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Bushfires destroyed vast areas of Australia from late 2019 through to early 2020. QBE responded quickly with a dedicated Bushfire Catastrophe team to fast track claims. We worked with our partners to create temporary locations in disaster‑affected areas to expedite the claims process for our affected customers. We used our industry‑first customer mapping tool to allocate resources and identify vulnerable customers. This innovative tool allowed us to assign appropriate responders and suppliers to a claim, freeing up our people to focus on the human side of things and provide individualised and empathetic customer service.
Alongside the catastrophic fire season in the Western United States, the Atlantic hurricane season has also been at its most active since 2005. Using our powerful artificial intelligence tools, we sent proactive communications to customers identified to be in the path of disaster. With extreme winds making it impossible to assess fields across the Midwest, we also utilised drone technology to determine damaged versus salvageable acreage.
During the pandemic, we continue to connect with customers using a video claims process, enabling our claims team to perform assessments at a time that suits the customer while meeting social distancing requirements. We have been able to fast track claims and repairs, offering greater accessibility and inclusion for our remote and disabled customers. Video claims assessing is now a compulsory tool for our supplier networks which means we can still connect with customers where physical access is not possible.
Alongside implementing health and safety measures, we also work with our suppliers to understand what they are experiencing and the ways in which we can better protect them, and our customers. To support our partners through times of crisis, we aim to reduce the time to pay our small to medium enterprise (SME) suppliers from 30 days to within 15 days.
Throughout 2020, we have taken action to support our customers as they face uncertain and difficult circumstances. QBE developed a COVID‑19 risk management toolkit to help businesses return to work and adjust to the ‘new normal’. The toolkit covers what businesses should take into consideration around the topics of social distancing and self‑isolation, hygiene and surface decontamination, control systems to reduce the risk of virus spread in the workplace, personal protective equipment and supporting employee mental health.
We also developed a series of webinars for brokers and customers designed to support their teams to manage the changing environment, as well as tailored coaching sessions from experts in varied fields such as mental health and wellbeing, leadership and culture.
In Australia, we supported our SME customers experiencing financial hardship through:
In 2020, QBE continued building its capability for supporting customers experiencing vulnerability, implementing internal policies and training to better identify and understand vulnerability, and how to best respond with respectful support that takes into account the customer’s particular needs and circumstances. A Family & Domestic Violence Customer Support Policy was also launched providing customers with information on how they will be supported if affected by family violence, along with details of a range of services and resources available to them. Customers experiencing vulnerability can be connected with counselling support and external services or be provided with relief options or payment plans where experiencing financial hardship. Building our capabilities for supporting vulnerable customers is another way we affirm our commitment to be customer-focused and make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.
During the bushfires and the subsequent COVID‑19 pandemic, QBE has made our free employee assistance program ‘REACH My Best’ available to our Australian customers. It provides counselling sessions with qualified, experienced and independent health and wellbeing psychologists to assist with recovery and welfare. All discussions remain private and confidential.
QBE Hong Kong has launched new mental health coverage, offering specific COVID‑19 support to individuals and their families. Consultations with professional psychologists are subsidised, providing support to those suffering in government restrictions and under enforced work‑from‑home arrangements. The new coverage assists in reducing the cost of professional counselling, helping our customers prioritise their mental wellbeing.
In the United Kingdom, QBE has returned more than £10 million to motor fleet customers whose vehicles were taken off the road during government restrictions. Rebates were processed quickly, and vehicles continued to be covered for accidental damage, fire and theft while unused. We also offered free and discounted risk management services on vehicle safety and online driving courses to help customers safely return to the road. In Australia, QBE provided existing and new private‑use motor customers with financial assistance in the form of a one‑off COVID‑19 benefit. Comprehensive car insurance customers were entitled to an A$50 e‑gift card, with an A$25 e‑gift card for customers with motorcycle, caravan or other private‑use motor insurance. A$21 million was set aside for e‑gift cards for over 470,000 customer policies. In Australia, our Consumer Credit Insurance product was adapted to support customers claiming for involuntary unemployment due to COVID-19 induced hardship. Self‑employed customers no longer needed to provide evidence of business dissolution, and customers were no longer required to register with a government agency to prove they were seeking re‑employment. Cover was also extended to employees stood down, but not let go.