Technology and natural catastrophes dominated the stage at Swiss Re’s 2018 Canadian Insurance Outlook breakfast on April 10, while cyber and climate change were two key challenges in the macroeconomic environment that Edouard Schmid, Swiss Re’s group chief underwriting officer, pointed to.
Increasing risks from cyberattacks and disasters fuelled by the climate are huge threats for societies at-large, said Schmid, adding that the insurance industry can’t solve them alone but through public-private partnerships that can help find ways to address these big challenges – useful especially when looking at the global problem of climate change.
“The future is fraught with peril,” said Veronica Scotti, president and CEO of Swiss Re Canada. “The World Economic Forum’s last survey polled a number of risk experts and the most prominent risk was extreme weather.”
Last year’s hurricane season was devastating, and Canada saw its worst wildfire season ever, added Scotti, though she has seen a pick-up in activity around natural catastrophe risk mitigation, particularly with the work of Canadian insurers and public partners in tackling flood risk.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) president and CEO Don Forgeron said that insurers can help spread awareness of floods, and need to take note of advances in technology that have changed customer expectations, especially those born in the 1990s.
“Research tells us that millennials are less likely to be loyal to a brand or a company. They are more likely to switch providers in pursuit of better service and price,” Forgeron said. “These new generations of consumers want services tailored precisely to their needs. They want faster service, more options and lower prices.”
For a millennial that can buy a book on Amazon in a few clicks, summon an Uber to their door in a matter of seconds, and reserve a table at a restaurant on their smart watch while in the car, the insurers must seem like dinosaurs, said the IBC president and CEO.
The relationship between consumers and insurers needs to evolve further, and insurance professionals should go where their customers are, which is on electronic devices, he explained. They want more competition and insurance companies that use the latest technology, and, at the same time, regulations need to be updated to protect the customer of the 21st century.
When it came time for questions, attendees were interested in knowing why the take-up rate for earthquake coverage in Quebec was so low at 3%, why many tenants don’t have insurance, and which one issue affecting the industry drives the speakers crazy.
For Forgeron, it’s the false sense of security in the industry that insurance won’t be disrupted or “Uber-ed,” while Schmid replied that the bad reputation the industry has globally bothers him, and more can be done to bring tech-based solutions to the end consumer. The millennial is also the insurance professional of the future, said Schmid, connecting back to a theme brought up throughout the presentations of the important place young people have in determining the future success of insurers.
“If young people feel detached from the insurance industry, we’re in very dire straits,” said Scotti.