Against a backdrop of 71% of UK firms furloughing 75% or more of their staff and the remainder working from home, it’s gratifying that for many UK businesses, the wheels haven’t fallen off, with customer needs still being met and staff still delivering their work and engaging with managers and colleagues alike. It looks like, for the army of previously office-based workers, remote working is working.
This transition to a variety of spare bedrooms, dining room tables and garden sheds and away from the main business premises hangs almost exclusively on two solid provisions: great IT and great communication. Yes, other factors come into play: a motivated and honest workforce, a distraction-free environment for those home workers and a business that, operationally, lends itself to remote working. However, ultimately the competitive edge and one of the key pillars to keeping productivity and morale high and business overheads low is reliable, secure and efficient IT.
And for those companies who saw the light well before COVID-19, which has made remote working a matter of national security, they’re now reaping the rewards of having built agile cloud-based IT solutions into the DNA of their company’s operations. An industry not previously known for its agility has been financial services and, specifically, insurance. As the insurance market has become increasingly commoditised, this has continued to create investment challenges for funding new and more efficient IT setups – further compounded by the complexity of trying to migrate from old legacy systems.
However, when you’re the new kid on the block and don’t have the albatross of legacy systems around your neck you can design an IT set-up that’s immediately agile, flexible and, importantly, mobile. One such company is Convex, a speciality insurer and reinsurer, that has been able to continue with its core business operations with minimal disruption. And judging by the feedback from Convex, this is not common across its industry – with many of the more traditional insurance providers finding it more challenging to adapt to the new normal. Much of this is down to how Convex has chosen to set up its business operations and the IT support company it chose to do this, London-based Dr Logic. Roman Marszalek, MD of Dr Logic, said: “From the beginning, working with Convex has been really refreshing and straightforward as they have the desire to use best-in-class technology to push the boundaries within their industry. Convex sees IT as an enabler and that by investing deeply in a setup specifically tailored to them, they get back so much more in terms of operational efficiency, agility and happy staff.”
Co-founded in 2019 by Stephen Catlin and Paul Brand, Convex launched with $1.7 billion of initial committed capital to underwrite insurance and reinsurance for complex speciality risks. It made it’s mission to outsource most of its core business support functions – which included investing in innovative Apple-based technology solutions and creating a flexible and agile cloud-based environment. This meant that when its staff had to leave the Scalpel (their Lime Street office) en-masse, it could respond swiftly and decisively. The staff picked up their computers, went home, logged on to every core business system and carried on as normal.
Convex’s IT service manager David Burridge commented: “Our approach to operations has always been about working smarter together. From the beginning, we wanted to look at our IT differently.
“Unencumbered by legacy systems, we had the opportunity to make many of our systems cloud-based. We knew that we wanted to be running on Apple, so we started by finding an IT partner with their technological expertise. Dr Logic has worked with us to develop our IT platform and to provide a dedicated team; this has meant that we have been able to carry on as normal throughout the COVID-19 crisis”
With companies across the UK now having a largely home-based workforce many business owners must be considering whether, post Covid, the need for expensive business premises is still absolutely necessary. The business overheads of heat, light, rates and facilities such as catering and toilets could be absorbed, as they are now, by the staff themselves. Considerable cost savings could be achieved – if not completely having a home-based workforce but by scaling down the business premises to a more hot-desking approach where working days in the office are an exception and not a rule.
Convex has no plans to move to a home working model but is grateful that it had the foresight to build its business on an agile cloud-based IT set up. As David Burridge noted: “It’s vital that our teams can continue as normal, regardless of where they are physically based. We’ve onboarded 50 new staff since lockdown and although many of our staff have spent their careers on PCs, the Dr Logic onboarding of new starters has meant that we have many new Apple converts; Dr Logic has managed those onboardings with their usual aplomb and provided on-the-spot training to help make that transition from PC to Mac as smooth as possible.”
With no-one really knowing what the UK business landscape will look like once things return to ‘normal’ one thing is certain – being better prepared for staff working remotely, having a more agile IT set up and reviewing the need for expensive business premises will all be up for debate.