Infiniti Insurance expands business offering

By: Infiniti Insurance 

Proven principles enable sustainable growth as Infiniti Insurance expands business offering –

In the competitive and crowded space of non- life insurance, Infiniti has received much acclaim for its unique approach that allows for a competitive edge. Right fit, integrity and trust prevail as key ingredients for sustainable growth, this is the strategic approach we apply in the recruitment of new partners says CEO of Infiniti Insurance Sharon Paterson. 

“We have, for some time, looked at various areas for expansion and recently found the right people to add to our stable of specialist underwriters in two new fields, Engineering and Trucking. It is also pleasing to report continued strong results and growth posted in the Liability area since its inception two years ago, under the leadership of market doyen Simon Leppard” explains Paterson.

The art of claims

“A lot of people forget that claims are the shop window.” Simon Leppard, head of Risk Services Africa – the liability arm of Infiniti Insurance echoes the industry maxim. Leppard believes in personally overseeing claims. “You can build up a fantastic reputation – but it can be wrecked by one badly handled claim.” Liability claims in particular can often last for years, and the stakes are high. 

For Leppard, there is no cut-and-paste approach. “Every risk is different. I think it’s a skill – thinking about a risk and a scenario. The detail is what matters.” Leppard’s mastery of the field becomes tangible when he discusses the intricacies of expert risk management. Technology today plays an important role, but it should not be at the expense of the direct involvement of the experts. Individual rating by an experienced underwriter cannot be bettered. This long-standing tradition remains best-practice, and the way in which Risk Services Africa underwrites and rates all policies.

“After years of experience, one develops an instinct that sharpens with time, a sort of gut feel. There are some risks that’ll come to me and I simply don’t want to be involved. There might be big money, … but one has a feeling, and I have learned to trust it” says Leppard. A face-to-face meeting, for example, with a client and their broker is key to ensuring a correct assessment of risk and making sure that the cover given, and the premium charged is commensurate with the client’s activities.” Leppard follows a philosophy of quietly going about his business to ensure that clients get the best possible policy and that the brokers are provided with unparalleled service levels.”

Simon Leppard cut his teeth in the London insurance industry in the 1960s and 1970s. He joined the South African industry in 1982, tasked with running Admiral Professional Underwriting Agency. Nine years later he set up his own company with Lloyd’s binders. “I had a 100% underwriting and claims authority with no set rates or prescribed wordings.” It was a unique binder arrangement.  He sold his shares in Leppard and Associates in 2015 and joined Infiniti to head up the Liability portfolio in 2017.

The right fit is worth waiting for 

Infiniti had been looking to expand its engineering operations and found the perfect fit in Jim Connolly. “There were a number of people we chatted to and shared our vision with, but you need to have that spark, the technical command and experience that makes a specialist,” explains Yulanda Paterson, GM Specialist Division & Infiniti Online. “We have that in Jim. We found fit and that fundamental trust ingredient right from the outset.” 

Waiting for the right person has already rendered positive results for Infiniti and Connolly has been given the space to optimise the efficiency of the division. “That trust is what makes you stay; it is what drives you to go out there, join forces with your brokers and to conquer business together,” he explains. 

The Infiniti recipe for success is anchored by positioning key team members in a way that allows them to focus their efforts on where they best add value, and this is often a delicate balancing act. 

Connolly brings tremendous experience to his new role as head of the engineering division.  It is not the first time that he has started an Engineering play and he has hands on experience of the engineering industry. He worked for various engineering companies in his youth. – His experience is invaluable in his dealings with clients and brokers alike. At Infiniti he has the space to apply the lessons learnt from his vast and varied background to best serve his brokers and their clients. Jim is having great fun building his division within Infiniti and passing on his superb knowledge and experience to his team.

Jim Connolly has been in the industry since 1986. In 1998 he started a company called Engineering Risk Underwriters (ERU). “We started from a zero base, doing purely engineering. Within 17 years, we had built a huge and successful business.” Connolly left ERU at the end of 2015. He joined Infiniti in January 2019.

Never lose the human touch 

Some 25 years ago Heavy Commercial Vehicle Underwriting Managers (HCV) started off with a very small group of brokers looking for a unique product. In a landscape filled with large fleets, HCV caters not only for the large fleet, but also for small transporters who have one or two vehicles, often owner-driven vehicles. “Our pay-off line is ‘caring for trucks and truckers’ and what we say is what we do. We go beyond normal insurance,” explains Vanessa Correia, who together with Chris Barry, runs HCV.  

HCV’s policyholders are typically private, small-scale subcontractors who are extremely vulnerable to industry and route disturbances, operators who can least afford downtime on their vehicles. Their trust in HCV, which forms the basis of long-term loyalty, stems from having their needs consistently understood and met. 

Infiniti is an ideal partner for HCV, who were looking for a partnership that would extend the same level of service to them as they give to their brokers and clients.  “If we are to continue to be as successful as we have been, we need a partnership that is symbiotic, and this we have found in Infiniti,” explains Correia. 

After more than two decades and with over 20 000 policies, HCV has managed to retain that key value of care and a small company feel despite now being one of the main players in the trucking industry.  HCV’s core business is made up of policies that have been in the books for many years and through more than one underwriter – some from their first year of trading as HCV.

“We look for reasons to pay the claims,” explains Correia. “We look at every claim as a unique claim, every single time. We do not use a call centre and believe brokers must be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone they know, someone who is knowledgeable and who understands the situation. We give that personal touch. Our claims managers deal with a claim in its entirety.  There is no going from one person to the next.” 

Yulanda Paterson explains the HCV approach to the claims process: “In this sector of the insurance industry, many companies send the insured to panel beaters and repairers on their panel. HCV takes a different approach. Owner operators know their trucks. They have trusted repairers who they prefer to work with, often in specific geographical areas.  HCV gives the operator the choice of repairer. And that makes a huge difference in their lives. This is in line with how Infiniti Insurance generally deals with the balance of our motor book – yet another synergy between us and our newest partner.” 

“The same, tailored approach is evident in how HCV underwrites,” says Correia. “Generally, underwriters will look just at the vehicle as the insured asset. We suggest a very different approach. We look at the business holistically. Just as we are partnering with Infiniti, we like to partner with our transporters. We encourage our brokers to take us along to see their clients, to have a look at the business, to understand the transporter and their needs. This approach gives the underwriter a deep insight into the business and the risk.” HCV is also flexible in respect of the value that they are prepared to insure a vehicle for. “Operators often add extras to their vehicles, and this increases the value of the vehicle. Rather than simply insuring at market or retail value, in close consultation with the client and having determined the market or retail value, we insure for an agreed value.” 

Vanessa Correia joined HCV in 2009. “Trucking and Truckers are an essential part of the South African economy. HCV’s passion for driver wellness and safety on our roads is part of our unique service offering. We are fortunate to enjoy the support and loyalty of Brokers and clients who understand the importance of making a real difference to this Industry enabling us to realise our passion”  

Infiniti CEO Sharon Paterson is proud of her specialist underwriters and the exceptional level of service they give to the industry. “As a broker driven insurer, it is very important to us that our partners buy into the service philosophy. You are only as good as your last interaction with a broker. We continually strive to gain an advantage through the quality of our service and our commitment to excel.”