Speaker Q&A

Speaker Q&A

Speaker Q&A: Steve Plunkett

Motor Insurance World provides a space for collaboration and exploration for members of the motor insurance ecosystem, as we look to insure sustainable mobility for tomorrow’s customer.
One of our panels is dedicated to analysing ‘repairing the modern car: a look at challenges, prices, industry collaboration and more’.

Steve Plunkett will be a panellist providing his views and insight based on years of experience working within the car repairs industry and developing approved networks.  

Steve has worked in the automotive industry now for thirty seven years and started repairing cars in his Father’s village garage at the age of fifteen in his school holidays.

A time served paint sprayer (City and Guilds), he went onto work for BASF in both a technical and sales capacity in the late eighties / early nineties. During his career he has also worked as a Trade Parts Representative, Business Development Manager and then as a Bodyshop Manager at a Vauxhall main Dealer. He was then Bodyshop Manager at the original East Bilney Coachworks site and also worked in the same capacity for Nationwide.

During the past fifteen years he has worked in the Vehicle Manufacturer arena, initially for Carter and Carter for ten years, spending seven years working on the Toyota Body and Paint Programme as an area manager and then two years running the programme. A further two years were spent as a Commercial Development Manager with Jaguar Land Rover followed by a spell as Programme Manager with Peugeot Cars.

Prior to starting at Volvo in 2012, he worked for Verex Group as a Business Development Manager, during which time he worked with thirteen Vehicle Manufacturers helping to set up repairer networks and developing VM’s own brand car Insurance and Accident Aftercare programmes. 

First Car:

A Triumph Herald, teal blue with a sun roof, bought for £150.

If you had to carpool with any famous person (current or historical) who would it be? 

Paul McCartney for me, I saw him for the first time in December, I have been a fan since a teenager.  

Steve Plunkett

Body & Paint Development Manager

Volvo Cars UK

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that you are facing in today’s market?

I am concerned at how some of our car owner’s vehicles are being repaired across the industry and also at how some customers are treated / handled when they are involved in an accident. Some of our customers are being charged double excesses and even being told that they have to contribute towards the cost of repairs if they decide to have their car repaired inside the Volvo approved bodyshop network! This causes the end user, our mutual customer a lot of further stresses at what is already a very distressful time. With potentially the car owner now deciding to leave both the insurer and vehicle manufacturer brands! This is not good news for either party. I would like to see this challenge removed from the insurance policy small print. The opportunity is that with more communication and collaboration VM’s and work providers can work more closely together to the benefit of everyone, this has already been proven in our relationships with some.

At our 2019 event, our car repair’s panel discussed and agreed that more needs to be done to improve collaboration between manufacturers, insurers and repair organisations. Do you feel this collaboration is taking shape?

Slowly, but at a snail’s pace. Some organisations are engaging more though. With a decline in bodyshops in the UK continuing and a drastic shortage of technicians, I suspect that this will improve and speed up the process as both the repair capacity and skills shortage result in the need for changes in behaviours.

Has it been a challenge to establish approved repair networks for Volvo, and what has been their approach so far?

It’s been a great challenge, but everything in life is just that if you want to make positive change. We have a network of 76 approved bodyshops supporting 119 Volvo Retailers now, we achieve 100% compliance across the network year on year and have done since we started back in 2012. We have a very stable network now and I don’t foresee too much change at all over the next five years. Our network is extremely supportive of our objectives and brand. We have all collectively achieved so much in such a short space of time. For the past two years, they have won a Feefo award for consistently high quality repairs, customer service & Exceptional experiences.  Now what work provider wouldn’t want a piece of that?

Are we seeing a talent/skills gap emerge in the car repairs industry? Do we have enough talent to support the needs of repairing a modern, digital car?

We most certainly are, there is a storm coming in terms of a skills crisis / shortage. We have plenty enough talent out there with the skills that are already there, but there is an ageing workforce and when these people start to retire during the next five to fifteen years we will then realise that more effort should’ve been done to recruit young people into the industry across all disciplines. There are many people working hard to recruit young people to the sector such as a School For Thought and Auto Raise, but more needs to be done to recruit talent. We need to raise the profile of the sector to the young and also to people that want to train to learn a trade and new skills.

What do you hope to take away from this conference, and are events like this useful in fostering collaboration between various parties operating in the car repairs space?

I hope that it will open more people’s eyes and change opinions, assumptions and perceptions to what is perceived. These events are always good to meet new people, learn something new and of course meet industry friends.

Tom Clarke will be participating at the Motor Insurance World conference on the 24 March presenting on “The changing way to travel – how will people travel in 5 years’ time and are insurers ready to offer policies for a new market?”.

Tom has worked in the insurance industry for over 10 years and specialises in strategy and change. As Head of Electric Vehicle Strategy for LV= Tom has led the development of LV=s electric car insurance product and is responsible for driving LV=’s work in supporting the greater adoption of electric cars in the UK and developing further products and services for electric car owners

Tom Clarke

Head of Electric Vehicles Strategy

LV= General Insurance

What are the major trends you have noticed in the motor insurance market over the last 3 years?  

Consumer demands have increased across all industries and insurance has had to keep pace to meet this. We’ve seen growth in different service offerings but the underlying core of motor insurance hasn’t changed. We’ve seen the peer to peer market grow with various car sharing and car club services. We’ve also seen more manufacturers develop electric cars and the customers buying those vehicles are the early adopters and trailblazers who are looking for policies designed around these cars. That said ultimately the moment of truth is in the event of a claim and being there for our customers and this hasn’t changed.

Are changing attitudes towards car ownership down to age, generation etc., or is everyone looking for more cost-effective alternatives?

There are a number of forces driving changes in car ownership such as more and more people living in high density urban environments, charging regulation and peoples being more aware of their environmental impact. With congestion in many cities, driving the car can be one of the slowest options along with the most expensive with congestion charging, Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) charge, parking etc. This is leading to particularly younger generations (under 35’s) forgoing ownership in large cities like London to use a combination of walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing platforms such as Zip Car. That said, car ownership certainly isn’t dead with over 2.3 million new cars bought last year.

'Motor-by-mile’ and car leasing schemes are becoming increasingly common (in fact, one of our keynotes sessions is on this topic).  What do you see as the obstacles for motor insurers when providing services to such customers, and how do they overcome them?  

Customers have more choice than ever before with customers able to have traditional car ownership and deal with everything themselves or at the other end of the spectrum have a car subscription and with one payment have everything included with the car such as insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. So insurers have to adapt to offer new services and products to meet these user’s needs. Making sure insurers have technology platforms that can cope with the likes of ‘motor-by-mile’ to offer relevant usage based insurance could be a challenge for some that are still using legacy platforms. New entrants to the market with more dynamic systems have the potential to take business away from incumbents who aren’t as flexible as them.

Your role at LV= General Insurance looks at the electric vehicle strategy.  Do you believe that electric vehicles represent a significant challenge and headache for the industry, or is there a significant financial potential there to be tapped? 
Furthermore, what do you think motor insurers should be considering as a priority when looking at electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles represent one of the largest shifts in automotive and mobility in over 100 years. As ever with these sorts of large shifts, there will be challenges and opportunities for motor insurers. From a value chain perspective, insurers will need to consider whether theirs is able to repair these vehicles and whether the data on how people drove an internal combustion engine is still going to be relevant for how they drive an electric car given the instant torque these vehicles have. It also provides an opportunity for insurers to support customers transitioning to electric cars and think about the services they can provide. 

Part of your presentation in March will look at customer offerings and the customer journey.  How is this changing for motor insurers and what tools are you employing to create a smoother interaction with policy holders as well as engage with more potential customers?

Customers want to see value from the products and services they buy, especially for a grudge purchase like motor insurance. Insurers need to consider what the customer need is and go beyond the core insurance product and look to offer services to meet that need. For example, at LV= our electric car insurance product provides cover for customers’ charging cables and home charge point as standard, so the key is putting the customer need first and understanding what services they will value.

Ultimately, how prepared are motor insurers for all this change?  Are they ahead of the curve or are they catching up?

As with all industries some are further ahead than others when it comes to these sort of major changes but overall the industry is ahead in some areas and behind in others. The industry has been very proactive in the autonomous vehicles space and has had some focus on it for a number of years, however it is only now waking up to the electrification of vehicles and the changes that these are going to drive in customer needs.

Matthew Maxwell-Scott will be a panellist participating in 'The Whiplash Reforms! Assessing the impact of the Civil Liability Act, a year on' on the 24 March 2020 at Twickenham Stadium.

Matthew is a director of Access to Justice, which is campaigning to bring about fairer and more effective personal injury reforms which will tackle fraud and high insurance costs while maintain the rights of the genuinely injured. He is also government relations lead at the Slater and Gordon Group, before which he worked as a professional speechwriter at the BBC, RSA Insurance plc and at the CBI. A former local authority councillor, he has also run for parliament twice and is a director of the Abbotsford Trust.


Matthew Maxwell-Scott


Access to Justice

With 2019 drawing to a close, what are some of your big predictions for 2020 in the motor insurance industry?

Some of the biggest challenges the sector faced last year will not magically disappear in 2020. Claims costs – driven chiefly by repairs including, potentially, by supply chain issues brought about by Brexit – will continue to be difficult to control, even as the burden of lower-value personal injury claims continues to fall. The trust deficit looms large, with dual pricing a thorn that insurers should work hard to remove from their own sides as the FCA investigations into this goes on. While automation is still a way off, the concerns about it and the impact of artificial intelligence needs to be considered now with a consumer focus at the heart of industry thinking if the outcomes (and accompanying regulation) are to be constructive.

You were recently interviewed by Insurance Post outlining your position and actions on the Civil Liabilities Act. After writing to Justice Minister Lord Keen, calling to amend the Act, you said that “minors and protected parties will be stranded in a civil justice no man’s land”. Can you expand on this point and explain how they could lose protection under the new law?

The government has confirmed that children and protected parties will be compensated for injuries suffered on the roads at the same rate as other people, using the as-yet unknown tariff figures. However, they will not be asked to use the new claims portal that is being developed. The problem is that the initial draft tariff figures suggested that the vast majority of such claimants will receive less than £1,000 for their injuries, putting them below the existing small claims track limit. This means they cannot use the existing claims portal either. Therefore they would either have to use a solicitor in the traditional, paper-based manner – something no law firm would be able to afford to do, given that they would be restricted to around 10 per cent of the damages as a fee – or simply drop their case. So the new system is, as currently planned, putting up insurmountable barriers to justice to most children and protected parties injured on our roads. This cannot surely have been the government’s intention.

With caps on solicitors’ fees mean, some lawyers would not be able, or willing, to take on RTA cases. What changes would you like to see implemented that would ensure that victims of traffic accidents still receive the best legal representation and protection they deserve?

What is critical is that the new portal is properly tested, has all the necessary consumer safeguards in place and has adequate review mechanisms to ensure it is functioning properly. Alternative dispute resolution must be made available to all claimants whether they chose to be represented or not, and if evidence comes to light of unwanted defendant behaviour then it needs to be addressed immediately. It is the most vulnerable people who are likely to struggle the most with the new system, and so they and those helping them must have adequate support from the call centre as well as online. And beyond personal injury compensation claims, care must be taken that the whole claims process – including for rehabilitation and credit hire – is seamless. Consumers will thank neither the government nor insurers if they are seen to have designed a flawed process.

Is the Civil Liabilities Act the best course of action to clamp down on ‘compensation culture’? And do you think it will adequately support today’s drivers and their modern cars, is it fit for purpose?

The ‘compensation culture’ is an unfortunate pejorative often used to demonise those who need to make claims. The purpose of insurance is to help consumers when things do go wrong, and it was made mandatory in the first place precisely to help those injured on the roads. The vast majority of claimants are honest people who are looking for support, not censure. It may be that the aggregator-driven race for lower headline prices – at least for those who shop around - is hollowing out claims processes. But the best way to reduce the number of claims is through better driving and an improved road network.

If you would like to hear more from Steve, Tom and Matthew and other speakers, register and join us on the 24 March 2020.

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