The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many ‘lessons learned’ for the insurance industry, and, specifically, for brokers who will be shaped by the events of 2020 as they plan for next year. From brokerages’ approach to their people and expertise, to their focus on data and technology, many businesses are now considering how their operations will need to change, as well as what will be the biggest challenges they face as the hard market continues and where they can find opportunities to capitalize on.
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Brokerage leader Shawn DeSantis (pictured), president and CEO of Navacord, has a few thoughts on how brokers will need to evolve in 2021. When it comes to people, he explains that the value of broker teams cannot be underestimated, as proven by the coronavirus crisis.
“Having our colleagues working in a positive environment and staying safe drives our business,” said DeSantis, adding that Navacord’s ability to remain adaptable to crisis situations became key this year. “Creating flexible work options for our colleagues, being better communicators with our clients, and using more non-traditional communication tools [are top of mind]. The go-forward change for our brokerage is the heightened awareness around these issues and the importance of building them into our operating model.”
On the expertise front, the pandemic has stressed the importance of having the right risk advisors with deep sector understanding and insurance expertise working for clients. In this climate, the generalist broker with limited markets is no longer the right choice for commercial clients, explained DeSantis. Accordingly, for Navacord, the brokerage will place continued emphasis on sector specialization and will provide ongoing training for its risk advisors to ensure that they have a broad range of tools to help clients and colleagues succeed. Those tools include access to legal advice, loss control, claims advocacy, and actuarial and modelling support.
“Included in this is a deep relationship with a broad range of insurance markets so that the right insurance program with appropriate terms and conditions can be created for clients,” said DeSantis, noting that internally, this development is referred to as a “Flight to Quality.”
DeSantis continued: “Clients are expecting more from their brokers, and insurance companies are being more demanding than ever on the quality coming from brokers. This, combined with the hard market across most commercial lines of business, is significantly increasing the workload of brokers. Thus, having the operational expertise to deal with environment is one of the biggest challenges brokers face.”
As revealed in the ‘Q3 Marketplace Insights’ report from Jones DesLauriers and Navacord, the two areas for Canadian placements most impacted by current market conditions include property across essentially all classes of risk, and directors & officers’ liability (D&O). Additionally, though other forms of liability insurance for most industries are still available, there have been reductions in capacity. These conditions will likely persist through the end of 2021 at the earliest.
Navacord is well-positioned to address these challenges as it has been investing in the expertise, talent, and development of its operational team and risk advisors for a number of years now. As a result, Navacord hasn’t wavered in being front and centre with clients and prospects during the coronavirus pandemic, offering them insurance solutions and access to different markets, while having the right operational team to provide market-leading service.
“The current hard market, combined with the pandemic, has really created an environment where ‘no’ or ‘we can’t get that done’ is becoming an easy and understandable answer,” said DeSantis. “The opportunity is to move beyond that and find solutions for underwriters or clients that work for both parties.”
Navacord’s focus on technology is also of utmost importance as its leadership team looks ahead into 2021. In fact, COVID-19 tested all brokers’ technology systems and needs, with the minimum investment in tech not being enough anymore if brokerages want to keep up with their competitors, as well as their customers’ and internal teams’ needs in a fast-changing risk landscape.
For Navacord, “The go-forward change involves technology moving to the forefront of our business,” said DeSantis. “[We believe] that technology will play more of role than ever in helping our colleagues perform, regardless of if they’re in an office or work-from-home environment.”
In the same vein, Navacord has focused on having the right security in place to protect clients’ and colleagues’ information, in turn positioning the broker as a cyber expert, both from an insurance perspective as well as a business operator. Technology will play a critical role in business development going forward and will be used heavily in webinars and virtual conferences, as well as when building out national insurance programs via Zoom meetings and when increasing Navacord’s communication touchpoints with clients.
“Clients are rightfully demanding more and at Navacord, this resonates well – but are others ready?” said DeSantis.