St Bernard Assure Limited launched in May and has already shaken up the Swiss car insurance market. Named in honour of the famous St Bernard dogs - the first of which were bred just up the road from their Martigny headquarters - the company offers a unique business model in the highly competitive motor insurance sector.
“What makes us different is that we are 100 percent online. Typically agents get 15 to 20 percent commission when selling motor insurance policies so we have cut out the middle-man and passed that back in terms of a saving to the customer,” St Bernard Assure Limited CEO William Fawcett tells The Local.
Unlike any of its competitors St Bernard offers 24/7 support from its dedicated Swiss call centre. Offering customer service in English has proven to be a hit with the large expat population based in Switzerland says Fawcett.
“Having an English option available is always helpful so we offer all of the policies and info in French, German and English. Expats can be a bit savvier and research the market more than the locals so we are providing them with a service in their own language; another way we give our customers value for money,” he says.
In addition to its round-the-clock customer service the company also offers drivers the opportunity to customize their insurance package. By employing the latest technology they can generate a quote in a few short clicks which perfectly suits the needs of the individual motorist.
For instance a driver living in an urban area may not be particularly concerned about encountering weasel damage, so you can remove those details and the price will automatically recalculate.
St Bernard offers four packages; basic, quality, deluxe and premium which can all be customized to create your own personalised insurance solution. These range from the minimum mandatory coverage, right up to a comprehensive package where your legal costs and roadside assistance are covered as standard.
“We’ve been completely transparent on pricing and show you exactly what each coverage costs so you can add and subtract to meet your needs and budget,” says the CEO.
Founded by Chairman Mark Byrne the firm was licensed by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) in December 2013. Byrne has more than two decades experience in the insurance arena and knows the local market well having previously established Flagstone Reinsurance in Switzerland.
In just a few short months St Bernard Assure Limited has forced the Swiss insurance market to sit up and take notice of its new online approach. The company recently won an industry award for offshore insurance launch of the year.
“Our approach seems to be drawing attention,” says Fawcett who adds that the insurance market in his adopted country is fairly mature.
“The Swiss are big consumers of insurance and are typically well informed but tend to overpay for things. What we offer is the exact same quality of service as you would get from anybody else but you also get the savings with St Bernard.”
It’s a philosophy which seems to be working with St Bernard writing plenty of policies between May and July, in what is traditionally a quieter time for the industry. In Switzerland most personal insurance policies renew on January 1st with the big players sending out reminders in August.
In general, most insurers want 90 days’ notice in order to switch policies. St Bernard, in keeping with their fresh approach, have scrapped that and don’t impose a waiting period or impose penalties if you want to change.
Customers are given the option of paying monthly, quarterly or yearly with those who sign up for the whole year availing of the biggest discount. The average policies begin from 49 CHF per month for comprehensive insurance.
American Fawcett believes that expats in particular will be tempted to make the switch to St.Bernard. The company is very cosmopolitan with staff (pictured above) hailing from Austria, Bermuda, Canada, France, Sweden and Mexico as well as Switzerland.
“The expat demographic works really well for us and the feedback we’ve been getting from them has been very useful. We’ve got off to a great start and intend to continue on that path by offering a service that is unique and that saves the customer money.”
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by St Bernard Assure Limited