Meet Ger Shannon, Managing Director of Premium Credit, Ireland. As well as being the leading provider of insurance premium finance in the UK, Premium Credit is also the No. 1 in Ireland too.
In this Q&A, we hear Ger’s reflections on a year of Covid-19 and the optimistic view he has for the rest of 2021. If you conduct business in Euro outside the UK, Ger is a great point of contact in relation to your IPF needs.
Q: What were your key memories of the last 12 months from a business perspective?
A: As a business leader, one of my primary concerns will always be the well-being of our people, our partners and our customers and this became especially important when the virus became a pandemic and landed on our shores. We knew we needed to respond quickly to provide the necessary stability for all stakeholders. Where appropriate we also adapted swiftly to new working practices- like working remotely, to ensure we continued to offer existing and new customers specific payment options for their insurance at a time when they needed us most.
The Irish business community has been affected like never before as a result of COVID-19 and Premium Credit has sought to ensure it has adapted appropriately to meet the ever changing financial requirements of customers and their insurance needs.
When Covid-19 struck, companies were left with significant uncertainty, for some, little or no trading resulted in no income, and many customers simply did not have the reserves to pay their monthly insurance payments. To support our customers and partners we diverted resources to manage an extensive forbearance strategy which saw us help over 1,650 customers and provide forbearance of over €14m to the Irish market. We supported customers through the economic crisis of the late noughties, and we’ve continued to do the same through this latest situation.
Q: What were the highlights?
A: Despite the hardships of 2020 there were many highlights. Successfully setting up and moving to a ‘working from home’ environment has to be up there, we achieved this in under a week; a + 40 Net Promoter Score from our partners in a recent survey; an increased trust pilot rating; bringing on new clients such as Easytrip; and maintaining our key relationships with BLD, BFI and all our key partners. Of course, I have to mention our exclusive accreditation from Brokers Ireland and in general, Premium Credit being seen as a key component and facilitator in insurance life, which is very important to us.
Q: Why has Premium Credit’s working from home policy been so important during the pandemic?
A: We embraced the working from home policy to protect our staff, still providing support to brokers, their customers, and wider stakeholders as they needed it. This approach allowed us to meet the needs of everyone connected to our business in this Covid-19 environment, ensuring high professional service standards were seamlessly maintained. Premium Credit has an experienced team of professionals who work closely with intermediaries and their customers – this team allowed us to provide a business as usual service wherever possible.
We also developed some working practices that were already in place. As a company, we have been focusing on operational efficiency – in particular over the last 3 years, with the aim of providing a better partner service and an industry leading digital model. This work was not designed to support home working in a pandemic, but it has served us well. Our personal lines capability was supported by our ‘Know Your Customer’ or KYC digital onboarding app and in 2019 we had moved our commercial lines operations to entirely paperless. This work left us well prepared for the events of 2020.
Q: What is your long-term strategy?
A: Fintech business, paperless, frictionless, integration within the customer journey are all words and phrases that immediately spring to mind. We are a purpose-led organisation, proudly supporting our community of customer and partners in creating opportunities through convenient payments.
Prior to and during the pandemic Premium Credit has been at the forefront of seeking better and smarter ways of doing business when it comes to insurance payment solutions. Our E Journey retail product is a good example of administrative efficiency empowering our partners to complete their business in a paperless environment. We are focused on using the best in tech has to offer to make doing business easier, whilst ensuring all regulatory and compliance requirements are met.
Q: What role has the Know Your Customer (KYC) App played?
A: Having launched the Personal Lines eJourney in 2018, in cooperation with our Fintech partner ‘KYC’, it has come into its own during the pandemic. The eJourney is a groundbreaking app significantly reducing the time it takes for brokers to onboard their customers.
The app is the first of its kind and is a major bonus for our partners and for us, the premium finance provider. The savings made, (in time, administration and lack of paper), allows Premium Credit to continue investing in state-of-the-art IT for the benefit of all. As a tool aiding remote working, it’s added a ‘safety’ aspect during Covid.
The KYC tool has been critical during the pandemic on two fronts. It allows our partners to continue processing new business at arm’s length. They did not need to take on the risk of face to face meetings as Covid struck or handling potentially infected documents. For Premium Credit, the KYC App is supported by a digital workflow system allowing a fast and efficient remote review of transactions.
Q: How did you meet the CBI and government’s expectations with regard to forbearance?
A: We met our responsibility to assist our customers with forbearance during this awful pandemic and to allow them breathing space as they worked through their challenges. Whilst we are not a front line bank, we recognised the need to seek tailored solutions for these numerous challenges as they arose for thousands of customers.
We pride ourselves on personal service and providing a model that is both forgiving and flexible. We have provided large scale forbearance packages during the pandemic that have gone well beyond what banks offered with government supports. We also provided tailored supports for specific customers. The volume of work was enormous, and I need to thank my team here in Ireland and the extended support team in the UK for going the extra mile to support our brokers and their customers.
The evolving regulatory landscape will be an area that raises some challenge. Protecting customers continues to be very high on the CBI agenda, especially during these unprecedented times, a stance which we continue to support and deliver on.
Q: Why is Insurance Premium Finance important in a recession (lessons learned from before)?
A: As a company operating in Ireland since 2004, we have seen various different stages of economic cycles in that time, both good and bad. Though a pandemic is unique, the pressure it has brought is not. As always, insurance premium finance allows customers to access the right insurance covers, at the right time, at the right level and at the right cost.
Q: What have you done differently during the pandemic?
A: We are a ‘can-do’ organisation and want to do business well, providing the right support to customers, partners, and the whole insurance market. This means that we are always looking for ways to listen and improve. For example, our underwriting has been adapted to meet the new challenges while at the same time ensuring clients can meet their obligations on the insurance side.
We are fortunate that our model, including remote working, has allowed us to operate with little interruption in the services we provide to our partners and their customers.
Q: What is the outlook?
A: The economy needs to reopen, and all sectors need to be able to get back to some normality. The vaccine will assist this greatly while we also need to adhere to the government’s regulations to protect us all.
We want to remain a supportive, technology-led, helpful financing partner now and long into the future. Even during the most challenging trading environments of late we have remained open for business, playing our part in keeping consumers going and businesses trading. We believe customers who don't usually consider finance to cover their insurance premiums may wish to do so increasingly in the future. This is an opportunity for us and partners to support customers. If we can make our partners more successful and grow by providing their customers with market leading premium finance options, they will deepen the relationship they have with their customers. As our partners prosper, we also benefit too. A lot will depend on the roll out of the vaccines, new variants of the disease emerging and any further lockdowns.
Q: We hear you are moving offices?
A: Yes, we’ve taken the opportunity to reflect and develop a new working environment here in Dublin. Our new office located in Q House in Sandyford is bright and modern, offering hot desking and conference facilities and will provide an excellent, new working environment. We look forward to showing you around the new facility.
Q: What obstacles to you foresee in 2021?
A: Getting through lockdown and seeing the economy open up again is dependent on a successful vaccine rollout- and we wish the teams’ leading the rollout every success.
The CBI and other respected commentators have come out with positive projections for H2 2021. There is pent up consumer savings and demand that will drive the economy on wards. Goodbodys project we will have a staggering 5% GDP growth in 2021.
Q: What opportunities lie ahead for 2021?
A: Further development of our integrated partner offering, fine tuning of the e journey into all aspects of our business and continuing to be a key player in the finance market are all opportunities. The Premium Credit team is positive and willing to play our role as the economy re-opens.
Our focus will be on servicing customers and partners by leveraging our digital capability to bring more innovation to the Irish market. We plan to build on the success of the KYC App innovation by digitising further customer segments to reduce administration for brokers and improve the journey for our end customers.
We look forward to journeying with our partners and their customers as we enter a post pandemic era. The future is bright.