During recent months life has changed beyond belief as a result of COVID-19 from widespread illness and the sad loss of life to the constant disruption to the ‘everyday’. Things will never be the same again. Despite this, some positive outcomes have been created and it’s important to reflect on them. In the business world I’ve seen numerous examples of human resilience, operational excellence and the application of technology keeping the wheels of commerce turning however bleak the outlook has appeared.
As someone responsible for both people and operations at Premium Credit, COVID-19 has presented a steep learning curve with a need to act quickly and decisively. This dual role, which is unusual in the financial services sector, has given me some unique insights as we’ve journeyed through the pandemic supporting our insurer, broker and specialist lending partners and their customers.
Insights have been gained through everyday working with further learnings gained from our staff survey conducted in May (85% response) which has helped us to understand colleague wellbeing, engagement and productivity during lockdown and what improvements are needed going forward.
People & Communication
As in any positive relationship, communication is key - with staff, partners, customers, the regulator and our wider stakeholders. We’ve kept the human element front of mind, particularly during this time of isolation. Everyone’s life has been thrown up in the air and disrupted so we’ve been conscious of minimising any negative effect.
We remain available for our partners, answering customer enquiries and developing new opportunities. For customers experiencing financial hardship and struggling to repay their loans at this time we’ve been reviewing each forbearance case on an individual basis, looking wherever possible to ease the financial burden for them. We’re accessible and here to help.
Technological investments have enabled 99% of our people to decamp from the office quickly and smoothly to work entirely from home with little or no limitations. From the Customer Contact Centre to Underwriting to the process where new credit accounts are opened, we continue to service and support all our partners and customers.
For our colleagues, following the initial shift to safe home working, we focussed on monitoring well-being and productivity, from providing access to resources and tools to manage the isolation to creating a flexible working day, particularly for employees with children or home-schooling responsibilities. (Results from the staff survey indicated that 97% agreed or strongly agreed with the support received). Some thrive in a home working environment, others find it more challenging – we’ve tried to introduce workable options for all.
We’ve deliberately increased communication to keep our colleagues engaged and connected with each other. To keep virtual F2F contact, we use Teams (a video conferencing tool similar to Zoom but with the ability to sync to other Microsoft technologies) to run all meetings, from project activity through to daily team meetings. We’d already introduced Teams which enabled us to hit the ground running when home working started. (80% of staff said interaction with their own department was the same or improved).
We introduced Connect Express, an internal newsletter, sent three times a week, keeping everyone in touch with helpful news and information from across the business. We also introduced a weekly video call for all colleagues, led by our CEO and Executive team, which includes a Q&A. The whole approach has been to step up human interaction at a time when it’s needed more than ever to retain a sense of ‘togetherness’, and help our teams to work to the best of their ability.
Operations & Technology
With people being the most important asset of any business, robust operating procedures and effective use of technology are also needed, particularly now. Having invested heavily in our core IT platforms over the past 5 years, Premium Credit continues to provide and develop significant self-serve functionality that has been a meaningful benefit during the pandemic.
We’ve also been listening to our partners to discover how we can assist them further as they support their customers during this testing time. We understand the importance of providing a smooth and seamless service. As a result we are constantly reviewing and updating PLaSMA, our online system, so it can handle high volumes of premium finance even during this challenging period. It means that our partners can transact 100% of their customers’ business without manual intervention and have instant access to detailed customer and management information.
In some areas demand for our support has massively increased too, for example our CPD accredited training team - called Capability, is busier than ever, providing remote training courses to over 1,200 individuals last month.
Despite being the market leader and well established in the premium finance and specialty markets, this new technology has kept us agile and able to adapt quickly to this exceptional situation, as any good fintech should. We found that within a week of lockdown all our offsite working was up and running with the ability to retain an end to end, frictionless customer journey. (91% of staff stated that systems and technology have worked all or most of the time during lockdown).
We’ve already gained valuable insights from our colleagues through the staff survey that will help us map out the future ways of working- and as this crisis continues, we will learn even more. Planning for our return to the office is well under way, and we recognise that remote working will play an important part in any future model. (97% of staff support working from home when we return to normal).
We are listening to our people, marrying opinion to our strategic thinking and closely following government directives to make our final decisions. One thing for certain is that whatever the outcome, we will continue to service our partners and their customers to the highest of industry standards.
Josie Pileio, Chief People and Operations Officer, Premium Credit