How to handl the unprecedented

Chris Chatterton, Chief Commercial Officer at handl Group, provides a perspective on the impact of Covid-19 and how he’s leading the Group to seek out opportunities to offer help in its response to the crisis.

How is handl Group approaching the current crisis?

Our most immediate response, as you would expect, was to take all the appropriate steps to safeguard and protect our people across the whole portfolio of brands within the Group, forecast cash flow, implement strict controls and manage costs wherever possible. However, we’re also constantly monitoring what’s happening in the industry and most importantly, talking to people to ascertain any industry issues or challenges, mindful that we want to make a difference in these unprecedented times. It can’t and shouldn’t just be about knuckling down and pretending it’s ‘business as usual’ until the situation improves, so we’ve actively explored the short-term market dynamics and encouraged our brands to engage with their industry contacts to see where there may be opportunities to assist. This has been driven by a real will to help and collaborate.

From that exploration of the market, what kind of challenges have you discovered and how are you engaging with those affected?

Across the portfolio we now have a number of brands engaged with helping to keep the wheels on the bus. At the forefront is EQL, our digital health business. They are actively engaging with NHS providers to relieve the pressure on vital services so that resources can be applied to the Covid-19 crisis. At the time of writing, 12% of the UK population can now access ‘Phio’, EQL’s AI-driven chatbot, providing clinically-governed remote help for musculoskeletal problems via GP practices. 

Then we have Cobalt, the insurer claims handling arm of Coplus. Through our discussions with the industry and consultation with the NBRA (National Body Repair Association), we discovered that there was a UK parts crisis, with half of all UK bodyshops reporting difficulties over the sourcing of parts to complete repairs. This impacts not just the policy holder (who may also be a key worker and need their vehicle to commute to their essential work) but also escalates costs for insurers, creating more ‘write offs’ and lengthening the claim’s journey. 

With this in mind, last week Cobalt launched a parts location and procurement service for those insurers and bodyshops struggling to repair cars due to these shortages and delays. As a result of this launch it’s also prompted some interesting conversations with those assisting vehicles for the emergency services, which may turn into another way that we can help in the crisis.

With everything that’s going on it may have passed some people by but the courts are now shut. Claimspace, our alternative dispute resolution (ADR) platform, powered by Verisk systems, offers a practical and quick alternative to settling claims at court. Consequently, we’re actively looking to help settle personal injury cases where the courts are shut and cases adjourned. From our perspective, this is a critical service to keep people getting the compensation they deserve and helping to ease pressure on an already overburdened system so that it can more easily return to normal when the time comes.

What was your motivation in creating and driving these solutions?

If I look at them one by one they are all good ideas that predated the crisis. In the order mentioned earlier they’re using AI tools to improve the MSK journey for patients, helping insurers and bodyshops to drive out inefficiencies and also to correctly decide how and where to repair a car and finally, removing the friction that exists in the personal injury market to get quicker outcomes for the benefit of all. 

Whilst it’s too early to say how much of an impact we can have, essentially we’re offering practical solutions that work today and that can help in some small way. Indeed, we’re more interested in making a difference rather than building opportunities for ourselves.

At handl Group we like problem solving. In fact, our love of creating solutions is what drives our businesses, I’d say, more than anything else. So, it’s really a mixture of keeping your ear to the ground, asking questions, striving to be innovative and a motivation to make a difference that drives us.

How synergistic are these new propositions? What are your thoughts on collaboration in these challenging times?

In a sense, all the initiatives run independently of each other – but they may come together in the future, for example, I can see a situation where we could combine them all to offer a powerful outsourcing solution to the motor insurance market.

From a collaboration perspective, outside the business I’ve been having lots of discussions with other leaders across the claims sector and there’s a distinct train of thought that those who are open to collaboration, during and post-Covid-19, will be stronger as a result. Often when I’m looking at the solutions we’ve created so far, the ‘magic’ is simply ‘people + technology’ and the clever use of the two to deliver something impactful. Perhaps when we think of collaboration now we should think beyond the norm and look for ways we can work with other people and their businesses and collaborate on a wider scale to deliver something unique.

And looking ahead, what do you think post-Covid-19 looks like?

Hopefully many things will get back to normal – but I suspect that some things won’t. For example, I think remote service delivery is here to stay and people will continue to look to new ways of doing things, breaking with some of the traditions of the past. I also hope there will be more collaboration and a stronger willingness to do something to make a difference to tackle industry challenges together.

“We’re more interested in making a difference rather than building opportunities for ourselves”

Chris Chatterton, Chief Commercial Officer at handl Group


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