Message from Penny James, CEO, Direct Line Group
During these unprecedented times, we are working day and night to keep our people safe as well as looking after our customers. Following the Government’s announcement last night, I want to update you on what we have been doing across the Group and set out how we will operate during this period.
It’s important for the national interest that we enable people to stay at home. We already have a large majority of our people working from home and it is our intention that the vast majority of our people will not be required to come into the office after close of business Wednesday. Where roles are deemed as critical, or key workers, who need to be in the workplace, we intend to keep numbers to the absolute minimum and for as short a period as possible. Where it is essential to come into a site, we are asking people to drive or walk and where that is not possible, we will also cover the cost for private transport where that is the most appropriate mode of travel. All our people will receive their usual pay, regardless of how their specific working practices may change during this transition to home working. I have also reassured everyone that we will be protecting all roles through to the autumn, by which time we’ll have a much better view of the landscape so there will be no redundancies ahead of then.
As a result of our home working policy and the unprecedented demand on the phones, we are making changes to our services to ensure we can help our vulnerable and existing customers as quickly as possible. For now, we will be taking all new business online and we are asking our existing customers to think before they call the phone line so that we can prioritise:
· Customers who have an urgent claim that needs to be dealt with immediately.
· Customers who find themselves in immediate financial difficulty in respect of paying for their insurance this month, should speak to us as soon as possible as it gives us the best chance of providing support.
If you are an existing customer and have questions about your renewal you can use our online systems via the brand pages.
We are focused on continuing to run our 24/7 rescue service and our Accident Repair Centres will operate on a reduced service to repair vehicles which are undrivable for customers who need their cars. We believe it is in the national interest to keep these services running to help our customers who may be key workers providing essential services to the country, or reliant on their car to buy food or seek medical assistance. We are incredibly proud of our people for continuing to serve our customers and I want to reassure everyone that we have enhanced our operating procedures and changed our working patterns so that we can ensure social distancing.We are asking our rescue customers to use our app if possible so that we can reduce pressure on the phone lines for vulnerable customers.
To find out more about the app click here.
We are of course acutely aware of the impact of COVID-19 on many of the businesses that our customers own. Whilst our commercial policies do cover a range of specified diseases, our standard terms do not provide cover for business losses or interruption caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We have therefore been working with the ABI and the Government to find ways to support businesses through the difficult weeks ahead. The UK Government has now announced a range of financial measures.
The long-term sustainability of our business is paramount so that we can continue to protect our policyholders and support our wider stakeholders. As a result of the uncertainties arising from Covid-19, last week we took the prudent decision to pause our share buybacks until the situation becomes clearer. Our capital position remains robust, but we felt it was the right decision to seek to preserve the Group’s strong balance sheet during this period of heightened uncertainty. Given the uncertainty that we face, we will continue to monitor this and will make the decisions we believe necessary so we remain as a sustainable business for all our stakeholders.
Now more than ever, it is important that we all look for ways to support our country in the most extraordinary time that any of us have ever experienced. Getting through this period will require all our collective strength, creativity and kindness and I am committed to looking at what more we can do to support our people, our customers, our communities whilst safeguarding the long-term sustainability of the business. I want to thank everyone who works for the Group and our customers for their patience. Together we can get through this if we support each other.
Penny James, CEO, Direct Line Group