The university jewellery partnership disrupting the insurance sector

4 October 2018

A partnership between Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery and SBS Insurance Services in Staffordshire has been recognised as an excellent example of helping a business to improve their competitiveness and productivity.

Birmingham City University and SBS Insurance Services, based in Cannock, received a rating of ‘Outstanding’ for their three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), after an independent panel of assessors reviewed how the partnership had identified and implemented innovative solutions to help the SBS business to grow.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, part-funded by the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK, is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.

“For quite some time, innovation within insurance claims for jewellery was very poor and handling claims for lost or stolen jewellery could be a lengthy process”, said Paul Fairbrass, Technical Director at SBS Insurance Services.

“We wanted to be a disruptor in the market, to challenge and question why some practices from 20 years ago were still being adhered to.”

As part of the partnership, Birmingham City University jewellery graduate Jade Pelham has been working with SBS Insurance Services and helped to introduce a digitally focussed jewellery replacement and repair service into the organisation.

Using 3D printing and design, graduate Jade also helped to set up the first jewellery validation system in the UK, allowing SBS to electronically document and validate jewellery items presented by policyholders as part of their insurance claim.

“By embracing 3D printing technology and techniques, jewellery items originally deemed irreplaceable can now be replicated and reproduced, allowing policyholders to truly be placed back into the position prior to losing their jewellery”, said Jade, who hails from Wolverhampton and graduated in 2013 from Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery, part of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media.

The innovations have received industry recognition, with SBS winning the Technology Award at the British Insurance Awards, as well as being shortlisted for Claims Initiative of the Year.

“The partnership really has helped us to bring jewellery replacement into the 21st century”, added Paul.

“Who wants a cash voucher for a 60-year-old brooch? We can now replicate it.

“We knew there would be great advantages in a partnership with the University, but the KTP has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve almost doubled the size of our team and we’ve been able to upskill our call handlers too.

“Through working with Jade and expert staff at the University’s School of Jewellery, we’ve learnt so much about the jewellery sector and been introduced to some amazing industry contacts, as well as acquiring knowledge and receiving ongoing support that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

“I must say a huge thanks to academics Frank Cooper and Kate Thorley at the University’s School of Jewellery, who not only helped to establish the partnership but are there to support along the way too, helping to ensure its success.”

Jade now works with SBS in a full-time role and is working towards becoming a fellow of the Institute of Registered Valuers, part of the National Association of Jewellers.

Professor Alison Honour, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University, added: “We’re absolutely thrilled that our partnership with SBS Insurance Services has been graded as ‘Outstanding’ – Innovate UK’s highest rating possible.

“This really does demonstrate how the skills of our students, staff and graduates can benefit the needs of local businesses.” 

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