Industry Leader Interview with Gary Bidwell, Claims Operations Manager at Sabre

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

Of course, the obvious challenge has been Covid-19. From that, the challenges of remote working, transitioning from the office environment, availability of parts, repairers being closed and claims inflation have all arisen.

To overcome these challenges from a staff perspective, we have been ensuring we are highly conscious of wellbeing and mental health. We’ve been working on team building with weekly quizzes, exercise workouts with one of our team members who was previously a PT hosting on Zoom, as well as helping people to converse more with chat groups such as WhatsApp or Slack. Before the pandemic we were looking at how we could offer additional flexibility at work. I think the landscape will change for a lot of businesses and we’re no different.

With reduced claims frequency we’ve been able to focus on the quality of our work and revisit dormant claims cases in more detail. We’ve been improving our communication with all parties to avoid unnecessary delays. Regarding claims inflation we’ve been ensuring we are pricing our policies correctly, which will be a continued ongoing challenge not only for Sabre, but the industry in general.

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

The speed at which we can change as a business when we need to has been a huge learning. In less than two weeks we successfully transitioned from typical office environment to a completely remote workforce which would usually have taken months to implement. One major positive we’ve noticed is that communication amongst staff has improved. We’re talking and listening to each other much more. As an industry, it was widely thought remote working wasn’t achievable which this pandemic has certainly proved otherwise.

Meetings via video conferencing can help to improve not only productivity, but reduce expenses associated with physical meetings. It’s much more efficient and less disruptive to the working day. Another financial benefit has been the accommodation of BACs payments – it felt like a lot of businesses in the industry were against this method for a while, whereas now its become the preferred method of payment, meaning it’s more efficient and everyone is paid quicker, ultimately helping to reduce the life cycle of a claim.

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

I am looking forward to returning to the office and getting the team bonding back, I think the office environment is conducive for bouncing ideas off each other, especially in regard to strategy brainstorming. There will be some challenges I expect, but it won’t happen overnight so we will have time to work on it.

Regarding the “new normal”, I think there will be a lot more flexibility, potential remote working and more meetings via video conferencing. It will be important to us as a business going forward to ensure our employees have a healthy work life balance.

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

On a personal level it would be to not take the small things in life for granted, such as socialising with friends, family and colleagues. I’m a social person myself, so not being able to see people has been a challenge.

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

Going forward I think we will likely see an increase in claims frequency back to usual levels, and perhaps even increase further with “staycations” and public transport users taking to the roads. I have friends who did use public transport and are now considering getting a car or cycling to commute, I am sure they will not be alone which will only drive to increase users on the road. As a result, I expect we could see severity increase especially with more vulnerable road users.

There will likely be greater use of technology. I expect a lot of companies will consider the options available to them, particularly with video conferencing and how best that can be utilised in the future.

The reforms, which have been pushed back by Brexit and Covid-19 will also be coming to the forefront of everyone’s minds again later this year and early in 2021.

Going forward I think we will likely see an increase in claims frequency back to usual levels, and perhaps even increase further with “staycations” and public transport users taking to the roads.

Gary Bidwell, Claims Operations Manager at Sabre


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