The better the question. The better the answer. The better the world works.

How technology can power intelligent, customer-led insurance

EY teams helped UK insurance provider Hastings Direct transform its consumer offerings.

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The better the question

How can insurance providers move as fast as customers’ demands?

Hastings Direct was looking for a way to stay ahead of the curve in insurance provision.

Today’s insurance customers want to receive the same online shopping experiences that they’ve come to expect from other areas of their lives – fast, convenient and tailored to their individual needs. This means being able to purchase and manage their policies online, anywhere, anytime.

And when these expectations aren’t met, it’s all too easy for customers to switch insurance providers with a single click. Digital-first insurance specialists have seen their market share grow from 35% in 2012 to 44% in 2020, at the expense of the less tech-savvy traditional brokers.

To not only survive but thrive in this increasingly digital landscape, insurance providers must meet – and exceed – ever-growing customer demands.

Hastings Direct – a digital growth story

Founded in 1997 in Bexhill-on-Sea on the Sussex coast, Hastings Direct has evolved into a major player in the UK-based car, bike, van and home insurance market, issuing approximately 140 million quotes every year and enjoying double-digit growth into 2020 . And it’s also one of the UK’s leaders when it comes to digital customer acquisition – 90% of its customers originate from a digital channel.

But despite their position, Hastings Direct also realized it needed to work to stay agile in this rapidly changing market. “We wanted to improve our digital offering to service and support our customers, from purchase through the lifecycle of their policy, making engagement with Hastings Direct simple and easy,” says Sasha Jory, Chief Digital and Change Officer at Hastings Direct . “We want to be the biggest and best digital insurer in the UK market.”

To make this bold vision a unified reality across its business, Hastings Direct wanted reliable and collaborative support. EY teams' depth of market knowledge and sector experience, combined with its global scale and core of technology, data, innovation and managed services capabilities, made them the ideal choice.

The two organizations also shared a set of common values. Hastings Direct’s strategy is shaped by their 4Cs framework, which enshrines the importance of colleagues, customers, company and community. In the EY organization, they found people who could honor these values, and who would help them leverage transformational technology in a way that would put these values at the center.

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The better the answer

The right tech and the right teams to deliver the best solution

Technology and collaboration provided the means to create digitally agile solutions.

Hastings Direct has collaborated with EY UK since 2014, with the two working closely to design and execute a robust and customer-centric technology roadmap. However, the collaboration stepped up a gear when Hastings Direct expressed its intention to embark upon a much broader technology transformation.

To become a rapidly growing, agile, digitally driven general insurance provider, Hastings Direct worked closely with EY teams to:

  • Use automation to seamlessly improve performance, drive efficiencies, and empower Hastings Direct’s colleagues to work faster, smarter and more collaboratively
  • Transform IT and establish the right organizational capabilities
  • Launch a full suite of new and advanced digital capabilities, designed to deliver top-quality customer service and offerings
  • Enable continuous compliance in a complex regulatory environment while developing and deploying these new, adaptive platforms

The result was a digital customer experience that provides seamless integration between traditional web and mobile apps, serving rich functionality to consumers on any platform.

Getting the right technology foundation

EY teams of professionals worked across the globe to provide Hastings Direct with a wholly reimagined suite of digital insurance products and tools from its market-recognized connected ecosystem. In order to do this, EY and Hastings Direct leveraged several key tools:

Guidewire:

An EY Alliance Partner, Guidewire is an insurance industry technology platform that general insurers trust to engage, innovate, and grow efficiently. It combines digital, core, analytics, and AI to deliver its platform as a cloud service. Hastings is a long-standing Guidewire customer, having chosen the Guidewire platform to support their strategic business objectives and investment, deliver enhanced digital capabilities, leverage emerging innovative solutions, and position themselves for the future. 

Hastings Direct was already using Guidewire technology which served as the bedrock over which, with EY’s assistance, a wide range of cutting-edge new insurance products could be developed. Open source JavaScript library React provides the front-end frameworks above Guidewire, which are designed to be particularly flexible and reusable.

Microsoft Azure:

Hastings Direct’s decision to work with Microsoft to progress its cloud transition strategy gave EY teams the opportunity to draw on its existing alliance partnership with Microsoft to help deliver another key component of Hastings Direct’s IT transformation roadmap. This involves Hastings Direct rebuilding its entire applications suite in a Microsoft Azure cloud-based environment. EY is working closely with Microsoft to help embed Microsoft’s toolset and enable the seamless transition of Hastings Direct’s application suite to the cloud. Building on its trusted relationship with the insurer, EY teams are also developing proof-of-concept work with Hastings Direct, which uses Microsoft Azure bots to map out user journeys, to help develop more customer-centric online user experiences.

“Our work with EY enables Hastings Direct to access a broad church of capabilities and deep technical knowledge that would have been hard to develop internally. It provides us with flexibility and reach that we would not normally have access to if we used internal resources alone,” says Jory.

The project also involved using modern API-driven architecture to efficiently integrate multiple software applications and vendors to build a highly functioning and market-leading technology ecosystem of technology.

The vital human element

What truly brought the project to life was the experience of multiple people with diverse skill sets – from both Hastings Direct and EY teams – working in close collaboration to develop tailored technology solutions to meet Hastings Direct’s unique business needs.

To help deliver the complex project, EY mobilized more than 200 team members from across the globe. A core of 20 to 30 individuals based in the UK were supported by experienced teams based in India, Italy and Poland.

“As we are able to work in a fully digitally enabled environment, the location of resources has never been a challenge, and we work with everyone in the same ‘one team’ way whether they are local or global”, says Jory. “We have also been able to work with testing professionals who have helped Hastings Direct to grow faster than we could if we were constrained to the local market alone.”

Our partnership with EY enables Hastings Direct to access a broad church of capabilities and deep technical expertise that would have been hard to develop internally.
Sasha Jory
Chief Digital and Change Officer at Hastings Direct
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The better the world works

A digital solution that adapts to an ever-changing market

Hastings Direct’s digital transformation is allowing them to grow their business and serve more customers than ever.

EY teams have helped Hastings Direct create a fast, highly effective, customer-focused suite of adaptable sales products. This has helped enable Hastings Direct to remain highly competitive, agile and resilient amid the waves of disruption that the insurance industry faces.

Hastings Direct has since seen its policy counts increase by 8% to 3.1 million. What’s more, championing a customer-first digital approach means that more than 60% of customers who come to Hastings Direct via price comparison websites go on to choose additional cover.

From providing faster online pricing and more efficient underwriting, Hastings Direct is using technology and UX-mapping to enable it to lead in a highly competitive and mobile marketplace. EY UK work with Hastings Direct has also helped lay the foundations for a suite of online insurance iOS and Android-based applications, that will further enable it to satisfy customer technology demands.

“We continue to deliver more change than ever before, quicker and at a higher quality. Working in partnership with EY provides expertise to challenge our ways of working, our architecture and our delivery methodologies,” says Jory. “By working in a partnership, we are able to grow and develop together, with a strong knowledge and understanding of the Group strategy and with a shared goal of delivering quality, reliable and regular change to support our strategic goals.”

Jory concludes: “Hastings Direct is still on an ambitious transition journey. While we have already made strong progress with EY, we’re excited by how much more we can achieve together over the next 12-24 months.”

We continue to deliver more change than ever before, quicker and at a higher quality. Working in partnership with EY provides expertise to challenge our ways of working, our architecture and our delivery methodologies.
Sasha Jory
Chief Digital and Change Officer at Hastings Direct

Special thanks to EY's David Reid, Partner, Financial Services Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP for contributing to this case study.

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