Brokerages 'go above and beyond to help clients through difficult time'

Brokerages 'go above and beyond to help clients through difficult time' | Insurance Business

Brokerages

On April 27, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the steps that the province will take to reopen after shutting down due to COVID-19. However, no specific dates were provided as Ontario first has to see a consistent decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases for two to four weeks before the government can start easing restrictions.

In the meantime, the key word among businesses as they try to survive the shutdown in the province has been “pivot.”

“Many retail enterprises have increased their online presence and are offering curbside pickup, delivery, or other forms of contactless transactions,” said Suzanne Pountney, senior commercial account manager at Ontario West Insurance Brokers. “It isn’t just within the hospitality industry – hair salons are doing home drop-off of products, restoration companies are offering deep cleaning and sanitization, service providers are offering online appointments and classes. There’s a lot of ingenuity on display.”

The main insurance-related question that continues to come up, unsurprisingly, is around business interruption insurance, which has become a sore spot for many insurers and their policyholders. But it’s not the only insurance question that brokers are hearing from their clients.

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“There are certainly a lot of questions around business interruption,” said Myles Kuharski, account executive at Gillons Insurance Brokers in Thunder Bay, and president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario’s (IBAO) Young Brokers Council. “Buildings being empty and associated property coverage are also on the forefront of customers’ minds. We are seeing clients inquire about dropping vehicle coverages as vehicles are not being used as much. Also, if people are using their vehicles for different reasons like delivery.”

Brokerages have been able to continue providing their services to clients during the lockdown. Gillons Insurance Brokers has most employees working from home and is functioning as normally as possible to ensure service levels don’t drop off during this time, says Kuharski. In the same vein, Pountney’s office closed on March 11 and by March 18, everyone was set up to work from home.

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“We’ve maintained regular business hours and calls are being redirected to staff at home. Other than the inability to take in-person payments from clients, our service is unchanged,” she explained. “If anything, staff are going above and beyond to help our clients through this difficult time.”

As insurance professionals who are working on the frontlines, brokers are advocating every day on behalf of insureds while having challenging conversations around coverage.

“It’s hard to have conversations about renewals and possible premium increases during this situation,” said Kuharski. “But the fact of the matter remains that ‘normal’ losses still may occur, so it’s key for brokers to continue to be a trusted advisor to their clients and continue to provide the right insurance products and policies.”

Added Pountney: “The work being done negotiating with insurers for coverage extensions and rate relief is extensive. Brokers provide expert advice to clients every day, but in times of crisis, it’s the relationships we have that come to the forefront. Knowing our clients, their families and their businesses the way we do helps us find solutions to assist them through crises like this pandemic.”

Read more: Coronavirus crisis gives insurance brokers chance to shine

Continuing to check in with customers about how they’re doing is a valuable step brokers can take during the ongoing shutdown. Kuharski recommends picking up the phone and making calls as much as possible.

“It’s a scary time for people and especially for businesses, so making sure that customers know you are here to help – most of the time in more ways than just insurance – is also beneficial,” he said.