Canadian Underwriter

Digital-only for P&C consumers after the pandemic? Not so fast…

June 24, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

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Despite online insurance gaining popularity, consumers still need — and want — personalized advice from their insurance companies and brokers, executives observed during a recent industry panel discussion.  

“I had really thought at the end of 2020 that digital would take over everything,” said Louis Gagnon, president of Intact Canada, at the June 2022 Ontario Young Brokers Conference in Niagara Falls. “I think [consumers have] come out of the pandemic [with] lots of questions about what [they’re] buying, lots of questions about what’s going on in the world. That aspect gave [consumers] a lot more confidence about the product, about the advice that they need.”  

Some consumers choose their insurance through national brand names, and some like to shop around, “but the biggest portion of Canada is still the ones that need help and advice because insurance is complicated,” said Robin Joshua, president at Echelon Insurance. 

Consumers are gaining comfort in making online insurance purchases, Gagnon suggested, but many still seek explanations from experts. “I think that’s where we’re going. I think the level of comfort [that consumers have in buying insurance online] is more and more…but I’m surprised because the numbers have not grown exponentially.” 

Thirty-five per cent of Canadians claimed to have researched and compared insurance rates online prior to the pandemic. However, the pandemic caused some buyers to alter their online purchasing behaviour, with 42% of respondents saying they now do online research and planning before buying insurance — a 7% increase, according to Ratehub. 

But omni-channel is hardly left in the dust of a digital sales experience, Ratehub’s research shows. About one-third (31%) of respondents said they don’t feel comfortable purchasing online insurance, although those under 55 years old showed more interest in online policy shopping.  

Consumer shopping habits may differ across age demographics, another panellist suggested.  

“In terms of millennials and Gen Z, they’re more connected, they’re more interested and more adept [at buying online],” said Paul Stone, vice president of personal insurance, sales distribution and marketing at Travelers. 

He observed online policy purchases are accelerating — and brokers may be able to make the most of it.  

“I think the opportunity for young brokers, and for brokers in general, is to find that spot that they want to play in, provide that value, provide that counsel, and eke out that niche. People want value for what they’re spending their money on,” Stone said.  

Whether consumers want personalized consultation or to research policies on their own, it’s imperative for brokers to connect with clients based on their clients’ communications preferences.  

“We need to give the customer the ability to connect with us in all sorts of different ways. But it does not change the fact that I think the role of advice and discussion and questions is still is still very, very [present],” said Gagnon.  


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