Traditional insurers could have an advantage over so-called ‘industry disruptors’ — as long as they remain aware of market trends, the president and chief operating officer of Allstate-owned Pembridge Insurance Co. and Pafco Insurance Co. says.
“If incumbents stay focused they should be able to protect themselves from disruption — if they are aware and stay in front of the train coming down the tracks,” Bob Tisdale told Thompson’s following the announcement that he will be retiring in 2020 after more than 40 years in the business.
“Incumbents are in the position of defending market space so we have a bit of an advantage. If we are forward thinking in anticipating trend changes there is no reason that we can’t be the disruptors in some respect ourselves.”
Mr. Tisdale said the industry has witnessed many changes and can weather present-day challenges just as it has past ones.
“I saw when offices got computers, which was at the time said to take away jobs,” Mr. Tisdale said.
“But it didn’t, it created jobs — whole IT departments — which in turn created cyber risk, and that is something people didn’t imagine.”
He said just as individuals must acquire new skills and adapt to stay relevant in their careers, so must businesses. “You have to stay relevant and adapt to changing times,” Mr. Tisdale said.“Disruption happens all the time in all industries and the reason it happens is people aren’t paying attention and acting as quickly as they could.”
He said Canadian insurance companies are smart and sophisticated and have the ability to understand coming changes and adapt accordingly.
Mr. Tisdale said the biggest changes he has seen in the insurance industry over the past four decades has been in the area of education and professional development. His first job in insurance was straight out of high school, when he was hired as auto insurance rating clerk at Liberty Mutual Insurance.
He received all of his post secondary education while working full time in the industry.
“When I finished high school, I was one credit short and had no opportunity to go into university (and) saw tremendous opportunity to receive my higher level education while working in insurance,” Mr. Tisdale said. “Back then people said they don’t need to take courses to do a better job and that has changed from when I started. People are coming in with a higher level of education and the Insurance Institute has adapted to that.”
Mr. Tisdale served as president of the Insurance Institute of Ontario and chair of the board of governors of the Insurance Institute of Canada and chair of the CIP Society.
“Now people are more professional and in tune with what is going on, not that everybody was unprofessional before, people were just not as focused on the industry,” he said.
“Higher professionalism gives us more credibility with consumers.” He said the ubiquity of insurance is what drew him in at the beginning of his career and kept him engaged. “I quickly discover that nothing in the economy functions without some form of insurance,” Mr. Tisdale said. “It’s what kept me engaged because you can relate insurance to everything that goes on in the world — the insurance industry provides people with opportunities to take risks.”
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