Working two days a week as a consultant for HDI Global Specialty SE’s burgeoning delegated authority pet insurance business, whilst still being a practicing veterinary surgeon in Shropshire, has been a real eye-opener. And whilst the last few months have been a crash course in insurance it is already clear that the two worlds are intricately interwoven and that both can learn so much from each other.

The practical, hands-on experience of having worked as a vet for 20 years, is already helping HDI to understand and identify trends that sit behind and are buried within our partners data. This includes insights into what is driving claims and how we can improve our underwriting. And with pet ownership having exploded in the wake of the first lockdown in March 2020, with an estimated 3.2 million pets acquired in the following 18 months, these frontline informed insights are more important than ever.

Vets on the front line

Most, if not all vets, are perhaps surprisingly, keen supporters of insurance as a product. Vets want their customers to have their pets insured – and will always mention or discuss it with clients, and recommend it is taken out. This is not about commission as some customers seem to think, and vets don’t and won’t recommend any specific policies or providers as that would break their professional code of conduct.  The reason for this enthusiasm is simple – there is nothing worse than being unable to treat an animal that is suffering, or having to euthanise one that could be helped, simply due to the cost of treatment.

The hard reality is that insurance can make a huge difference when it comes to affordability of treatment, which feeds into why most vets are vets in the first place – they love animals. The most rewarding aspect of being a vet for example is being able to ensure the longevity of pets for those customers who really rely on them, be they the elderly for whom their pet may be their only source of day-to-day interaction and companionship, or those suffering due to their mental health for whom their pet is their rock, their lifeline. One customer recently commented that he had been feeling down and depressed and that his relationship with his dog had been the one thing that kept him going.

On the other hand, the hardest part is always euthanasia. It can be hard to hold back your emotions in these situations when it is a long-standing client and pet that you both know well.

Vets’ overall enthusiasm for insurance is however tempered by the reality of day-to-day business and some of the archaic processes in place. Vets are still, in the main, forced to fill out paper claims and send them off to insurers. This is time consuming work, which cannot be charged for, and which also ties up the time of experienced nursing staff. This is a waste of valuable time and resources, and the market is crying out for more digital solutions.

Being part of driving change is exciting. Having always been interested in the business side of running a practice, studying for a diploma in business administration, and then working for a while managing PDSA’s hospital network, the opportunity to work with HDI Global Specialty was not one to miss. And by investing in employing a practicing vet the company is demonstrating a real desire to add value to its partners underwriting and claims service.

It is still early days, but change is most definitely on the horizon. Over the next year this blog will also reflect on some of the challenges facing the dog and cat market, including staff and medical supplies shortages, the explosion in illegal puppy farms and criminal gangs, regional inflation, and growing concerns over inherent defects in certain breeds. So, until then, stay safe.