Flop of the Month: Hiscox 'reputation' hit by pandemic

Insurance firm Hiscox has built an impressive brand over the past decade, which made it the insurer of choice for many small firms, including PR agencies.

You may have seen the big ads on London Underground platforms last year with ‘Reputation’ in a large font. But April, and specifically the COVID-19 crisis, somewhat tarnished that reputation.

PRWeek was first alerted to a growing clamour against Hiscox by Media Zoo, a London-based PR agency that had a coronavirus-related claim rejected by the insurer in early April. Media Zoo, like many PR firms, said it had lost ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ of revenues because it had to close its offices owing to the government guidelines.

However, Hiscox had refused to pay out Media Zoo’s business continuity claim on the grounds that the cover “only applied to an incident within a one-mile radius” of the firm’s office.

Of course Media Zoo wasn’t the only firm outraged by this stance and its creative director Mark Killick founded the Hiscox Action Group, which is now understood to number 300 different members, seeking compensation of £50m.

This campaign was covered by numerous media outlets, including a coruscating column by Luke Johnson in last week’s Sunday Times. At the time of writing, Hiscox’s share price had recovered a little, but was still less than half its level of a year ago.

Hiscox has responded to pressure by saying events such as the COVID-19 crisis are “simply too large and too systemic for private insurers to underwrite”. It may have a valid point, but it’s going to be a long time before its brand reputation reaches those elevated levels again.

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