Now that many insurance professionals have been successful working from home, plenty of technologies they are using now are expected to stick around even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, according to a number of P&C experts.
“The tools we’re using today are going to benefit us for years to come. That’s kind of one of the cool parts about this,” said Graham Haigh, vice president of broker distribution at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, during Canadian Underwriter’s recent webinar Business Continuity in The Digital Age.
Think of things like e-signatures, said Steve Whitelaw, vice president of industry and partner relations at Applied Systems. It will be easier to get documents signed without having customers come to the office because people will be more accepting of the practice.
“Conversations aren’t just about words — they’re about the tone and they’re about expression and facial expression. That mode of communicating with clients is fantastic.”
Even meeting clients could completely change, thanks to video. “When you think back to the beginning [of the pandemic], we all did telephone conferences and now we’re doing video conferences, so I think that’s going to stick around,” Whitelaw said. “I think that’s becoming an accepted norm.”
Joseph Carnevale, president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO), and managing director of sales and partner at Brokers Trust Insurance Group Inc., has had more video meetings than ever before. He enjoys being able to see his clients and the ability record those discussions.
“Conversations aren’t just about words — they’re about the tone and they’re about expression and facial expression,” he said. “That mode of communicating with clients is fantastic.”
Another key change going forward would be to “empower [brokers working from home], and trust them, and manage them with a principle of trust,” Whitelaw said.
Haigh agreed. If anything, the pandemic has shown that the industry can respond to challenges beyond their control. Imagine if this sudden shift to using digital technology was mandated by insurance partners, he said. “[Brokers] would have looked at us like we were absolutely bananas.”
But it worked, Carnevale pointed out. “And I dare say, some of the success and how quickly brokers have been able to adapt and innovate and get up with some of the solutions out there is because … they had no choice. Necessity is amazing.”
But what will the office experience look like when everyone comes back to work? Haigh wondered. “What are our needs going to be from a premises perspective? We also are looking at: Are people going to be comfortable in an open workspace or are they going to want a little more closure? So do we go back to a cube farm?”
The pandemic will also force the industry to keep coming up with new ways to better serve customers. Take electronic forms of payment as an example. “The idea of somebody having to come to an office to drop off a cheque just seems a bit over the top now. Isn’t there some other way you can pay that bill? Online or through your bank? Or any other means?” Carnevale said. “They’re changes we’re all going to adopt. None of them are going to go away. They’re all going to become, in some way, entrenched in our day to day business.”
When deciding what stays and goes when things go back to normal, decisions will come down to what makes sense for the customer. “I always take the point of view of, ‘What are the clients going to want after this?’ And it’s really going to be dictated by how they want to interact with their brokers,” Carnevale said. “Are they going to want to do face-to-face meetings as regularly? I suspect there will be a timeframe when everyone’s going to be a bit skittish about doing that. And it will change over time. It will change in months and years, as people get more comfortable again. Then it won’t be an issue.”