Industry facing new consumer expectations

Jan. 18, 2021 — CANADIAN p&c insurers and brokers are preparing to work with new customer expectations and demands this year once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Economical Insurance CEO Rowan Saunders said he expects consumers will likely be less loyal to their insurer and more willing to switch companies for a better deal.

“I think people will be more open to try the digital channel and I think people will be demanding more value for money, and so all insurance and brokerage operations need to make sure our value proposition is meeting their needs,” he told Thompson’s recently.

“There will be higher expectations on our sector to deliver and we’re going to be in an economic environment with some headwinds for at least a couple of years.”

Derek Lothian, president and CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan, agreed that brokers will need to refine the value of the services they offer if they are to come out of the pandemic stronger than they went in.

“Brokerages know that they have to invest in their people and processes and in their products — which is the service component of what they do — and they have been doing that through the pandemic,” he said.

Insurers had to react quickly and make changes on an emergency basis to get through the challenges of COVID-19, and as things normalize they will have to decide which of those changes are useful for the long term, said John Taylor, president of the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association.

He said OMIA is working with its members to help them leverage new initiatives that will be needed going forward.

“I can see 2021 being a year to really strengthen relationships,” Mr. Taylor said.

“We have learned different things about our customers in this environment. And 2021 will be a chance to listen to them and get an idea about what they’re looking for and what they need.

“For example, if they’re rebuilding their businesses, how can we help them with that from an insurance standpoint?”

Many of the changes that companies made in the wake of the pandemic outbreak were technological and moved processes online.

IBAS’s Mr. Lothian said some of those changes were already underway but the pandemic sped up their adoption.

“I think the pandemic has accelerated what might have naturally taken place in the market but would have taken three or four times as long,” he said.

While consumers have embraced many digital tools, personal relationships will still be key to the insurance buying process, said George Hodgson, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta.

“People tend to want to speak directly with somebody — either by telephone or face-to- face — when they’re dealing with complex things,” he said.

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