Insurers venture online – but is that a good thing or not?

VAN INSURANCE NEWS ROUNDUP: 7 DAYS ENDING 10 OCT 2014:

Shedloads of car and van insurance providers are moving towards more online-centric products and services, but how positive a move is this really in the end?

I know I sound like a bit of a Luddite in running down the Internet, especially when it comes to car insurance. I mean how many of us have used insurance comparison sites to get the best deals, right? Well more insurers are going online-only; the latest to do so has been Axa’s commercial insurance branch. We’re talking things like commercial van insurance and other business-centric types of cover here.

Axa says the idea is to keep its business line fit for purpose, especially since so many SMEs prefer to do things online instead of face-to-face. I can understand that I suppose, but the downside is that the insurer is making 31 of its staff members redundant in order to do so. Bad luck for them, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, another insurer with a big online presence was actually hacked recently. Asda Car Insurance suffered a pretty serious security breach, and whilst it turns out that sensitive personal details of Asda customers remained intact and unmolested, the company took the insurer’s website down in order to plug the security holes.

Obviously I’m relieved that nobody ended up with their identity being stolen or anything like that, but it’s one of those things that we have to worry about now; are the security features of your financial service providers up to date, or are they susceptible to criminals hacking into their databases and absconding with your name, address and heaven knows what else? I suppose the danger is unavoidable in the very interconnected day and age we live in, but at the same time it makes me feel that maybe all this digital-only, online cloud computing nonsense is just more trouble than its worth if firms can’t provide enough safeguards to keep consumers safe.

No, I’m not advocating a return to the old, offline way of doing things where there were shedloads of paper records kept in some centralised location, as that’s just inefficient and expensive. Still, I can’t quell that tremor deep in my soul whenever I hear about an insurer or other supposedly ‘secure’ financial services company getting hacked into by ne’er-do-wells looking for a few identities to usurp.

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