Ian Thompson, CEO: QSURE
COVER spoke to Ian Thompson, CEO of QSure, to unpack the premium collections environment and get his take on innovation in the insurance industry in general.
COVER: Premium collection is a crucial part of how we do business in the insurance industry. There are a lot of people involved and a lot of processes involved. Please give us an overview as to what this environment is like at the moment?
Ian: If we think about the last 12 to 15 months, and the broader impact of COVID, it has really sped up the entire process and focus, not just on the collections part of the value chain, but the distribution models as well. And I think that has pretty much moved them downstream where we all need to pay a lot more attention and adapt our businesses to ensure we meet digitization of the broader value chain. Many of our clients, whether they’re the insurers or the brokers, have moved swiftly. I mean, this was a trend that started before COVID and definitely picked up during the past 12 months, especially in how insurers, brokers, and UMA’s have adjusted their business processes to be able to meet the challenge that was digitization and non-face to face sales. As a collections agency in the broader landscape, we had to be adaptable, and quite a lot more flexible, knowing that it was always coming, ensuring that we are able to meet the challenging demands from the insurance and the broker community. We need to be able to support them with the ability to do the collections on behalf of the consumers. So the landscape I think has changed fundamentally. I don’t think we will move backwards again and we are definitely going to embrace that change.
It has a whole host of knock on effects, how clients are going to be serviced, particularly in their collections environment. Gone are the days of just a standard one size fits all, sign a debit order mandate, and then collect monthly on debit order. That environment has become so much more dynamic and flexible around the various permutations. So it’s really us, as a collection agency, being able to support that value chain in flexibility, measuring cost versus efficiency, to be able to get the most improved collections from a insurer point of view.
So an exciting environment with us definitely looking forward to the challenge. I would say one thing about COVID; if you had asked me in 2019, whether I would acquire a business and take ownership in the middle of COVID, on the first of May, I might have said I’d pause for a year and reflect on it again. But as always, there is opportunity in adversity and we really came through this very much stronger than we entered the whole COVID exercise.
COVER: COVID also led to the acceleration of innovations in the insurance industry itself, in terms of things like on demand insurance, and premium holidays, etc. This obviously, means a lot for QSure in terms of innovation and taking advantage of the time. In terms of this changing landscape that you describe to us now, where does QSure fit in, and where does your reach stretch?
Ian: Historically, as a collections agency, you always want to think of us as at the end of the value chain. The sales process has happened, distribution has happened and then it fires off the kind of servicing model, which includes the collections environment. I think what has happened with the whole innovation, and moving the digitization closer to the engagement at point of sale, it has also moved the whole collections environment right up in front of the consumer, as part of the whole value chain process. In that regard, Qsure obviously had to remain quite innovative in our support to be able to support that digitization at point of sale. As I mentioned earlier, it opened up a whole new genre of collections, push payments, Debbi check, multiple iterations of the debit order collection space, and it really gave us an opportunity. In essence, we’re a technology company. I mean, we like to solve complex technology problems. And the digitization at point of sale gave us that opportunity to move collections much more front and center with regard to the engagement with the consumer. All the while being able to support the insurers in very creative ways as to how they can embrace that digitization, but also ensure the collections part of that very important value chain, is up to date with the engagement from a client point of view.
In short, it is really been an opportunity for the collections environment holistically, to move ahead much quicker than we would have done had we left it before COVID. And I’m quite excited about the collections landscape. I think QSure is well positioned to be able to embrace that. We’ve probably been inwardly focused for about 12 months while we digested the acquisition. We are now really excited to move forward and roll out some of the technology innovations that we’ve had to be able to support the broader market.
COVER: QSure already has a 25-year history. Now you’ve joined up with QLink, which is quite a dominant, global player in the collection space. This really opens up lots of opportunities for you. Please give us a glimpse of what you would like to see happen in the QSure environment over the next year or two.
Ian: So you are quite right, obviously joining forces with a QLink kind of just build on the legacy that is that solid platform that QSure has. Our new, invigorated branding brings to the market, both companies being strongly focused on the collections environment, payments landscape. There’s definitely some cross pollination between the two entities, where QLink might be further advanced, inside of a debit check environment and there’s definitely a sharing of technology across the businesses, which is generally much better for the broader environment.
And then the other part of the landscape that we’re all grappling with is the kind of regulatory environment, there’s obviously been a whole host of changes in the kind of past two to three years, collection agencies have to respond to that regulatory environment, insurers have become far more of an important player in the collections environment, taking on a whole host of responsibilities that historically they may not have. So as a collections agency, Q Link, QSURE, being able to respond and support that. On the innovation side, as I mentioned, Q Link has been in the collection space for about also 25 years.
And we really feel strongly that that collaborative environment between the two technology houses, to really be able to cross pollinate and move the entire collections conversation forward aggressively. That’s what we’re really excited about, to solve those complex problems for the broker community, the insurer community, in a way that really adds value and demonstrates what the purpose of a collection agency is in the broader value chain that is the insurance market.
COVER: Over the last couple of years a lot has been happening with innovation in the insurtech space. From your perspective, how do you find clients’ openness to innovation that you go to them with?
Ian: In that sense, COVID has obviously assisted in changing the dynamics of the decision making. Prior to that, innovation was always there but definitely, in our experience, there is a lot more openness to embrace the kind of non-face-to-face innovation related activities that digitization offers. That space has been very active, whether it’s the improvement in the call center space online, even in the collections environment, we have seen a significant amount of innovation in the push payments environment where clients are able to now push premiums. In the good old days, it used to be just a plain old debit order.
Now there are multiple opportunities, provided through this innovation, whether it’s a push payment, and then moving over to a debit order collections environment. I think it’s going to be a hybrid, from a collections environment, that supports all that innovation across the distribution options, that there isn’t a one size fits all. I also think that’s the exciting thing for us that, now, your engagement with a client is much more multi-dimensional rather than just this is a one size fits all. Now clients have a plethora of innovative choices as to how they want to pay and the premium frequency that the providers have been able to do insurance on demand.
So the innovation on the product set is really driven by the innovation in the collections environment, to support those products that previously were not available. Those are complex and exciting problems for us to solve, definitely.