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 continue to plan for the year ahead. From their approach to their people and expertise to their focus on data and technology, many brokerages are now considering how their operations will need to change, as well as what challenges they will face as the hard market continues and where they can capitalize on opportunities.
Shawn DeSantis, president and CEO of Navacord, has a few thoughts on how brokers can apply the lessons learned during the pandemic. Chief among these is that the value of broker teams cannot be underestimated.
“Having our colleagues working in a positive environment and staying safe drives our business,” DeSantis says. “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.”
The pandemic has also underscored the importance of having the right risk advisors with insurance expertise and deep sector understanding. In this climate, the generalist broker with limited markets is no longer the right choice for commercial clients, DeSantis says. Accordingly, Navacord plans to 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 at their disposal, including 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,” DeSantis says. “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 this environment is one of the biggest challenges brokers face.”
Jones DesLauriers and Navacord’s Q3 Marketplace Insights report found that the two areas of Canadian insurance most impacted by current market conditions include property (across essentially all classes of risk) and directors & officers liability. And although other forms of liability insurance are still available for most industries, there have been reductions in capacity.
These conditions will likely persist through the end of 2021, if not longer, but DeSantis says 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.
“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,” DeSantis says. “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 in 2021. COVID-19 tested all brokers’ technology systems and needs, and the minimum investment in tech isn’t 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,” DeSantis says. “[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. Clients are right-fully demanding more, and at Navacord, this resonates well – but are others ready?”