When the ATE market started to grow in the early 2000s, ATE providers focussed on assessing and insuring individual cases and pricing them within an insurer’s portfolio. The underwriters who made money were those who chose the right risks, mostly through good judgement, but also with a bit of luck.
Since then, the market has changed dramatically. Solicitors rightly want more from their ATE provider as they become ever more sophisticated buyers of insurance. So it’s now modern practice for insurers to provide:
- Better deals on pricing that reflect a solicitor’s buying power and scale of cases
- Insurance for portfolios, including both attractive and less attractive underwriting risks
- Insight and perspective as an outsider looking at a solicitor’s business
- Help beyond strict interpretations of rules or wordings
- Loyalty and longer term deals. Solicitors are generally very reluctant to change ATE provider, even if it’s a case of ‘better the devil you know’.
What is the modern insurer-solicitor relationship?
In a word: partnership. But, for partnerships to work, a lot of mutual trust as well as ethos alignment is needed. This means investment from both parties, even before a policy is written.
But what are the considerations for each partner?
For the solicitor:
- Who’s the insurer?
- How successful have they been?
- What financial security do they have? (…for when the solicitor claims in five years’ time)
- What sort of insight can the insurer provide?
For the ATE provider, as well as all the data and risk assessment methodology:
- What makes the solicitor’s business work?
- What is its mid to long-term strategy?
- How do policies meet the end customer’s needs?
In our experience, a longer ‘courtship’ period benefits everyone. It gives time to get to know each other’s organisations and people. At Allianz we believe it’s important for both parties to complete a thorough due diligence process, rather than it being a one way process.
Ultimately, partnerships need to think beyond ATE and look at what the joint needs are. The key to longer term success is active dialogue to help anticipate future needs and avoid any unnecessary surprises. Sometimes there are difficult decisions to be made but if aligned, these will be easier to convey through appreciation and understanding.
The ATE world is only 20 years old but is certainly a more mature and developed market place during the numerous legal reforms and challenges. With tighter margins for both solicitor and ATE provider, working in partnership is key to providing effective and appropriate solutions. There has never been a more important time to provide continued certainty and trust with customers who are often very vulnerable after suffering what can be a life-changing event.