Build-Zone’s managing director, Paul Kempton, speaks to PBC Today about the structural warranty industry and why they’re best placed to underwrite your warranty
Build-Zone was created as a 10-year structural warranty provider in 2003 and is a trading style of Sennocke International Insurance Services Limited, which was established in 1990.
The company’s history spans over 30 years. They are now experienced in underwriting Structural Warranties for all types of developments, from a single unit new home warranty to a large, residential or commercial latent defects insurance policy.
Kempton says: “2003 is when Build-Zone really kicked off. We set it up, bought the team in and began getting to grips with the market starting with Self-builds (under the Selfbuild Zone brand – which has just won the Best Self Build Insurance Provider of the Year Award). As they say from Acorns…
“The difference between us and other warranty ‘providers’ is that we are actually insurance professionals and don’t just sit around a table trying to source the cheapest deal by acting as a post-box.”
“Risk management is absolutely crucial for us. We set up Build-Zone Survey Services as a separate company to offer the technical services and risk management side – crucial to any successful building project.
“Most Underwriters know what we do and why we do it. It’s not just about price – it’s about the overall service capability and helping clients through what are going to be busy but difficult times.
“We’re entering a different time now and the main thing is looking after your customer. Having that expertise to hand means the client can concentrate on managing his business and getting more business.
“One of the market experts in structural warranties and customer service Zaf Choudry has just joined us. Having been through a number of recessions we want to make sure our clients get the best all round service and help.”
On 12 June, Build-Zone announced it had secured backing from A-rated insurer, AXA XL part of the AXA group.
Why did you choose AXA?
AXA is a huge French company, they are a household name, and one of the largest insurers in the world. We’re in this business for the long term and of course deal in long-term policies, so we wanted an insurance company that is reliable, has been in the business a long time and understands it and is going to continue being around.
There are a number of new entrants in the market who don’t fully understand the business and what can go wrong. There are people that you can go to within the insurance market who aren’t interested in the risk. Some so-called insurers are more interested in money market rather than the risk market. We have been careful who we want to work with.
A lot has changed over the years within the structural warranty industry – now to get a relationship with any insurer you have to go through hoops. You have to prove to them that your model works financially, and your risk management is done properly.
It has taken us a number of months to negotiate with AXA – on both sides. AXA has a real depth of understanding when it comes to the industry and their quality of people is very high.
AXA’s understanding of the subject and quality of people is extremely high and that’s what we look for because our reputation stands a lot on this and you don’t want to be seen with unrated insurers that keep going down.
In the last five years or so there has been a significant number of insurance providers ceasing business or going into liquidation with the likes of Elite, Alpha, Qudos, CBL, Gefion and others. Then look at what’s happened recently with the likes of BLP losing the backing of Allianz Global – people would like to see some stability as it is not good for the industry.
The industry is experiencing market losses across the board and now they’ve been hit by potentially large claims caused by Covid. There are going to be a lot of changes going on and attitudes to various types of business will change.
The whole market is in a state of flux, so when you are considering who you want to partner with, you need to do your research on them just as much as they do on you.
Another benefit of AXA is that they are professional multi-channelled insurers. One of the ideas we are keen about at Build-Zone is extrapolating ideas and relationships. For instance, if you’re doing single builds/small developments, why not keep the relationship going. A developer, whether B2R etc, will need other insurances – so by taking people through one of the most difficult parts of the process, you are establishing a relationship built on trust.
I believe if you do that properly then why shouldn’t you be able to sell them other products. We want a partner that has those sorts of capabilities to handle that.
What does the future hold for structural warranty providers?
Ultimately, there will be fewer of them.
You need to understand this business from the back coming forwards, not the other way around which is why my head of technical is someone who understands buildings and construction – but he has also been an experienced loss adjuster so fully understands risks and causation so you can guard against problems in the underwriting beforehand.
Historically the really successful insurers are ones where the underwriter actually talks to the claims adjuster every day – so they know what has caused the issues and “what can I do to avoid them?”
Insurance is actually very simple. The problem is that there are a lot of MGA’s (managing general agents) in the market. MGA’s come about where the insurer gives capacity to a company to go and ‘write’ business on their behalf. MGAs came about originally because insurers were not very good marketers or distributors and MGA’s provided that service.
There were problems though with loss of control and there were some insurers that ended up backing multiple MGAs all competing against each other, which makes no sense. Now it’s evolved, they actually have the underwriting ‘pen’ whereas in times gone by Insurers made the decision themselves, employing the required skills.
When considering 10 or 12-year structural warranties the risk management has to be even more tightly controlled given that insurers have a long-term risk on their books. It is far from just thinking that compliance with the Building Regulations is sufficient and therefore as an industry we should be looking more closely at building control bodies let alone accountability for the work that they do. This is something we firmly believe in and only now is it actually being considered.
At Build-Zone we take pride in our technical services. Every project has to go through prescribed technical audits and every building professional we use is linked to a consultancy agreement. This means our technical audits are very precise and expectations are high – which is good news for the end user. There are those that charge clients large Fees for little or meaningless surveys which is why we are bringing in specific software going forwards.
We now have really large capacity and can handle projects up to reinstatement values of over £250m for structural warranty.
We’re doing lots of things to add more value to the industry and we’re careful about how we do things, which is why we get the backing of good insurers.