Canadian Underwriter

Online sales without broker intervention: Where Wawanesa stands

August 9, 2018   by Jason Contant

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Now that Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company will soon be selling exclusively through brokers in Quebec, what does it think about online sales without the intervention of a broker?

“I’m not a big fan of quote and buy online, because I don’t think consumers get the advice that they need,” said Carol Jardine, president of Wawanesa’s Canadian P&C operations, in an interview with Canadian Underwriter Tuesday. “Our research shows that though many consumers will start to research insurance online, very few consumers will finalize the transaction online. They’ll get to a certain point within that transaction, at which point they’ll convert to a sales call with a licensed independent agent.”

Quebec recently passed Bill 141, which includes an amendment that the provincial financial regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers, has the power to determine which product will or will not be available for sale online without an insurance broker. The province’s broker association, the Regroupement des cabinets de courtage d’assurance du Quebec (RCCAQ), has always maintained that online sales need involvement from a broker.

“The RCCAQ eagerly defends its position that property and casualty insurance is complicated, and permitting online sales puts consumers and their financial assets at risk,” RCCAQ first vice president Patrice Pouliot told Canadian Underwriter in June.

Jardine said that while consumers need the right tools to get insurance knowledge and research online, “we as an organization are not a strong supporter of having consumers quote and buy on the Internet.” Homes and vehicles are typically a consumer’s largest assets and personal lines insurance will be the largest asset protection they will buy, so they need the right insurance advice, she said. “We believe that insurance brokers do that best.”

Stéphan Bernatchez is one of three insurance professionals representing Wawanesa’s new broker partners, which includes 11 independently owned and operated Quebec brokerages. Bernatchez, president of Fort Insurance & Group Benefits in Westmount, Que., said that while online sales without broker involvement will likely not happen overnight, “I would suggest that anyone who doesn’t want to do online sales at one point will not be able to survive.”

Wawanesa announced on Aug. 1 that it will sell its insurance products exclusively through independent brokers, effective Oct. 1, discontinuing direct sales to customers in the province. With the move, the insurer will be selling solely through brokers in all of its markets across Canada.

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