2021: Accelerate Insights
Happy New Year, Westfield Agents!
While we won’t forget 2020 anytime soon, at Westfield, we hit the ground running into the new year. With confidence, collaboration and customer-focus, we emerged stronger and are feeling optimistic about the future. A lot has changed in the world in the wake of the global pandemic, but we view change as opportunity, and we’re energized by all that’s possible in the year ahead.
At Westfield this year, we’ll continue making investments in Small Business to bring market leading capabilities to you and our customers. By the end of the year, our new Small Business Platform will be in all 21 of our operating states. In addition, we’re strongly positioned and eager to grow in the rest of our segments - Personal Lines, Middle Market, Agribusiness and Surety. Equally important is our ongoing commitment to the independent agent channel. This year, you can count on renewed engagement from the Westfield team; working closely with you to reaffirm and strengthen relationships, identify new opportunities and enjoy success together.
2021: Accelerate the Learnings
Collectively, in 2020, we learned, innovated, pushed boundaries, worked faster and more agile. Let’s use that energy and enthusiasm to accelerate action in 2021. After a lot of reflection, conversations with colleagues and instinct that comes from 30+ years in the industry, I offer three areas of opportunity not to be missed this year.
- Accelerate “All Things” Customer. During the pandemic, many businesses accelerated initiatives to better serve customers. Making it easy for customers to do business with you demands a strong digital presence through your website, social media, webinars and email communications. Digital touch points are important, but during the pandemic we learned low-tech communications – face-to-face, phone, virtual visits – are also effective to enhance personal connections.
Then there’s customer data. Insight on customers has never been more important to enable business owners to make better decisions and provide experiences that create loyal customers. 2021 is the year to leverage data to provide experiences customers didn't know they wanted — and those they did, too. I’d challenge all of us to deepen our capabilities to leverage data to enhance the value we bring to customers.
- Reimagine the Workforce. Embrace the new normal and the benefits that come with it. Let’s leverage our newfound abilities to successfully work remote by offering flexible work options and seizing opportunities to attract talent across larger geographies. Now is the ideal time to improve bench strength, acquire technical talent and create diversity within your workforce to drive higher levels of success.
- Know your value proposition and articulate it. What are your focus areas and how can you provide unique value to your customers? Identify your niche and promote it. Make sure your staff can articulate your value proposition and that they leverage it as they connect with customers. Also, the pandemic has shown us what risk can look like, and not just insurable risk. Identify solutions that can help solve the new and emerging risks your customers face.
And one more thing … the commercial lines hard market, it’s here.
Commercial hard market conditions are being driven by higher than expected CAT losses in three out of the last four years (including constricting reinsurance market capacity), prolonged soft-market conditions for casualty lines, social inflation resulting in “runaway verdicts” and higher claims settlements, and the global pandemic which further exacerbated challenging economic conditions.
During this hard market cycle, you should expect higher renewal rates across the majority of our commercial lines of business, with varying degrees depending upon the geographic market, and widespread participation among our peer competitors. The availability of higher property limits and umbrella layers may also be constricted from standard carriers.
It is critical that we partner with you to ensure adequate pricing to promote a healthy and stable long-term outlook for customers.
Together, let’s take a proactive approach:
- Seek early agreements with your underwriter on renewal pricing, terms and conditions
- Support your agency staff with knowledge and resources to help sell/explain renewals
- Share the reality of the 2020/2021 hard market cycle with your customers. Help customers understand when carriers have adequate pricing, they are well-positioned to take care of customer claims. Conversely, when pricing is inadequate over time, this stresses carriers and, at some point, leads to carriers withdrawing from certain markets and possibly even insolvencies - both of which can negatively impact customers.
We are available to assist your staff and customers understand the dynamics of a hard market. Please reach out to your Westfield underwriter for details.
In closing, during unique times, I’ve learned accepting change is a critical mindset for success. And so, as we turn the corner to 2021, let’s continue to evolve and grow together.
Thank you for your business. Westfield appreciates your partnership and we are here to help you prosper and grow. You’ll be hearing from us throughout the year, so be watching for ways we can connect and add value.
Best wishes for a successful 2021!
President, CEO, and Board Chair