May 10, 2024

May 10, 2024

May 10, 2024

“We’ve only scratched the surface”

“We’ve only scratched the surface”

In our new interview, Andrew Coles, Risk & Compliance Director at Europa Group, and Ludwig Bull, CEO & Founder of CourtCorrect, discuss the role of AI in financial services, being ahead of the curve and how technology can create a win-win-win for businesses, consumers and regulators.

In our new interview, Andrew Coles, Risk & Compliance Director at Europa Group, and Ludwig Bull, CEO & Founder of CourtCorrect, discuss the role of AI in financial services, being ahead of the curve and how technology can create a win-win-win for businesses, consumers and regulators.

Ludwig: Andy, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your illustrious career in financial services! What do you do at Europa Group?

Andy: I’m of that age where kids were encouraged to get a career for life – at that time, where I lived in a small town in Somerset, it was either the civil service or banking. I worked my way through various jobs and branches of the banking environment and then fell into being a financial advisor. Then I was seconded to handle complaints in London in 1995, which exposed me to compliance, since we shared an office. I then returned to Bristol, undertaking various jobs including running the complaints team, quality assurance, suitable advice, retrospective reviews – quite a range of compliance jobs. After some very stressful years at the retail bank and some other ventures, I ended up here. I joined as a head of risk and compliance, aiming for something less pressured, and within two years found myself on the board! As you know, I’ve now taken the decision to retire come July.

Europa Group has been around since the mid-90s, initially dealing only with motorcycle insurance, having many different trading names. Basically, if it’s got wheels, we’ll insure it!  We also take some third-party administration where we do the back office functions for RAC broker. 

Ludwig: It’s very interesting that you’ve been in complaints already since the 90s. How have you seen the complaints landscape change over the years? What’s new, – and equally importantly – what’s stayed the same?

Andy: When I went into complaints, I didn’t believe they were being handled particularly well, seeing a lot of strong-arm tactics. You can’t do that. I set about changing the way complaints were handled with more focus on the customer, as we do now. A maxim that I devised was this: To handle a complaint successfully, you put the customer in the position where they should have been had the mistake not occurred. That to me are the basics of how any complaint should be handled. 

Ludwig: Would you say that one of the major changes was that the customer has become shifted more into the focus of the Complaints Team?

Andy: Definitely! It’s all about putting the customer right. If you treat them fairly, most of the time, they’ll stay with you. While you naturally can’t undo the mistake, what you can do is make sure they end up where they should be financially. One other thing we never did in the old days was pay out compensation for distress and inconvenience, which is a huge development.

Ludwig: Since you were already on the forefront of changing the way that companies deal with complaints back then, would you say that it’s a similar approach that drove you to give CourtCorrect a shot, thinking that you’re ahead of the curve again?

Andy: Certainly. I’ve been a techie since I was 16! In the late 1980s, I even did a stint of AI programming, so although my knowledge of it was well dated (laughs), the concept was familiar. When I saw it, I realised that this could bring real benefits to efficiency, helping the complaints handlers, but also to consistency, which is extremely important to us. Having worked with technology for a long time, I’ve always looked at it as a tool that works alongside you, rather than a threat. Especially when you are getting in there early, to an extent you get to shape it a little bit, learn from each other and experiment, which is a very healthy place to be. 

Ludwig: We’ve really enjoyed collaborating closely with our customers and using the feedback to build the best possible product. You’ve also mentioned that efficiency and consistency are two things that AI can be helpful with in the complaints journey. Why is that important to you?

Andy: Like any business, cost is an issue. If we can make an existing team more efficient, we will and have to, especially if it means getting the right answers for our customers as soon as possible, which I think is most important. The ability for the CourtCorrect system to look at previous cases and come up with suggested answers speeds up the thought process significantly. It gives our handlers confidence, which is a real bonus if they work on it and come to similar conclusions as the AI. That’s great! It means that the complaint handler isn’t sitting there for two hours, agonising over it, since they have that assistance.

Ludwig: You see that it’s not about the machine making all the decisions and the handler agreeing with them, but rather the flipside: The complaint handler works alongside the machine, growing more confident if it agrees. How’s the team been feeling about the CourtCorrect platform?

Andy: They’ve really taken to it! They like the solution and they find it massively intuitive, not taking a long time to get used to the basic functionality, yet still learning more about it all the time and improving even further. Also: New people on the team love it since the letters are drafted for them, which is otherwise always a big effort.

Ludwig: Given that it’s so intuitive and helpful for them, do you think we will even still have this discussion about the role of AI in a few years, or will AI no longer be something that you decide to use or not but rather the very condition to be part of the game?

Andy: Absolutely the latter, and I think in terms of application of AI, we haven’t scratched the surface yet. There is so much more that it will be capable of doing as we move on. It’s fantastic – when I show this system to people, they gasp! (laughs) They just can’t believe it, it’s an amazing reaction to watch. There’ll be countless other applications of it, and people will get confident in using it, wondering what else it can do. Ultimately, I think we will be seeing a push and pull effect: a push by the developers to make new tools, and a pull from the users, having new ideas for how to use AI.

Ludwig: We’ve now found out that you were always someone who was ahead of the curve, open to experimenting with new methods. If you had to share one key piece of advice with others looking to test out AI in their working environment, what would it be?

Andy: Consider it your friend. It’s there to help you, it’s there to augment your capabilities. Work with it, learn with it, share it. This definitely is the future, and we can either go there kicking and screaming, resisting it, or we can engage with it and make the best of it – in all industries, not just financial services.

Ludwig: Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been great to work with you and the team at Europa Group and we look forward to many more conversations to come!