2021 – a long, tough year!

2021 has certainly felt a very long year. I think we came into this year with a lot of hope: that 2021 would be better than 2020 and that the Covid pandemic would be defeated. But it hasn’t turned out like that and I would say that 2021 has been quite a slog at times.

Working from home has become the norm and despite quite a few efforts to get back in the office, it has been difficult. Many of us have found it hard to be cut off from the support of our friends and colleagues for such a long period of time. While initially there was a feeling of “we’re in this together”, the reality is, that after more than 18 months of Covid related restrictions, we are all just trying to get on with things as best we can.

The fact that this year has been so tough then, makes me doubly proud of what we have achieved, both as an industry and as a business. Because as far as Pulse is concerned, 2021 has been pretty massive in terms of our business!

For our specialist life insurance team: many of our insureds are people with pre-existing health problems. When the Covid pandemic hit, we recognised that our services would be even more necessary. While intermediaries and insurance companies were pulling out, we were going all-in to provide alternative insurance solutions by securing cover for them from new insurers, some of whom had never worked in the UK before. As the pandemic hit, insurers restricted cover for anyone with complex health conditions and declined or postponed cover for anyone where a significant loading needed to be applied. We were able to reassure our brokers / IFAs and their customers that options were available and, most importantly, were able to step up and provide essential insurance to a vulnerable group of customers.

For our specialty team the issue was different: the travel market was unclear about the level of cover that would be afforded to policy holders (if any) for both cancellation and more importantly, Emergency Medical and Repatriation expenses. We took an extremely pro-active approach in the early, chaotic days and weeks of the pandemic. We interacted closely with underwriters and initial indications were good. However, as the dust settled and the market position became clearer, our main insurer took a rather more negative position than a number of our competitors and decided that going forward, they would not pay any Covid related claims whatsoever! It was clear that we would need to find an alternative solution. Because our existing capacity was restricting Covid cover we identified new providers who could work with us to provide market leading cover to those still needing to travel. We also worked closely with our team to make sure that they understood what was available and worked closely with BIBA and others to ensure that our solutions were known in the market, in particular by being one of the early solutions being offered through BIBA’s “signposting” initiative.

Most of our business is as an MGA, wholesale broker, but our STB Insurance Brokers and our Sports & Leisure team do more direct business with affinity groups and sports associations. The negative reactions of so many insurers to business interruption claims was a source of huge stress and upset to many of our clients. We are pleased that our clients have stuck with us and all the hard work we put in, extending cover and supporting them during the pandemic was appreciated – their endorsements and continued support for us as a business is testament to the great work the team put in.

As well as doing everything possible to support our existing business, we recognised that we needed to address the issue of Brexit. In May we completed on the acquisition of a majority share in established Belgian broker, Classic Financial Solutions: By having a foothold in the EU, and with a newly approved EU binding authority, we are able to offer the same solutions to our clients in Europe as in the UK. We are still working to improve our processes and make everything as seamless as possible but our solutions are ready and we have already bound a significant amount of business supporting international businesses.

We have welcomed new staff in London and in Norwich. We have become dab hands at video calls and Teams meetings and have introduced new underwriting and accounting systems. We have moved fully to the cloud, gone totally paperless and launched new solutions for pilgrims, soldiers, bingo hall operators, international travellers buying private medical insurance and for SME business looking to get back on the road. We have been part of BIBA’s signposting scheme as a provider of non-standard travel cover. We have provided life cover to individuals when they have been turned away everywhere else and we have insured rock bands and musicians, touring the world or staying at home!

As I said, it has been quite a year. So well done to all at Pulse and thank you to all our brokers, intermediaries, IFAs wealth managers and partners. Thank you for your support and here is to a very Happy Christmas and to 2022!

Best wishes

Torquil and all the team