Industry Leader Interview with Simon Powell – Client Director, Innovation Group

  1. What are the challenges facing your business right now, and how are you working to overcome them?

As lockdown restrictions have begun to ease and with no further restrictions on the horizon, our claims volumes have increased which is great to see and we have begun re-opening our offices and planning a staged return for many of our employees.

As many of you will know, trying to accurately forecast incoming claim volumes isn’t always easy, and predicting how the rest of 2021 will look has been difficult. To manage this, we have been and continue to work closer with our clients building stronger relationships remotely over Teams, which I must say has been such a positive outcome of the National Lockdown. I don’t think I have ever used Teams as much as I have in the last 18 months and I honestly believe this is a new way of working and will be part of the new norm. Having more of a regular dialogue with our clients has allowed us to share best practice and market knowledge, whilst also giving both us and them real insight into books of business and performance. That said, Teams will never replace the benefits of meeting face to face and it is not feasible for project or strategic meetings.

The re-opening of our offices is another huge step in the right direction for 2021 and we are so excited to start welcoming back employees! Getting the offices fit for purpose after the lockdown, with all of the COVID19 procedures and health and safety in place has been a real challenge and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved and spent their time cleaning and getting the correct restrictions in place.

Work ethics and preferred environment of working has changed over the last 15 months. We have to appreciate that we have employees that enjoy working from home and productivity has not dipped and then on the other hand we have employees who are desperate to be back in an office environment and around their peers.  

2. What has been your biggest business learning from the coronavirus pandemic?

This is a very easy question for me to answer. It is simply our people and how fantastic they have all been throughout this extremely difficult period. Our employees have been so accommodating, understanding and flexible during the lockdown and I just want to say a massive thank you to each and every one of them.

As a business we have been able to learn and understand our people more, which I think is fantastic. Again, Teams has allowed us to stay in frequent contact with people and has almost increased the interaction which I think is a huge benefit for us. We have also learnt so much more about the dynamics of our work force and the need for a work / life balance and how flexible as a business we can be to accommodate our people and their individual needs.

Remote working has also had huge benefits for us and enabled us to expand our geographical reach for talent. As a business we always want the best people and we are no longer restricted when it comes to appointing new hires as we are more flexible as a business to cater for the needs of our people.

I think Technology must be mentioned here. It has been a massive enabler for Innovation Group over the last 15 months. As a business, like many others, we were forced to adapt and change our way of working almost overnight. We have learnt so much over this period and I am excited for what is to come in regard to our technology advances. The new way of working is powered so much by our technology and without this, and our incredible tech team, we would not have been able to continue performing and servicing our clients in the way that we have.

3. As we go to a “new normal” what are you looking forward to returning to and what practices will you keep?

I used to spend on average 3 days/nights a week away from home and my family. I would be travelling up and down the motorway, between offices or on the train to London. Working from home for the last 15 months has been a real shock to the system, and my families!  I have learnt so much about myself though, as well as our business and our people in that time. Before the pandemic, if someone had said to me that I would need to work from home full time and spend my days sat on back to back Teams calls, I probably would have laughed! That said, this is now the ‘new normal’ for most businesses and will continue to be. Utilising technology allows me to have 5/6 client meetings per day, instead of the 1 that I used to be able to fit in. This is providing us with a perfect balance of old and new which creates our new way of working.

The technology will allow me to continue to stay in close contact with clients and share best practices. We are all speaking on a more regular basis now and I think this needs to stay. As a business, and I am sure others will be in agreement here, we have proved the concept of homeworking and technology works and suits our business requirements and also allows us as a business to be as effective and efficient as possible.

4. If you could go back to the beginning of 2020, what piece of advice would you give to yourself?

Firstly, upgrade your WIFI! My WIFI was definitely not ready for that amount of use, it was a struggle at the beginning of the pandemic especially when on calls.

Secondly, take out shares in Amazon! I’m now on first name terms with my Amazon delivery driver, I couldn’t have survived the first lockdown without them!

In all honesty, I admit that coping with lockdown has been really tough at times. Things I would remind myself, is to always remain calm, be open with your team and provide them with the flexibility they need, as long as clear objectives are set and deadlines are delivered, the new norm no longer requires a “9-5” culture or micromanaging.

5. What would be your prediction for the industry in 2021?

I think the industry will look to strike the right a better balance between office and home working, client meetings will resume face to face, but Teams will still feature heavily.  I am very much looking forward to being able to meet with clients face to face, having not seen them in so long and also attending some events and networking with prospects. I do think 2021 will see more virtual events and I honestly believe this will become part of the future.

Technology is going to play a key part in the future of our industry, for 2021 it will continue to enable us to work in a different way with further advances being made to allow all employees to be as efficient and effective as possible.

The Government made changes to the MOJ Reforms in May, which has changed the claims process for low value road traffic accident related personal injury claims (whiplash claims). This has had an effect on the way we handle whiplash claims and the structure of our claims team who handle these. As the change is in its early stages, we are still adapting and working out what works best for us and our people when it comes to these claims.


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