Sabre cuts its own path

Less is more for Sabre, which is flourishing within the motor insurance sector by doing things its own way.

And while its business strategy may be counter-intuitive to some other players in the arena, there aren’t many that wouldn’t be envious of a combined operating ratio (COR) that hovers around 80%, come what may.

Speaking during a keynote interview during ILC’s Exclusive Motor Claims Conference back in October, CEO Geoff Carter offered a fascinating insight into what makes his company so unique.

He said, “We are an unusual business; we only have one target and that it to hit a combined operating ratio of between 75% and 85% every year.”

To achieve this Sabre eschews some of the other metrics that many of their competitors swear by.

Geoff explained, “There are no volume targets here. We will always try and hit a sub 80 COR even if that means we shrink. This year we will shrink by 20%, but we’re fine with that because we’re keeping very strong foundations.”


Something else that marks Sabre out is its relentless focus on keeping things simple. It does not try or even want to be all things to all people; instead, following the less is more principle again, it limits its core functions to ensure it does them as well as possible.

“We don’t try and do 1,000 things. All we do is underwrite policy and pay claims. We have two small brands of our own and deal with about 1,000 brokers, but we’re very focussed on claims and policies.”

This approach, Geoff continued, allows Sabre to identify anomalies and trends almost instantaneously, and then react accordingly. For example, every single claim over £50,000 is analysed at the company’s one organised meeting each week, which is held with the almost exclusive goal of tracking claims inflation.

Geoff said, “Identifying and then dealing with claims inflation is our number one priority. Actually, it is numbers one to 10. That’s why we want our claims department to be consistent above all else. We want it to be technically expert and efficient, but most important to us is that it is consistent because then we can monitor the trends.”


Sabre launched on the stock market in 2017, but since then its value has not been truly represented because of wider global influences such as Covid-19 and now rampant inflation, which has subdued all markets. However, Geoff believes the company will begin to enjoy greater growth in 2023 as confidence returns to the economy – or stability, at least.

He does not predict a similarly optimistic future for insurtechs, though. He believes many are over-priced, with unsustainable business strategies masked by the innovations these tech start-ups have introduced. But he warns that innovation alone is not enough to build a successful business on.

He said, “If you listen to some insurtechs you would think legacy insurers sit in a cave doing pricing on bits of rock. We’ve got all the same data scientists and the same AI and machine learning now, but we’ve also got the benefit of 20 years of data to feed into it. There are some really good insurtechs, but growing is easy, making money is difficult, and a lot won’t survive.”


And he expects this to happen a lot quicker than many think as the harsh economic realities of operating in the current climate begin to bite. Claims inflation, he said, is not going away, and nor are higher labour rates – “once they go up they’re not going to go down again.”

He said, “The market has settled down but in a chaotic way. The new normal will be much higher structural costs within the industry and people shouldn’t assume those costs will go away. They’re here to stay.”

ILC’s Exclusive Motor Claims Conference took place a Landing Forty Two in London and was headline sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and sponsored by EDAM Group and LexisNexis Risk Solutions.


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