Questionmark Helps Insurance Company Meet New Financial Services Regulations

Background

Early in 2005 the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) introduced new regulations for the general insurance market that set out a code of conduct for the treatment of its customers. This signaled the end of self regulation within the industry and put the FSA firmly in control of regulating firms in the UK that undertake financial services. The new legislation affects all general insurers, certifying that all of those working within this sector are competent in their roles and therefore able to deliver best advice to all customers.

Taking assessment online

NFU Mutual Insurance is a company that believes in the power of the personal approach. To this end, the company has a network of over 300 sales offices spread across the UK. This nationwide presence is great for customer service but it presents its own breed of problems. The most difficult aspect for the training department is the ability to assess all staff easily. However, moving to an online system for assessment would overcome this hurdle, proving very effective from a staff perspective and also for the administration of the assessment process.

Philip Wilcox adds, “Moving online was paramount because of the geographic spread of our people but we had to be sure that the new systems would be easy to use because the IT skills of our staff vary quite considerably from one location to another. The system had to be straightforward to work with and it had to offer us a host of features that would make the job of administering the new assessments simple and effective.

“Questionmark was a clear choice because it offers excellent reporting and statistical qualities which would make the administration of the assessment results simple for us at head office and this would free up a lot of our time from the manual input of the old structure. Also, it provides an effective and accurate audit trail for the assessments. We would no longer have to plough through reams of paper to find out about the results of a certain member of staff. With Questionmark this type of query could be answered in a matter of seconds. The decision had been made. We would go online with our assessments using Questionmark.”

System Set-up

The process of setting up the system started with a pilot at the company’s head office in Stratford and this signaled the beginning of a year-long process. Assessments were written to test people’s knowledge gained on training courses; this helped to certify that the design of the system was appropriate. Feedback from pilot users was essential at this point to ensure that the new design had the buy-in of those using it. The pilot period also gave the administration staff the chance to witness the new system working and to tweak it where appropriate.

With the lessons learned from the pilot, aspects of the system were changed in readiness for the next stage of its development. All in all, the pilot ran very smoothly and user acceptance was high. The security of the system was sound, and support from Question mark was very useful and timely.

Philip Wilcox adds, “We involved many people in the process to be sure that they bought into the new system from the very start. We discussed it with department managers and demonstrated it to them so that they were ready and prepared for the system once it launched. This happened in the summer of 2004 when it was available to work with in all offices across the UK. We started on a limited basis with those who had been involved with the pilot to be sure that it worked well in the branch offices and to test that the IT part of the project was robust enough. It worked and it worked well. And, the feedback was very positive. We then had to review the assessments using the statistical analysis tools within the software and pick up on questions where the wording might be a little obscure or confusing.”

Following a successful pilot, the system was extended to everyone within the company. All customer-facing staff has three attempts to pass their assessments online. These attempts are scheduled by supervisors and monitored. They contain a range of multiple-choice questions to test knowledge of company products.

Looking into the Future

The success of the new assessments has created more demand from within the company. The Life Assurance division is now looking to emulate the work carried out by General Insurance, moving to an online system with Questionmark. This project is already underway.

Less developed, but in the early stages of development, is using the system for opinion surveys and questionnaires. These are to be distributed at the end of training courses to give feedback on the course content and delivery. There may also be other questionnaires developed over time.

A further idea is for the software to be used by internal departments, such as Marketing, to test the competence of staff in certain aspects of their work. This would not be to adhere to regulations but it could be a useful tool for internal purposes such as staff training and development.

Finally, the company may wish to develop assessments that measure knowledge in more complex and technical areas. This will necessitate more involved questioning and the assessment of greater depth of knowledge and understanding. It requires questions to be developed in many different formats and a more advanced level of feedback and marking.

Philip Wilcox concludes, “We will build on our initial success and find new ways to use Questionmark to deliver real benefits to our staff. We now have a much more flexible system for our learners and a system that is easy to manage and administer. We look forward to working closely with Question mark to further develop our system over the coming months and years.”