The phrase “There’s no ‘I’ in team” could not be more relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s some irony in the fact that while society has been asked to remain socially and physically distant, many people are actually connecting more than ever before via digital and virtual channels. This trend is not only true in our personal lives; it’s also evident in the business world, with companies finding new ways to connect and support each other through this crisis.
Over the past eight weeks, insurance firms across Canada have rolled out pandemic relief measures for clients. Many insurers have worked with broker partners to be more flexible and accommodating in terms of premium and payment deferrals; offering flexible underwriting solutions for commercial clients making coronavirus-related changes to their operations; and providing risk management solutions to help individuals and businesses who have been impacted by the pandemic.
RSA Canada president and CEO Martin Thompson summed up the general feeling among Canadian insurers when he said: “Canadians have changed where they work, how much they drive and what they need to protect themselves, their families and their businesses.” The property & casualty insurance giant is one of many to provide extra relief measures for Canadians at this time. Thompson added: “As a national insurer, our promise is to be there for our customers when they need us most, so we are implementing new measures to provide meaningful assistance during these uncertain times.”
When it comes to carriers supporting brokers, it goes beyond just providing solutions for the end client (although that’s the crux of it). In the context of COVID-19, that support means being willing to jump on a Zoom call to discuss a submission, offering digital or technical advice for brokers who are less advanced in the digital arena, supporting broker initiatives, providing risk management tip sheets and regular coronavirus updates, and generally being flexible and accommodating to the pandemic-related challenges that we’re all facing.
On the information sharing front, Canadian carriers arguably deserve a good grade. The past few months have seen tip sheets, webinars, podcasts, and update hubs galore, with many insurers providing free COVID-19-related advice for brokers to share with end-clients. These are all additional services and resources on top of “normal” day-to-day business and dealing with ongoing industry trends, like hardening market conditions across most property & casualty lines.
“At the end of the day, insurance companies are there to write insurance policies. As we move through week after week of the crisis, there’s still a need to conduct business in a normal sense. We have companies that are starting up, we have renewals, we have policy endorsements, and the response from the insurance companies in terms of actually handling that has been varied, I have to say,” said Kevin Lea, president of Fuse Insurance, a commercial insurance broker based in Calgary, Alberta.
“We’ve found relatively good responsiveness from some of the smaller providers, especially some of the MGAs and Lloyd’s facilities, where they have smaller, more dynamic teams. We’ve certainly seen some challenges with the larger insurers who typically operate through a mailbox-type submission and endorsement system, where the requests get distributed across different underwriters - that seems to be going slower than it was previously, which is a bit difficult for us and for the clients. So, that has not been particularly great; it would be nice if the big insurance companies could get things done a little bit faster.”
It’s to be expected that large incumbent insurers with thousands of employees might be slightly slower to react to change than regional MGAs with only a handful of employees. This has been a trend for some time, but one that may have been exacerbated under the strains of a global pandemic because of the additional challenges around communication that all companies are facing. Despite those challenges, many insurers and brokers have embraced the notion of virtual / video meetings. This has proven particularly beneficial for regional brokers outside of the key hubs of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal because they’re able to connect quickly with insurers without having to spend time and money travelling around the country.
“One thing that I hope continues moving forward is the slow but steady reduction in the amount of physical paper we get,” Lea told Insurance Business. “Whether it’s policy documents, or notices or anything like that, a lot of it is starting to become digitized and I think that’s been accelerated by a lot of the carriers. The documents are generated digitally by the insurers, so if they can send them to brokers in a digital format, that gets rid of courier or mail delivery delays, which is beneficial for all involved in the system. I’ve definitely seen some pretty significant efforts by the carriers on that, and I’m hoping they continue to step up and don’t revert back to paper mail when this is all over.”
Another action that a lot of the large incumbent carriers have taken is to increase their support for charitable initiatives and give-back projects. Lea gave a shoutout to Northbridge Insurance, which started a broker donation matching program dedicated to helping their inner circle broker partners make a bigger impact in local communities. Lea commented: “That’s allowing our brokerage to launch a charity of the week program, where we donate money to charities every week between now and the end of July, and Northbridge will in turn match our donations and also provide some additional funds. I think that’s a great way for them to give back and for us to have a good local impact and help some of the more vulnerable people in society right now. We definitely appreciate that initiative.”
In a similar vein, Gore Mutual - through the Gore Mutual Foundation – is matching charitable donations through its partnership with CanadaHelps. Through the partnership, any donation made through CanadaHelps’ digital platform will be matched by Gore Mutual, effectively doubling the amount. The charity launched a CanadaHelps COVID-19 Cause Funds page to facilitate this. Gore Mutual also donated $2 million in matching funds, to be split between CanadaHelps’ COVID-19 Community Care Fund and the COVID-19 Healthcare and Hospital Fund.
Aviva Canada is another insurer, among many others, to pledge a significant COVID-19 support package to Canadians. When discussing the relief program with Insurance Business, Catherine Brown, the insurer’s VP of corporate social responsibility said now’s the time for people to be creative about how they give back. She said: “I have a lot of belief in the resilience of our community and the strengths of our different businesses. I challenge everybody to get out there and be proactive during this really unprecedented time.”
How have your carrier partners supported you through COVID-19? Let us know by leaving a comment below.