UK SME Insurance: Distribution Dynamics 2019

UK SME Insurance: Distribution Dynamics 2019


Brokers are the most popular channel among SMEs when purchasing insurance. However, there are higher levels of competition in this space than among larger corporations. This is due to different-sized SMEs having a varying degree of complexity in their insurance needs, allowing them more versatility when choosing how to purchase insurance. Banks and price comparison websites (PCWs) continue to challenge brokers’ dominance, although PCWs’ role is limited to simple and familiar products. Capturing market share within this space is no easy task, as the proportion of policies that are auto-renewed is quite high. In the end, price is the defining reason SMEs switch policy. As a result, insurers that can lower premiums through more accurate underwriting or cutting administrative costs will find success in increasing their market share.

This report looks at how SMEs buy insurance coverage and the reasons behind their purchasing decisions. It examines the channels used by SMEs when purchasing insurance, pre-purchase activities, switching behavior, and the factors most important to SMEs when selecting or switching provider.


  • The broker channel accounts for 46.3% of all SME insurance purchases.
  • Loyalty is high, with 82.5% of SMEs ultimately renewing their insurance policy.
  • Price is the number one factor SMEs consider when picking a provider. The ability to tailor a policy to specific needs is also favored across SMEs when selecting a provider.
  • A provider’s poor service is not one of the top three reasons for switching provider. Price plays a much more significant role, especially among smaller businesses.
Reasons to buy
  • Identify the most prominent sales channel for SMEs.
  • Adapt or re-evaluate your distribution strategy and proposition to meet the needs of modern consumers.
  • Discover the factors influencing SME purchasing decisions and distribution channel selection.

  • Executive Summary
    • The broker-dominated SME insurance market remains retentionheavy
    • Key findings
    • Critical success factors
  • The SME Purchasing Journey
    • Introduction
      • SMEs make up the backbone of the UK economy
    • Brokers are under threat from the banking channel across all SMEs
      • Table Figure 1: Banks have seen consistent growth since 2017
    • Personal lines preferences are not reflected in commercial insurance
      • Table Figure 2: SMEs purchase direct due to the ease of using the channel
      • Table Figure 3: Among SMEs using banks, only 11% purchased insurance when opening a business account
      • Familiarity using a broker is the top reason SMEs use that channel
        • Table Figure 4: Using the broker channel in the past is the top reason for using it in 2019
      • SMEs use PCWs to get better prices
        • Table Figure 5: SMEs purchase through PCWs to get the best price
    • What channels do different SMEs prefer?
      • Brokers are the most popular purchasing channel across all SMEs
        • Table Figure 6: Brokers lead the way across all SME types
      • Sole traders are purchasing through PCWs more often than two years ago
        • Table Figure 7: Sole traders shifted away from brokers over the review period
        • Table Figure 8: The direct channel is more popular among sole traders than any other SME size
      • Micro businesses are moving towards purchasing through banks and PCWs
        • Table Figure 9: PCWs and banks grew in prominence at the expense of brokers and the direct channel
        • Table Figure 10: In the micro enterprise space, brokers are the most popular channel across all products
      • Small businesses have shifted from the direct channel to PCWs and banks
        • Table Figure 11: The direct channel is struggling among small businesses
        • Table Figure 12: The broker channel remains dominant among small businesses
      • The broker channel leads the way among medium-sized businesses
        • Table Figure 13: Brokers strengthened their position among medium businesses in 2019
        • Table Figure 14: Medium-sized businesses prefer brokers for all products
      • SMEs predominantly auto-renew policies across all business sizes
        • Table Figure 15: Auto-renewal is the most popular method across all size categories
      • More than a third of newly formed SMEs purchase their insurance online
        • Table Figure 16: Businesses are more likely to switch and use online methods in the first few years of operation
      • Face-to-face purchasing increases in popularity in line with the age of the business
        • Table Figure 17: Auto-renewal leads the way for established businesses
    • SME pre-purchase activity shows a retention-heavy market
      • SMEs' primary action at renewal is to call their existing provider
      • A significant percentage of SMEs conduct research on PCWs
        • Table Figure 18: Contacting existing providers is the most common action
        • Table Pre-purchase activities by SME size, 2019
  • SME Retention
    • Larger businesses are more likely to renew their existing policies
      • Table Figure 19: Larger businesses are more likely to renew their insurance policies
    • Sole traders compare prices at renewal, but rarely change
      • Table Figure 20: Sole traders are most likely to switch their commercial vehicle insurance policies
    • Micro enterprises (excluding sole traders) have a high retention rate
      • Table Figure 21: An average of over 80% of micro businesses (minus sole traders) renew their policies
    • Small companies are less likely to shop around than micro businesses
      • Table Figure 22: A high proportion of small businesses switch their key man policy
    • Medium enterprises show the highest degree of loyalty among SMEs
      • Table Figure 23: More than half of medium companies auto-renew across many product lines
    • SMEs are most likely to switch provider due to price
      • Table Figure 24: Sole traders' focus on price is especially apparent
  • SME Provider Selection
    • Policy cost is the main factor for SMEs when choosing a provider
      • The ability to tailor policies around specific needs is important to all SMEs
        • Table Figure 25: Price is a standout factor for micro enterprises when selecting a provider
        • Table The most important factor when choosing a provider, 2019
    • The most common added-value service used by SMEs is legal advice
      • Table Figure 26: Legal advice remains the most popular add-on
      • Openness to receiving services is dependent on SME size
        • Table SMEs' current use of and interest in additional insurer services, 2019
  • Appendix
    • Abbreviations and acronyms
    • Definitions
      • SME
    • Methodology
      • GlobalData's UK SME Insurance Surveys
      • Comparing the data with previous editions of this report
    • Further reading
    • About GlobalData
      • Table Figure 27: About GlobalData

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