Irwell’s liability insurance that includes a health and safety compliance review tailored to the unique risks of each business.

Keeping vehicle sales, repairs and motor trades better protected

From car sales and valeting to tyre fitting, repairs and maintenance, the motor sector is exposed to many unique health and safety risks.

Operating mechanical equipment, diagnostics and hydraulics, lifting heavy objects and working under heavy vehicles or fuel spillages and fire hazards can expose employees and customers to H&S risks on a daily basis.

That’s why motor businesses need Irwell’s liability insurance that includes a health and safety compliance review tailored to the unique risks of each business.

Keeping transport and logistics businesses better protected

The commercial transportation sector is essential to so many industries, including manufacturing, construction and retail. 

But transporting raw materials and finished products to and from facilities, tracking shipments and delivering goods to customers can come with many unique health and safety risks. 

Operating potentially dangerous loading and unloading equipment, driving haulage fleets that can involve long and tiring journeys can expose employees and the general public to H&S risks on a daily basis. 

That’s why logistics businesses need Irwell’s liability insurance that includes a health and safety compliance review tailored to the unique risks of each business.

Manage and minimise business H&S risks

World Day for Safety and Health at Work is observed each year on 28 April. The day helps to raise awareness about the prevention of occupational accidents and work-related ill-health.

All employers have a legal and moral duty to provide safe, secure and healthy working environments. However, for many businesses, the first time they find out if they are non-compliant with health and safety legislation is when it’s too late – following an accident, a claim or an enforcement visit.

The most recent HSE statistics for 2022/23 are cause for concern:

  • 135 workers and 68 members of the public killed in work-related accidents
  • 1.8 million people suffering from a work-related illness, of which
    • 875,000 workers suffering work-related stress, depression or anxiety
    • 473,000 workers suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder
  • 561,000 people sustained an injury at work
  • 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £20.7 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from working conditions

Health and safety matters

The construction and agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors account for the greatest number of workers killed in fatal accidents each year.

The most common causes of fatal accidents were falls from a height, hit by a moving, flying or falling object, and struck by moving vehicle. These accounted for around two-thirds of fatal injuries to workers and are dominated by male workers (96%) with 25% aged 60 and over.

Preventing or tackling work-related stress and injury can provide significant benefits to employers and employees. Improving employee safety, health, wellbeing and overall work experience leads to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.

Prevention is better than cure

That’s why Irwell’s liability insurance policies include SafeCheck – a health and safety compliance assessment tailored to the unique needs of each business.

SafeCheck only takes around an hour to help:

  • ensure the safety of employees, customers and the general public
  • meet H&S compliance and duty of care obligations
  • reduce business risk of fines, claims and prosecutions

Watch this short video which explains how SafeCheck can help manage and minimise business risk in 4 simple steps

April 2024

The force of nature

Why nature-positive insurance policies make good business sense  

Did you know that $44 trillion of annual economic value generation – that’s half of the global GDP – is directly dependent on nature?

But nature loss caused by climate change, land development, pollution, over exploitation of natural resources and declining biodiversity are already exposing businesses to many unprecedented risks.

That’s why the ABI is committed to raising awareness of nature related risks and opportunities for the insurance sector.

The facts make depressing reading. There has been a 70% drop in global wildlife populations since 1970 and 85% of global wetlands have disappeared.  Here in the UK, a quarter of mammals are at risk of extinction and 84% of our rivers are in poor ecological health. The UK ranks in the bottom 10% of countries for biodiversity which is a shameful reflection of our environmental neglect.

This spiralling trajectory cannot continue. Nature provides food, water, essential raw materials and a natural ‘office’ environment in which businesses can thrive.

Mother nature means business

It’s not just the obvious travel and tourism industry that relies on mother nature to provide a monetisable landscape. From private landlords to manufacturing, food production, retail and leisure, nature helps protect all business sectors from extreme weather conditions. Flooding, freezing and heatwaves can all present risks to business operations, employees or members of the public. Not to mention the associated costs of insuring, protecting and repairing the fallout of natural weather extremes.

We are all well versed on the positive impact of nature on physical and mental wellbeing. But it’s invaluable, and often invisible contribution to business should never be underestimated. Nature is responsible for providing the raw materials required to keep the construction industry building, car manufacturers creating, restaurants reinventing recipes and hairdressers highlighting.

Natural liability insurance

The UK’s ambitious net-zero targets cannot be achieved with man-made innovation, legislation and new technologies alone. We also need nature to provide natural resilience by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere which will help reduce the number of nature-related risks.

Aligning nature protection and business strategy is not simple – it involves a range of sometimes complex and competing interests.

That’s why many businesses have not found it easy to understand and embrace their reliance on nature when it comes to developing their business risks assessments.

As nature-related claims frequency and costs are rising, how can business reduce their exposure to these risks?

The ABI has produced a Guide to Action on Nature. Here is a summary of 10 recommendations for conducting good, green business.

1. Learn best practice from early adopters within your sector

2. Identify which external organisations can give you relevant support

3. Incentivise nature positive behaviours with employees, suppliers, clients and customers

4. Finance through carbon credits and offsetting

5. Extend existing net zero strategies into nature positive strategies

6. Scale up investment in nature-positive businesses or projects

7. Identify short- and long-term priorities and set targets to reduce nature-damaging activities

8. Set up internal groups who will champion the guiding principles and accountability of nature initiatives

9. Sustainable investments in green bonds, high integrity nature-positive credits and voluntary carbon offsetting markets

10. Revisit plans and ambition levels based on changing landscapes – natural and governmental

How can insurers promote nature-positive policies?

Nature loss is one of the most critical issues facing our planet. It’s shocking decline not only threatens our entire eco-system, but it will also harm business and economic growth. No sector is immune from the impact. But every sector can help in reversing nature loss.

The insurance sector can also do its bit to support nature-positive initiatives. Here are just some considerations that could make a world of difference – to profits and the planet.

1. Incentivise insurance customers to take actions that reduce nature risk

2. Share advice on nature adaptation resilience such as how to protect buildings from flooding

3. Green business insurance innovation – from ecosystem insurance, specialised cover for environmentally significant sites and eco-businesses to insurance for providers and users of nature-positive credits and governmental grants

4. Champion underwriting specialists in sustainable projects and nature-nurturing businesses

5. Incorporate nature and environmental factors into business risk assessments

6. Join membership groups such as the ABI who will provide practical guidance on implementing ‘nature positive’ behaviours and business strategies. Their environmental fraud tackling expertise also helps address rural risks and crime such as illegal deforestation.

Nature-nurturing businesses and nature-positive policies make good business sense – morally, socially and financially. That’s why environmental risk mitigation and planet saving policies will undoubtedly be a priority on many boardroom agendas.
April 2024

Insurance gets a digi-makeover

Do you remember back in the 70s when insurance was sold by doorstep salesmen working on commission?  And policy payments were collected fortnightly – in cash? I do. My mum kept a tin of spare change and a little notebook and pencil to keep a record of what she’d paid.

How times have changed. Digitisation is taking over the insurance sector faster than streaming replaced Betamax.

It’s no secret that outdated tech and slow new tech adoption have lingered in the insurance industry. But even the most risk-averse and traditional insurers are under pressure to reassess their business models and take the leap into digital transformation.

Tech takes over tradition

A recent global survey found that 99% of insurance organisations plan to update their technology systems this year including their broker and MGA platforms and claims, renewals and policy administration systems. Some are even introducing drones into their risk assessment armoury.

This transformation is being accelerated by the impending requirements Consumer Duty compliance requirements and Lloyd’s Blueprint 2.0. This digital strategy aims to deliver better, faster, and cheaper solutions to help all insurance participants navigate the complex and fast changing risk landscape.

Your AI claims adviser will be with you shortly

When it comes to customer experiences and claims handling, the bar continues to be set high. From paperless, peopleless claims filed online to payouts and policies issued in minutes.

The switched-on customer of 2024 wants speedy, seamless, streamlined and stress-free processes. They also demand user-friendly portals, on-the-go apps and access to 24/7 support – delivered how the customers need it. Whether that be with a ‘real’ person, a chatbot or a website with accessibility adjustments.

Claims departments are often the butt of insurance customer complaints. It can be the only time a customer interacts with their broker or insurance provider. Insurers that don’t embrace technology to refine and speed up their claims process may risk losing even their most loyal customers.

In 2023, Lemonade shook up the insurance industry by settling a claim in a record-breaking two seconds. Although that’s not a realistic benchmark for claims handling best practice, it demonstrates what can be done with the wonder of AI.

AI take-over

Last year, ChatGPT was the fastest-growing consumer software application in history. It now has over 100 million users prompting the launch of several competing products as businesses reaped the rewards of what AI could do – and learned from what it couldn’t.

These products will continue to influence how the insurance sector operates and will utilise their capabilities for underwriting, claims handling, and new product development.

A SaaSy business

Legacy insurance solutions were designed to be off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all but now thanks to the trajectory of SaaS software, bespoke solutions that suit the needs of very specific cohorts and niche businesses are becoming more mainstream.

Companies that gather and interrogate data to produce risk assessments and actionable evidence are growing in number. Emerging technology plays a big part in delivering these insights to insurers, brokers and MGAs. Geospatial images and drone footage can prove to be invaluable in many high-risk, high-profile claims cases.

So, whether you love, loathe or tolerate tech, it is here for the long-haul, so best keep up.

April 2024

International Women’s Day 2024 #Inspire Inclusion

Everyone everywhere can build on IWD’s achievements in forging positive change for women and girls worldwide – from equality in education to breaking the boardroom glass ceiling. Everybody can ‘inspire inclusion’ by embracing diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image and gender identity.

Today we celebrate Irwell’s Head of Operations, Sophie Doel’s professional and personal achievements on International Women’s Day.

Sophie passed the bar and worked as a solicitor specialising in liability before joining Irwell.  She has extensive insurance experience in property, legal expenses, employment protection and commercial liability. Passionate about developing people and corporate culture, Sophie is the Complaints and Vulnerable Customer Champion, as well as the HR, Training and Development Lead at Irwell.

Outside work, she is mum to two girls, so on International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to ask about her journey from Harwood Park Primary School to Irwell’s Senior Management team and how she juggles being a working mum.

#IWD2024 #InspireInclusion

What do you most appreciate in your work environment?

The people make a workplace and I’ve made some lifelong friendships in each role I’ve worked in. Having people you trust, and who you can speak openly to and being entirely yourself with make the difference between somewhere you feel at home, and somewhere you know isn’t for you. Irwell is full of great people who I feel lucky to have met and work with, both personally and professionally.  

A typical day as Head of Operations

Hectic and no two days are alike! My role is all about providing operational excellence in every area of our business, from improving seamless client services, product development, claims procedures to mentoring. In one day, I can be in an underwriting review with senior management then training my team about Consumer Duty implementation before dashing across town to attend a BIBA event to network with industry peers. I love the variety and the challenge of spinning many plates!

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given? 

Always be the hardest worker in the room – there are going to be great people in any environment you find yourself in, but natural talent will only take you so far. Be disciplined, even when you’re not feeling motivated and eventually, you will outshine the competition and get where you want to go.

What career advice would you give to your daughters?

Don’t expect to love what you do all the time. The journey of getting anything worth having is tough; if it wasn’t, everyone would do it. But be happy – this is all that really matters and, if whatever path you’ve taken doesn’t bring you this, choose a new path as best you can.

What was your first job?

My first job was in a boarding kennels when I was 13. I worked all day every Saturday for £10!

Which woman do you most admire and why?

Judge Judy – I have always found her so inspiring to watch! She’s so intelligent and intuitive, I can’t imagine anyone outwitting her! I love that it’s clearly the ‘real’ her we’re seeing, she’s not putting it on for TV. She’s not afraid of anyone and quickly gets the measure of people.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You don’t have to be perfect. I am a real perfectionist which, although has maybe served me well in my career so far, as it makes me push myself that little bit harder, it’s tough to maintain in every facet of your life. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is ok; you have to know when to give yourself a break (something I’m still working on).

What advice would you give young women looking to work in Financial Services?

Grab every opportunity you can. Network and meet people, learn about the industry, the individual business and how it all pieces together. Look for a good Graduate Programme (like ours at Irwell!) to get your foot in the door, as you can often get a breadth of experience of different areas on these schemes, giving you the opportunity to work out where you will best fit.  

3 tips to working mums about managing the work-life balance

I’m not sure I am the best to answer this one, but I’ll give it a go!

1. Accept you’re sometimes going to be doing a better job of one thing than the other, and that’s ok. You can’t give 100% to two demanding roles all the time.

2. Remind yourself what an example you’re setting to your children. If they grow up and want a successful career as well as raising a family (which I accept, not everyone does!), they can do it.

3. Be kind to yourself and make time for little pockets of ‘you’ time. When children are young, these can be few and far between but it’s not selfish to take time to re-charge.

How does Irwell inspire inclusion?

We have a very diverse team here at Irwell – we are an eclectic mix of ethnicity and religions, new graduates in their twenties, employees who have been with us for almost 30 years and people from Brazil, Dubai and Denton. We even have City and United fans who work well together! My aim is to mentor my team to help them achieve their career aspirations and get them onto the Board if that’s their ambition.

March 2024

Consumer Duty

Putting customers first and foremost.

Having successfully implemented Irwell’s approach to the Consumer Duty, Chris Breakwell, our Chief Risk Officer has just returned from the Informa Consumer Duty 2024 Conference. Chris took part in a panel discussion with an audience of financial services delegates to discuss how communications can be best adapted to meet the needs of customers with vulnerable characteristics.

The Consumer Duty introduced a new Consumer Principle – to deliver ‘good outcomes’ for retail customers. This is built upon the cross-cutting rules that require firms to:

  1. Act in good faith.
  2. Avoid causing foreseeable harm.
  3. Enable and support customers to pursue their financial objectives

Sounds sensible. Seems reasonable. But what does this mean in practice?

In short and sweet terms, Consumer Duty is all about putting the customer at the centre of what your business does.

Your customer may not always be right – but making sure you understand and listen to your customers’ concerns will help you to achieve good outcomes for those customers. Clients need to know they matter. Don’t take them for granted. Never be complacent. This may sound like wise words from a marriage guidance handbook, but building long-term, trusting relationships is just as important in business.

So, first and foremost, cast aside your preconception that your business is one of the ‘good guys. Even good guys can always do better. Best practice is a movable feast, not a final destination.

Customer Duty compliance

Some products and services don’t provide the same good outcomes to customers forever.

What started out as the perfect product or smart service for a first-time property investor, a new business start-up or growing hospitality or hotel chain may not necessarily satisfy their evolving needs throughout their lifetime journey. It’s your job to ride alongside and ensure your products continue to deliver what customers need in the face of their evolving circumstances.

This goes over and above simply treating them fairly or charging a fair price. It’s about recognising that customers are unique, and their circumstances change over time – and so must the way you service their needs, the products you develop and the way you communicate with them.

Sheldon Mills, from the FCA, explains that the duty is needed because all too often consumers are “not given the information they need to make good decisions and are sold products or services that do not offer the benefits they might expect.”

Undoubtedly Consumer Duty should – and will drive change in company culture. Successful financial services firms will put customers at the heart of what they do. Successful businesses will innovate and develop products and services that meet consumer’s expectations and deliver good outcomes.

Those that don’t, face being held accountable by the FCA.

Raising standards in customer products and protection

Consumer Duty is all about achieving ‘good outcomes’ for customers.

But what will these ‘good outcomes’ look like?Good outcomes relate to products and services, price and value, consumer understanding and consumer support. In summary, Consumer Duty demands that businesses must:

  • Provide products and services that are specifically designed to meet the needs of customers and sold only to those whose needs they meet. 
  • Make it as easy to switch or cancel products, as it was to take them out. 
  • Give helpful and accessible customer support. 
  • Supply timely, clear, and understandable information about products and services, so that people can make good financial decisions. 
  • Provide products and services that are right for their customers and that provide fair value
  • Focus on the real and diverse needs of customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances.

From the way companies support victims of financial fraud to ethically and professionally handling pension transfers, investments, or insurance claims, the FCA is watching. Communications with vulnerable customers, and those who are, or could be, in situations that could lead to vulnerability, will all be under the scrutiny of the FCA spotlight.

Be prepared. The devil is in the detail.

Is your brand font legible? Do you supply accessible communication formats such as audio, braille, or Moon? Does your employee training and mentoring enrich a customer-centric culture and ensure employees have the skills to give your customers a safe environment where they can comfortably and confidently discuss their vulnerabilities? Do you have a customer engagement process that tests your customers’ understanding of your products and services? Do you welcome – and act on feedback?

Businesses need to look at their entire customer journey and make sure it starts – and ends with the customer.

Consumer Duty applies to existing products and services that consumers bought or renewed from 31 July 2023 and products and services in ‘closed books’ from 31 July 2024.

For further information visit: Consumer Duty | FCA

February 2024

ABI membership

We are delighted to announce that Irwell has joined the Association of British Insurers (ABI) becoming part of the voice of the UK’s leading insurance sector.

Irwell’s membership demonstrates our commitment to providing reliable and knowledgeable advice and support to our clients and growing team. We are very excited to work in partnership with the ABI to develop best practice and raise awareness of the invaluable contribution of the insurance sector to the UK business community.

Mervyn Skeet, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Irwell into the ABI’s membership. The legal and liability insights and experience they can bring will be vital in our efforts to support businesses of all sizes against the wide variety of risks they face.  We’re really looking forward to working with them.”

About the ABI

The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world leading insurance and long-term savings industry. A productive, inclusive, and thriving sector, we are an industry that provides peace of mind to households and businesses across the UK and powers the growth of local and regional economies by enabling trade, risk taking, investment and innovation.    

More information is available at www.abi.org.uk

Prudence in Property

With rent arears on the rise and the impending Renters Reform Bill, we look at the private rental market and how landlords can mitigate their exposure to rental risks.

Like the housing market, the UK private rental market experienced a volatile 2023 despite increased demand.

The unstable economy and unforgiving cost-of-living crisis is crippling many homeowners with mortgages and preventing millions of first-time buyers from getting on the property ladder. Frustrating for buyers and estate agents but good news for private landlords. Or so it would seem.

Research by The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found that 71% of landlords reported increased rental demand in 2023 –  triple the demand of 2019.  This trajectory of the rental market means that almost one fifth of UK homes are now privately rented resulting in over 4.6 million rented properties

The average cost of private rent in England was £825 between April 2022 and March 2023 compared to London where this figure jumps to £1500.  With the average UK tenant spending around 40% of their monthly income on rent, it is hardly surprising that 38% of landlords with 5 or more properties have more than one tenant in arrears.

Despite governmental limits imposed on deposit amounts and deposit protection schemes to uncertainty over the impact of the impending Renters Reform Bill, a quarter of private landlords plan to expand their Buy-to-Let portfolio in the next 12 months.

But forewarned is forearmed. What does the Bill mean for landlords and how can they prepare for potential changes in legislation? If people are considering investing in property to bolster their income, what do they need to know before they commit to becoming a first-time private landlord?

The Renters Reform Bill  aims to enhance the rights of private renters, improve the quality of rental properties and protect landlords through streamlining legal processes for both parties.

It should also help address the issue of homelessness sweeping the UK – a plight caused by the controversial Section 21 notice in a growing number of cases.

The number of tenants losing their home to no-fault evictions rose by almost 50% last year.  According to government figures, 9,457 households in England saw their homes repossessed by county court bailiffs in 2023 after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice.

In the last three years, nearly 230,000 private renters have been served with a formal no-fault eviction notice. This equates to one renter every seven minutes.

The Renters Reform Bill at a glance

The bill, which is currently at report stage in the House of Commons recommends the following initiatives to formalise landlord rights and help renters escape insecure and unjust housing arrangements.

  • scrap section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions which allows landlords to evict a tenant without having to give any reason for doing so, with just two months’ notice.
  • make it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent properties to people who receive benefits or have children and a change legislation for pets in lets
  • create a national landlord register which will give renters the information they need to make an informed choice before entering into a tenancy agreement
  • introduce new grounds for eviction for landlords who genuinely want to sell their properties or move back in

How can landlords protect their property investment?

With rent arears on the rise and new legislation reforms, it pays for private landlords to be prudent. If disagreements arise, legal costs can quickly escalate, and some clients may not have the resources to pursue potentially lengthy and expensive legal proceedings against a tenant. That’s where Irwell can help.

Irwell’s landlord’s legal expenses protection allows clients to pursue or defend their legal rights and provides invaluable legal advice throughout proceedings. Likewise, if a tenant has taken them to court for breach of contract or has damaged the property, our insurance covers the associated legal costs.

Our residential policy can extend to include rental income protection for added reassurance – whether the landlord is chasing rental arrears or pursuing an eviction notice.