Canadian Underwriter

What COVID has taught Aon about leveraging technology

August 12, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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For large commercial brokerages, video conferences can work at least as well as in-person meetings when placing business for large accounts, if Aon PLC’s recent experience is any indication.

“With the investment we have been making in technology, we are using video capability to actually get closer to clients and to get closer to market partners,” Aon president Eric Andersen said during a recent earnings call on the impact of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic Mar. 11 by the World Health Organization.

Andersen recounted a video meeting Aon held this past July for a global placement for a customer he did not name. “We had people on this [call] from New York, London, Singapore and Bermuda. And instead of flying everybody in for the meeting – and burning four days and tens of thousands of dollars – we were actually able to create a session for the client.”

Andersen made his comment July 31 during a conference call discussing Aon’s financial results for the three months ending June 30. An investment banking analyst asked about the ongoing pandemic and whether Aon is doing anything differently now that might have some sustainable benefit, such as less travel costs or a smaller real estate footprint.

With its recent session for a global client, Aon was able to showcase its global experts and capabilities, said Andersen .

“The client walked away actually seeing the entirety of the firm and what it could do for them on the topic, as well as see the banter, see the relationships that were there, see our ability to interact with global markets pretty much anywhere to help them,” said Andersen , adding Aon expects it will still have some in-person meetings going forward.

“We really want to take the best of what we have been learning over the last four months and embed it into the firm, because we actually think it drives a better outcome for the client and it showcases our talent in a way that they historically would not have been in the room.”

London-based Aon is the world’s second largest brokerage (behind Marsh) according to a recent ranking by A.M. Best Company Inc. Aon reported July 31 it has revenue of $2.4 billion in the three months ending June 30, down 4% from 2.61 billion in 2019 Q2. All figures are in United States dollars.

Net income increased from $287 million in 2019 Q2 to $411 million in the latest quarter. The revenue drop was due in large part to a 2% unfavourable impact of translating the 2019 Q2 results at the current exchange rates.

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