A golden opportunity for ATE to innovate

DASEnrique Gomez, Head of ATE at DAS UK Group, looks at how the time is right for innovation in the ATE sector…

With the key judgement in the BNM v MGN case not expected until the end of the year, and decisions in the fixed recoverable costs arena not due until 2019, the ATE insurance sector – already burdened by ever changing regulation – is playing something of a waiting game.

But this could be a golden opportunity for the ATE sector – the chance to take advantage of what might otherwise be a relative lull in activity period to set in motion a time of self-analysis and transformation, to develop plans for what the future of ATE insurance will look like.

This is our chance to innovate.

It’s a word being used more and more in general insurance circles – less in some more specialist areas – but taking it back to basics for a moment, what does innovation even refer to? Defined loosely, innovation is simply about embracing and investing in new ideas to retain relevance – it’s crucial to the continued success of any business or product.

And while the insurance industry is gradually adopting a more open minded approach when it comes to innovation – because of the realisation that it’s preferable to becoming obsolete – ATE insurers exist in a space where innovation has not previously been a significant part of the conversation. Driven by legislative movement, the market is seeing major changes, the impact of which are still being revealed, and ATE insurers will need to react quickly.

Innovation can take many forms, and whereas in the context of general insurance it tends to refer to shiny things like Insurtech and Artificial Intelligence, these aren’t readily applicable to ATE (well, not yet anyway). But to innovate sometimes means simply listening to your customers and doing something different based on what they need, and in recent months we’ve made some steps in the right direction by doing exactly that.

For example, we’ve been offering disbursement funding for clinical negligence for some time now, and we’ve recently made funding available in personal injury for industrial disease and mesothielanoma cases.   We’ve also recently launched the pilot of a new commercial ATE proposition – Civil Rapide – having listened to feedback from the market that commercial ATE was expensive, time consuming, and generally a hassle (and certainly not worth bothering with for relatively low value commercial disputes). We’ve designed this product to be fast, streamlined, and with light touch underwriting, which should help us address the specific needs of this specific segment of the market.

We are not only making changes to react to market needs, we are actively striving towards achieving and maintaining a balanced risk portfolio, crucial to our long term strategy, and market stability. We have also instigated a programme of digital transformation that includes a brand new portfolio of corporate websites, and a new After The Event (ATE) online portal for the company’s solicitor partners that will enable them to apply for and bind ATE insurance cover more easily than ever before.

Perhaps most importantly, we have now withdrawn from working with non-partner firms in personal injury as well as captive cells (the latter because we no longer see and alignment of interests within an acceptable risk appetite), exiting a number of relationships to focus on strong, long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with solicitors firms. Finally, we are also committed to working on commercial ATE with brokers and solicitors, and are continuing to grow our commercial ATE book.

If, as a sector, we all innovate, then the outlook is encouraging; at least it is for those who are enthusiastic about access to justice and a sustainable ATE market.

What will you do to innovate?

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