2020 has proved to be a challenging year for business owners in Nottingham. COVID and the lockdown ushered in a significant slowdown in the spring and while the summer has seen growth return to many sections, challenges remain. To gain some insight into how Nottingham has weathered the COVID-19 storm we spoke to the founders of Coversure Nottingham, Paul and Sharon Hartle, about their experiences of 2020 and how they felt things were shaping up for 2021.
How has business been since we’ve come out of lockdown? Have you seen a rise in activity, and if so in which sectors?)
Since coming out of lockdown we have seen our activities go back to pre-COVID-19 times. June – August were on a par with last year – in fact, we actually posted slight increases – and we have had our best ever month in September with a 25% increase in GWP (gross written premium) and earnings.
Has COVID changed the way you/your customers work? What does the ‘new normal’ look like for Coversure Nottingham? Seeing as more people are working from home have you seen changes in the type of policies customers are seeking – more cyber insurance as businesses become even more digitally reliant, for example?
We are back in the office with two of the team working remotely part-time. We have also had a case of self-isolation with Corie, who continued to work from home. In terms of our customers, most switched to working remotely during lockdown if they could and some have continued with it while others have gone back to full-time office operations. I think it’s a case of what works for you. Personally, I couldn’t wait to get back to the office while Sharon was quite happy working from home.
As yet, we’ve not seen much in the way of changes to the types of cover people are seeking, but as all businesses become more online based so I’m sure demand for protections like cyber will ramp up.
There’s been a lot of talk in the press about people moving from the south east to cities like Nottingham – a city that’s currently seeing the highest price rises in the UK. Have you seen more activity in the property insurance sector? Landlord insurance is one of your specialisms, isn’t it?
Yes, we are very involved in all forms of property cover. When I talk to local letting agents and estate agents they tell me there is not enough stock of property for tenants or buyers which means selling is at a premium and people are getting the best prices for their properties.
Insurance, like advertising, is a good barometer of the state of economy. What’s the consensus of opinion on the state of the Nottingham economy? Are local businesspeople optimistic about the future?
When I talk to clients at pre-renewal stage, most have been positive about their business. Obviously, some in the hospitality industry are suffering and the event sector has all-but closed and this has impacted a few of our clients. In general, though, most businesses I speak to are positive.
Fleet insurance is another big part of your business and that’s a market that’s changed rapidly in the last few years thanks to the death of diesels and the rise of electric vehicles. Are you seeing fleet owners looking for EV cover?
Whilst the majority of our fleet insurance clients are still using traditionally fuelled vehicles we have a client who has a fleet of 18 vehicles of which 16 are electric. He has added 10 EVs to his fleet in the last 12 months and intends to continue increasing his fleet size.
Nottingham’s been through an exciting period of growth and change over the past few years and investment – such as the £650m plan to redevelop the city centre – will fuel that pace of change. How do you see the city being defined over the next ten years? As a hi-tech creative hub or will traditional industries and sectors remain important?
The city is undergoing a massive transformation with the redevelopment going from the new college being built to the new offices for HMRC. With the collapse of Intu, the Broadmarsh centre has been given back to the council who will now decide what to do with the space. The city has built a second BIO Hub recently which will help the life science industry to create new businesses. It’s an exciting time and I think that in another decade we’ll have an even more diverse, even more prosperous economy.
One for Sharon. Cybercrime has rocketed during the recent crisis. The FT reported “a 6,000% increase in COVID-19 related spam” at the height of the pandemic. As a cyber insurance specialist, do you think cybercrime is something that businesses in Nottingham – which has more than its fair share of hi-tech and data-driven companies – are taking seriously enough?
I think people are starting to become more aware of cyber riskS and we have seen more interest in this area for quotes, but there still needs to be more work on cyber risk education.
What are your predictions/hopes for 2021 for both your business and the city?
We are continuing to grow the business into 2021 and are looking to help any business in Nottingham with their insurance needs. I would like to see the development of the Broadmarsh centre into something other than a shopping centre, rather make it a green open space with leisure and hospitality businesses around it.
Thank you, Sharon, and Paul – good luck for the rest of 2020 and 2021.
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If you’d like some help protecting your assets, then please call the Coversure Nottingham team on (0115) 837 5592, email the Coversure Nottingham team.