Fleet Risk Management from an Insurer Perspective

We discussed Fleet Risk Management from a leading insurer's perspective. What role does technology play in fleet risk management and what change can we expect in the coming years? Steve Smethurst interviewed  Doug Jenkins, who is the Motor Technical Risk Manager at AXA and one of the leading and most experienced authorities on this topic.

What is your role at AXA?

AXA is one of the top-three companies in terms of commercial fleet insurance in the UK, and my role is to help our clients with fleet risk management projects and service providers. To give an example, a client might want to introduce some form of telematics or cameras. I would undertake background research and look at their claims, their fleet and resources. That’s how I came across Brightmile - if we get a car or light van fleet and they want to really understand what’s going on with the way people are driving, then Brightmile’s the ideal thing and I’ll play a facilitator role. 

What’s your background and experience in fleet risk management?

It began when I joined Cheshire police and worked in traffic. I was part of the motorway traffic unit and had the opportunity to educate before using enforcement. Then I had my own business in fleet risk management for 20 years until our biggest competitor bought us out. I then started working in insurance with QBE before AXA offered me a global role in 2013. 

How has the role of the insurer developed in terms of risk management?

Ten to 15 years ago very few insurers had any focus on motor, it was always on property and casualty/liability. Then big clients like AstraZeneca, Shell and BOC started to realise that if they had fatalities and injuries, they were coming from fleet. They’d always needed insurance, but there wasn’t the focus on motor fleet risk management. 

Now, when you’re pitching for business or renewals, the premium is still important, but there’s more emphasis on services and risk management. It’s become an extra worth paying for. AXA’s strategy is “payer to partner”, partnering with clients to prevent risk rather than simply paying the bills. So we are trying to take a more proactive approach.

What will change for insurers in the coming years?

Electric vehicles are very much on the radar with insurers releasing commercial fleet electric vehicle products. Likewise, AXA is becoming the go-to company for autonomous vehicles and we insure some very high profile projects. For example, Solihull Council in Birmingham bought an autonomous vehicle recently for the NEC. It has a public roadway around the exhibition centre and it’s ideal to get this type of technology embedded.

When we underwrite one of these risks, I’m the one that has to review the safety case. 

That’s been a big change over the past 12 months and from next year, autonomous vehicles will be on roads with no safety drivers. These are completely new risks and present new challenges for an insurer. For example, the tech in autonomous vehicles can be hacked. I’ve also experienced being on a long journey in my electric vehicle when all the instruments went blank - it turned out it was having a software upgrade.

What is your view on telematics?

Essentially, my view on telematics is that if you’re ready for it, you’re going to use it properly and actually have some feedback for drivers, it’s excellent. But all too often we see businesses who do not know what to do with the data. There are also many telematics providers who focus on driver tracking and vehicle maintenance but don’t really have an impact on safety. So it’s really about choosing the right provider and helping to ensure that it is correctly implemented. That’s when you can see some real benefits on collision rates.

How do you feel about the Big Brother aspects of telematics?

It comes with cameras more than anything. People don’t tend to mind the forward facing camera as it protects them in collisions, but the inward facing camera can be seen as intrusive. 

When it comes to company cars, telematics is very difficult to sell. People don’t want to be tracked. It’s not so bad when they are at work, but they also have their vehicles for personal use. That’s where Brightmile comes in. It only reports data on your business trips and that’s a really big selling point.

What has been your experience of working with Brightmile?

I know all our service providers well and we have a good working relationship. They all know what I expect of them and, if they don’t come up to scratch, I tell them. I meet with them all regularly and I like to push the boundaries – it leads to really good constructive conversations. 

The team at Brightmile is no exception to that. Brightmile has been working closely with AXA since 2019 and we have a close relationship. We’re very careful to choose providers to make sure that from start to finish the client really has the best experience - providers vary immensely in terms of support. I would say that Brightmile supports its clients a lot more than most with its end-to-end customer success programme.

As above, with its non-intrusive approach and ease of deployment, Brightmile has proven a good fit for lighter commercial vehicles and company car fleets looking to focus on driver safety. We are seeing some good early results on collision frequencies and they are a trusted partner.

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