Samantha Mayling speaks to Jeff Rush, chief executive and founder of Rush Insurance
Travel agents are well-placed to take advantage of the revival in the travel insurance market as holidaymakers are increasingly aware of the value of their advice – and the need for cover.
That’s the view of Jeff Rush, chief executive and founder of Rush Insurance Services, which is looking to expand after a “very challenging” 18 months.
His specialist insurance intermediary sells travel insurance via agencies such as Hays Travel and Love Holidays, as well as through its brands such as Covered2go, Blue Bear and First Travel.
Rush also sells products such as supplier failure and financial failure insurance.
“We are seeing on the high street, with Hays, how they help customers find cheaper Covid tests,” he said.
“There is the added value of a travel agent, offering advice about transfers, tests and insurance.”
He said agencies are now marketing to take advantage of the surge in holiday bookings, and customers are more aware than ever about the importance of insurance.
About 20-25% of travellers still don’t buy insurance, although Rush expects this proportion will fall in the coming months as more people understand about the risks of travel and the value of talking to agents.
The recovery in the market has given Rush Insurance confidence to move into a larger office in Stockport to enable it to employ more staff as sales are expected to grow.
“We are getting busier; I have never seen as many new enquiries coming our way as we have had for the past few months,” he said.
“People see we work with major players.”
He will also take on a new recruit next month to help with the drive to streamline IT.
Rush’s technology offers agents the opportunity to sell policies as part of the holiday sales process, along with flights, hotels and other elements of a trip.
“It is a very convenient sale and we have healthy conversion rates,” he said.
Currently most customers buy single-trip insurance policies because travel is restricted but he expects the sale of annual policies to recover.
Average travel insurance premiums are 10%-20% more expensive than before the pandemic because of extra Covid-19 costs, he said.
However, he cautioned against cheaper policies that may be available via price comparison sites, as they often feature larger excess clauses which could mean consumers have to pay as much as £300 per person in the event of a claim.
Fortunately, consumers pay for their policy at the time of booking so revenues are now returning as holiday sales pick up.
“We are not back to normal but it doesn’t matter about departure dates for us – unlike travel agents…which is a blessing,” he said
The company has an obligation to train agents who sell insurance on its behalf, as it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Agents have to take an annual test to show that they are competent and treat customers fairly.
Training is run by Louise Bates, sales and partnerships manager, who makes the regulations simple to understand, said Rush.
“Training is fun, interesting and engaging, and that gets communicated to customers,” he said.
Furthermore, the FCA will be reviewing the use of appointed representatives to ensure that sales margins are fair and customers understand what they are being offered.
Rush welcomed the FCA scrutiny, adding: “It could mean some competitors have to sharpen up to comply.”
Another challenge Rush has faced was the suspension of new policy sales by Britain’s largest travel insurance provider, Travel Insurance Facilities [Tifgroup].
Fortunately, Hays and Love Holidays are underwritten by Allianz Partners, which moved quickly to enhance products for agencies, added Rush.