Wawanesa makes push to grow in Ontario

COO looks forward to showing 'what we can do'

Wawanesa makes push to grow in Ontario

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company (Wawanesa) is focused on further growth in Ontario, where it recently launched a smartphone-based telematics app program called ‘Drive Change’. 

Speaking to Insurance Business, Anna McCrindell (pictured), SVP and chief operating officer – East at Wawanesa, said the mutual is investing in new products and technology to build a more substantial presence in the province. 

“We see a real opportunity to show what we can do as a stable, reliable, Canadian-owned and operated mutual,” said McCrindell.  

Wawanesa is particularly looking to build on its small commercial and farm insurance businesses, along with its investments in personal lines. 

The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based mutual unveiled an advertising campaign last month to make it “the first choice for insurance among Ontario brokers, businesses and consumers.” 

“Ontario growth is a key priority for a whole company, and telematics supports that priority. It is also part of our diversification strategy because much of our business, historically, has come from Western Canada,” McCrindell said.

“There’s just such a great opportunity to continue to grow in Ontario, which is one of the largest markets in Canada.” 

Telematics usage expanding in Ontario  

Wawanesa’s “Drive Change” program is an optional, continuous monitoring, usage-based insurance program based around a smartphone application. 

The telematics app collects information on driving behaviour. Users are given an average score for a six-month period, which can translate to reward points that they can redeem at various retailers.

The program offers an automatic 10% discount and discounts of up to 25% on renewal, depending on driving behaviours. It also honours prior telematics discounts from other carriers, offering savings of up to 20%.

‘Drive Change’ was launched last month in Ontario for private personal auto, with Wawanesa eyeing a potential expansion to other provinces, according to McCrindell.

“We’re starting with Ontario, where we know telematics usage is very established. We would then look to expand where it makes sense in other markets,” she said.

“We’ve been monitoring the telematics space for a while to see how it’s been evolving. What we’re seeing now is that people are more comfortable sharing this kind of data.”

With more and more individuals that tend to be good drivers signing up for telematics, ‘Drive Change’ is a way to enter the space in a “unique, member-focused way,” McCrindell added. 

Moreover, the new offering is geared towards curbing distracted driving habits among Canadian drivers while helping them save on their auto insurance policies. 

“Almost 45% of Canadians admit to using a handheld device while driving. It’s very concerning to us,” McCrindell said.  

“Our telematics app can sense when someone uses their phone while driving. We reward members for not looking at their phones with gift cards for retailers. The other feature is that there is no penalty for going on the ‘Drive Change’ program. It truly is about rewarding [members] for being a good driver.” 

Boosting commercial lines business 

Aside from its telematics program, Wawanesa has also made further improvements to its commercial lines platform, according to McCrindell. It has launched a digital small-business solution to speed up quoting time for small business significantly. 

“We recognize that we need to be faster in providing brokers with competitive commercial quotes. The faster we are, the more likelihood we have of winning,” McCrindell said. “We’ve streamlined the process even more so that a broker can quote, bind, and issue the policy within minutes.” 

The solution works across Canada and benefits contractors, retail operators, and business and professional offices, encompassing over 100 industry codes, according to the VP. 

McCrindell also emphasized Wawanesa’s intent to grow its farm business in Ontario. 

“We’re one of the largest writers of farm,” she said. “We’ve refreshed our products to be more competitive and compelling to new members.”

‘The best feedback from brokers is a bound policy’

 McCrindell acknowledged the significant opportunity to cater to the insurance needs of small commercial businesses, which make up 95% of Canadian companies. She said Wawanesa continues to work with broker partners to make writing small commercial insurance easier. 

“Some brokers don’t even want to write small business because it’s too much work, and we recognize that. So, how do we make it as easy as possible?” she said.  

“We’re on a learning journey, continuing to invest and grow with our brokers. Their feedback is so important, but the best feedback is a bound policy.” 

What are your thoughts on Wawanesa’s strategy to grow in Ontario? Tell us in the comments.

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