Esurance eying expansion after one year in Alberta

ESURANCE, the Allstate-owned online insurer, is beginning to pick up speed after a slow Canadian launch over the past year in Alberta.
“We are aiming to be the brand that everyone is talking about and Alberta is just the beginning for us,” Esurance general manager Saskia Matheson told Thompson’s.
“We are certainly looking in Ontario.”
The company is offering only auto insurance so far in Alberta but it operates in multiple lines south of the border, where it had 970,000 policies in force and gross written premiums of US$1.5bn in 2014.
Ms. Matheson said Esurance now has more than 1,000 customers in Alberta, is listening to what those customers want and how they want to do business and is changing its business plan accordingly.
Its online services are available around the clock in Alberta, with support through agents in Markham, Ont. And Alberta-licensed agents in the U.S. are available for phone support on evenings and weekends.
“The whole customer relationship is designed online, end to end, and it’s supported through the agency but also on the phone.
“It’s technology when you want it and people when you don’t or vice-versa.”
Esurance is comprised of an insurance company and an agency. The insurance company is a subsidiary of Allstate Canada and the agency is a subsidiary of Esurance in the U.S.
“This gives us financial stability and market knowledge and the technology innovation and customer relationship from Esurance in the U.S.,” Ms. Matheson said.
“Both of those companies in turn are subsidiaries of Allstate Corp.”
She noted that Esurance — which was founded in 1999 and acquired by Allstate in 2011 — was established as a solely online insurance provider.
“That’s an advantage because a big part of Allstate’s interest in Esurance was that it is based on customer experience and was designed and created online.
“It’s not an online piece added to an existing infrastructure but one built specifically to meet the needs of online customers.”
When Allstate purchased Esurance in the U.S. in 2011, it had plans to establish a presence north of the border and at the same time Allstate Canada was expressing interest in targeting a segment of the population that wanted to do business online.
“Certainly we don’t live in a nine-to-five bricks and mortar society anymore and insurance needs to keep pace with that,” Ms. Matheson said.
“Customers will tell us how they want to do business.
“There is a segment of the population that wants to go sit and do business with their broker or agent.
“And there is a segment that is growing that buy their groceries and clothes online. It would never cross their mind to buy a travel ticket other than online and they expect us to meet those needs and that’s exactly what we are doing.”