Amid the pandemic and the coronavirus’s continued spread in Canada, insurance carriers have had to adjust their strategies and implement new ones to keep their customers happy, while also ensuring a smooth continuation of business for brokers. During the CEO panel at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario’s (IBAO) virtual convention this year, leaders of major insurance companies in the country shed light on how they have responded to the crisis, and the impact that this response has had on their broker partners.
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For Wawanesa Insurance, the company’s response to the unfolding pandemic back in March needed to be a fast one, as team members had to, within just 24 hours, transition to a remote working environment, explained Carol Jardine, president of Canadian P&C operations for Wawanesa.
As a result of thinking fast on their feet, “We didn’t really lose a beat [and] they’ve adapted to their new conditions, I think, extremely well,” she said, adding that at the moment, “We’ve been speaking to them a lot about health and wellness, and how to keep yourself going in times of what could be social isolation for some of the people.”
The success of Wawanesa’s transition during this time was in part thanks to its investment in technology over recent years – an investment that has totalled $300 million and that certainly paid off amid the COVID-19 crisis. A focus on technology enablement meant that employees could each grab a laptop and go home, and then receive additional tools, like monitors and headsets, to support their new working environment. However, that’s far from the only place where technology has played a key role for Wawanesa.
“We’ve done lots of work with e-signatures and photo-based estimating for claims, and those brokers that are digitally-enabled have seen the benefit of some of the APIs and other work that we’ve done,” said Jardine. “If we ever thought that technology was an enabler, it’s not anymore. Technology is the way that we’re going to have to conduct business, and if our technology is working, then our businesses and people are working. Everybody has seen the challenges of this pandemic, but I’m proud of the way our team members have responded, and our brokers have responded as well.”
Alongside internal changes that carriers have had to institute during the pandemic, there have also been more consumer and broker-facing developments that have come out of carriers’ evolving strategies – and that continue to come as the number of confirmed cases in some provinces sees a resurgence. Premium relief for auto insurance policyholders was one step that some insurers took during this time, including Travelers Canada.
“When we went ahead with our rate relief, from a personal insurance perspective there were two things that we wanted to be very thoughtful about. The first was we wanted to make sure that every personal lines insurance policyholder at Travelers Canada received a rebate, so we had two rounds of rebates that touched every policyholder in the personal line space,” explained Heather Masterson, president and CEO of Travelers Canada.
Using this broad brushstroke approach to rebates meant that there was no operational disruption to brokers, which was also helped by the fact that the second item on Travelers Canada’s agenda was keeping brokers’ commissions whole during this period.
Additionally, on the commercial insurance side, “We leaned into a very forward-facing approach to business insurance from a vacancy clause perspective … we wanted to make sure we extended it out as far as we could, so we did so well into June,” noted Masterson, adding that Travelers also implemented billing relief and flexible payment options, and generally “tried to work very closely with our brokers and customers to make sure that the rate relief was being put forth.”
Nonetheless, the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t the only crisis impacting people during the past eight months. Alongside the health crisis, there has been a financial crisis, as well as a social justice crisis, said Masterson during the panel. To respond to this ‘crisis trifecta,’ Travelers Canada has been hosting conversations around racism, equality, and inclusion with employees, while asking leadership to step up and take part in these discussions, and addressing allyship and why it’s important.
“We have been supporting our communities, not just through relief programs, not just through giving donations and giving back to our communities relative to COVID and the impact of COVID,” said Masterson. “But we’ve also been making significant donations in Canada and elsewhere around the world, advancing racial equality.”