Canadian Underwriter

Managing insurtech temptation

September 30, 2019   by Adam Malik

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From left, Ibeth Ramos of Cookhouse Labs, Mukul Ahuja of Deloitte Canada, Joanna Mendonca of Staebler Insurance and BrokerTeam’s William Chan as part of a panel moderated by Gore Mutual’s Paul Jackson.

It can be enticing to jump on board as soon as you hear about the latest and greatest doodad to help your business. But getting distracted by the promises of every insurtech option is something one broker tries to avoid.

Instead, Joanna Mendonca prefers the wait-and-see approach. “I think we guard against what we would just call FOMO [fear of missing out] with insurtech,” said the president of Staebler Insurance during a panel discussion at Gore Mutual’s Fast Forward event in Toronto recently.

Given that’s she’s constantly inundated with emails about how a new widget will make her life easier, Mendonca would rather “do a lot more scrutiny and [be] more diligent about what the solution really is, what the functionality really is and how practical it really is.”

Not everything fits within your business model, said fellow panellist William Chan, president at BrokerTeam. That’s why he likes to call in customers for a focus group to see what they think of any new offerings.

But there’s one crucial element that can’t be ignored in this process, he said.

“The other important thing we do is involve our staff because I don’t think it’s a bright thing to ram some technology that we’ve become fascinated with and want to implement in a month down our staff’s throats,” Chan told the audience. “We need to get their input and also figuring out how it will work in our business. How can it work in our business? How can we integrate?”

Ibeth Ramos, lead innovation coach at Cookhouse Labs, emphasized the need to find the right tools to connect with your customers in order to understand what they want from you as a broker. That way you can find what insurtech element works best to boost your business.

“And to be able to connect, we have to go to the core of who we are — human beings. And we can’t do that looking at somebody with a title or just looking at someone as a customer,” she said during the panel. “We have to really understand; we have to really come down and really empathize.”

A big hurdle that brokerages will find is the resistance to change. If new technology is being implemented to make life easier for brokers and customers, it’s not surprising to “have certain departments in the organization who say, ‘Well, we really don’t need to change anything. We don’t really have the capacity to change anything,’” Ramos said.

It’s those roadblocks of “traditional thinking” that can set back your organization, she added. The point of innovation is to come up with out-of-the-box ideas and get creative, not make minor adjustments to current offerings.

“It’s not about traditional thinking. It’s not about, ‘We have this app; let’s push this button and make it yellow,” Ramos said. “Come on, let’s be honest, that’s not innovation.”

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