July 18, 2018 by Greg Dalgetty
Have you been wondering what Canada’s insurers have planned for 2018? Well, it’s time to stop wondering and start reading.
Once again, we got in touch with the executives at a number of insurers (11, for those of you keeping score at home) and asked them what brokers can expect from the year to come.
The pages ahead are a treasure trove of new and expanded product offerings, enhanced digital capabilities and so much more. So what are you waiting for? Read on, dear broker, to see what the future holds.
Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to Northbridge’s plans for 2018.
“We’re leveraging digital solutions to raise the bar on how we do business as an insurance provider,” says president and CEO Silvy Wright. “We have some exciting things coming up in 2018 where we’re using innovation to enhance the experience for our brokers and their customers.”
Key among Northbridge’s innovative initiatives for 2018 are a pilot project for electronic claims payments and trying out chatbots to answer simple customer queries, as well as a big announcement for auto customers.
“We’re excited to say that by the end of this year , all our auto customers will be able to submit images from auto accidents to our adjusters, and we’ll have the ability to settle the claim within the same day—as quickly as within a couple of hours,” Wright says.
“We’ve tested the technology and we’re training all our adjusters on it as we speak.”
Another agenda item for Northbridge in the year ahead is an enhanced focus on small business clients.
“One key customer segment we believe hasn’t been approached in a very focused way is the small business customer,” Wright says.
“Recognizing that they’re not all the same, brokers are helpful advisors to small businesses, and how we approach that customer with a product that speaks to them is very important. I believe that this understanding— coupled with simplifying key touchpoints for them, like renewals—will greatly enhance the customer value we can provide together with our broker partners.”
Gore Mutual has been revamping itself over the past few years, and company president and CEO Heidi Sevcik says there’s more to look forward to next year.
“Gore Mutual began a program of transformation in 2014, and since then we’ve modernized just about every part of our business,” Sevcik says. “We’ve introduced new core systems, sophisticated pricing and new products like Padlock and WaterEscape Plus.”
The insurer intends to expand its product offering in commercial lines next year, with an eye toward bolstering its mid-market and small-business packages. It also plans to launch a number of digital initiatives that will help brokers keep pace with evolving consumer preferences.
“In digital, we are launching a series of APIs that will enable brokers to quote, bind, issue and bill customers in their e-commerce environments,” Sevcik says. “This will be quickly followed by APIs for policy change and renewals. Our aim is to make Gore Mutual a go-to market for digital brokers, and we’re expanding our portfolio of new products designed exclusively for online distribution, including tenants, condos, contractors, office and many others.”
Gore launched Go Magazine, a publication aimed at its digital broker partners, earlier this year. The insurer will also be hosting its second annual Fast Forward event for brokers—with guest speakers Peter Mansbridge and Rick Mercer—in Toronto in June.
“It’s an exciting time at Gore Mutual,” Sevcik says. “We’re an ambitious, growing company, and the best is yet to come.”
Helping brokers succeed in an increasingly digital marketplace will remain a priority for RSA Canada in 2018, says president and CEO Martin Thompson.
The insurer launched a staggered rollout of Pro, a tool that allows brokers to quote and bind SME clients online, toward the end of 2017. Martin expects to have 1,000 brokers using Pro by the end of the year, and about 2,000 users by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
“I think the SME area is ripe for a different approach and a different level of thinking,” Thompson says, noting that it’s the fastest-growing segment in the Canadian economy. “It’s typically been quite difficult for brokers to go and do that business in a cost-effective way. That’s exactly why we developed Pro.”
RSA has also invested heavily in mapping its customers’ journey with an eye toward developing technological solutions that address customers’ pain points.
“We’re using the customer conversation to inform our technology decisions, rather than have it be the other way around,” Thompson says. He notes that brokers will also benefit from RSA’s customer-journey mapping.
“One of the things we want to do is get out there and share that with brokers,” Thompson says. “We want to help them understand customer expectations and how those expectations are shifting, and what they might do in their own offices…to manage that customer experience.”
Additionally, the insurer has been actively involved with the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO) in developing industry-wide data standards.
“If all the insurers run off and develop their own products and standards, the people who lose out on all of that will be the brokers,” Thompson says. “If we can get to a standard that means [brokers] can communicate with every insurer on the same [level], I believe passionately that that’s really important.”
Zurich underwent a huge transformation this year, combining its global corporate and commercial markets units into one commercial insurance entity.
The move was made to streamline the business and make it easier for brokers to work with the insurer. So far, brokers have responded favourably to the change, says David Levinson, Zurich Canada’s president and chief agent. But there’s still more work to be done.
“The big focus next year will be what we started this year,” Levinson says. “It’s really easy to move people around and make changes on an org chart. Now we want people to live it and breathe it. We want people to embrace the new change and the new culture.”
Brokers, he notes, have eagerly embraced the new structure.
“They’re thrilled that we’re one company now and we don’t have two access points,” Levinson says. “They didn’t know where to send their submissions in the past, so they’d send them to each unit.”
Under the new structure, Zurich has made underwriter empowerment a point of emphasis.
“We gave the underwriters a lot more empowerment to make decisions. We have products and services to support them, but we wanted them to make the decisions, which goes a long way with brokers. It’s much better—one line of accountability, you make the decision.”
The insurer also plans to trumpet its specialty products in the year ahead, such as cyber insurance. As part of its cyber offering, Zurich has partnered with Deloitte to review clients’ cyber exposures and help them understand the risks.
“What we’re trying to get customers to do is to start talking about [cyber security]. Are they talking about it in board meetings? Are they talking about it in executive meetings?”
CNA celebrated 100 years in Canada this year. The insurer has come a long way since it first ventured north in November of 1917—it had fewer than 10 underwriters in its Canadian office at the time—and Nick Creatura, president and CEO of the Canadian business, believes the best is yet to come.
“It feels like there’s a bit of a buzz about the organization,” he says.“There’s certainly a wave of energy flowing through CNA these days—not just here in Canada, but globally.”
CNA Canada has been strengthening its underwriting team this year and expanding its coverage. It now has an equipment breakdown component for its engineered property division—an offering that had previously been seeded out—and it plans to grow its specialty lines business in the years ahead.
“We only launched specialty in Canada in 2015,” Creatura says. “We’ve been building that—it’s an area where there’s tremendous opportunity. In particular, our U.S. cross-border and international capabilities are very strong for our package business, so we are working towards the ability to offer specialty coverage coupled with the cross-border and international capabilities. This is going to be a very powerful offering in the marketplace.”
The company has benefited from infrastructure investments happening throughout Canada—a trend Creatura hopes to see continue.
“There is a tremendous amount of investment in infrastructure across the country, and we’re participating in a good amount of that through our construction offering, the marine coverages we participate in and also through our surety business,” he says.
The insurer also plans to continue strengthening its broker portals.
“We have been successful in launching portals for a number of programs, and that is something we’ll be continuing to build on,” Creatura says. “It’s low-touch, very efficient onboarding, quoting and policy issuance.”
Continuing to develop strong relationships with its brokers will remain a key priority for Trisura Guarantee in 2018, says president and CEO Mike George.
“The reason for our success—we’re now 11 years old—has been because of the broker support we’ve received,” he reflects. “There is no plan B—we live and die with the broker. I also happen to believe we have the best and most engaged team in the business. Working with great brokers and having great people is a winning combination.”
George says the company’s biggest challenge will be remaining relevant to brokers in an “incredibly competitive” insurance market. Trisura plans to follow a three-pronged strategy to ensure it continues to meet the needs of brokers.
“One, we have to get bigger, increase our capacity and be able to help our brokers with even their largest clients,” George says.
The company also intends to double down on its existing strengths.
“Even in areas like professional liability, where we’re really good now, we have to continue to push the envelope and start writing more and more segments of that business over time,” George explains.
Third, Trisura plans to broaden its product spectrum.
“Cyber is an example. We’ve embraced that challenge,” George says. “We’ve been offering that for a couple years now and some of it is embedded in our core products already. We also have a standalone product that we’re now able to support.”
Trisura also recently bolstered its book of business with the addition of RSA Canada’s contract and commercial surety business, which consists of approximately 450 accounts with annual premiums in excess of $6 million.
The majority of the accounts involved in the deal are small to midsize contractors, which George describes as the “bread and butter” of Trisura’s business.
“It ended up being a perfect fit for us. A lot of the brokers who were using RSA for this business are brokers we already deal with. There are also a few new ones, which is a win for us.”
Specialist insurer Beazley expanded its Canadian presence earlier this year when it acquired Creechurch Underwriters—and it plans to continue growing.
“Beazley didn’t buy Creechurch for it to stay as is— it was a platform for growth,” says Phil Baker, president of Beazley Canada and the former president and CEO of Creechurch. “We’ll continue with the existing business that we do, which is profitable, but with that we’ll roll out new products and we’re going to expand our underwriting capacity to match it.”
To that end, the company recently entered the environmental market, as well as the media, film and television space. Hiring skilled underwriters has been a key component to Beazley’s strategy.
“Our underwriters are very close to the business, so they should be the ones making the decisions,” Baker says. “That, ultimately, is what I think most of our brokers want—they want to do business with somebody who can make a decision.”
Beazley sees the potential for growth in the cyber market on the heels the high-profile Equifax breach and ransomware attacks that took place earlier this year.
“Canada’s a few years behind where the U.S. is in terms of buying [cyber insurance],” Baker notes. “One of the great things we offer is not so much the insurance product—which is important—but the services we wrap around it.”
As part of its cyber offering, Beazley offers credit monitoring and forensics, among other value-adds.
“When you buy a policy from us, you’re buying a service as much as you’re buying the insurance,” Baker says. “Even before it gets into our claims department, you’re dealing with our breach response team. That’s our biggest selling feature.”
Transaction liability could also be a key area of growth for Beazley.
“That’s really grown quickly,” says Beazley CEO Andrew Horton. “There have been a lot of M&A transactions where people didn’t buy insurance and the risk transfer didn’t work quite as well as they would have liked within the transaction, and now people are insuring the potential risks.”
Aviva president and CEO Greg Somerville says the insurer remains committed to working with brokers who keep an ear to the ground when it comes to consumer preferences.
“We’re certainly looking to invest our time and resources in innovative, forward-thinking brokers that we believe are evolving in alignment with the customer preference around ease of doing business and providing solutions when customers want them and how they want them,” he says.
He describes Aviva’s strategy as “one of access to customers,” be it through a direct channel or its brokers. He notes that the broker channel is a $4.3-billion business for Aviva, and the insurer plans to grow that number to the mid- to high single digits.
“We’re looking to build digital solutions for brokers,” Somerville says. “We have a digital consultancy that we deliver for brokers who want to spend more time understanding how they can be more digital and closer to their customers from a technology perspective.”
Aviva has also invested in APIs designed to make it easier for brokers to do business with the insurer. The APIs have already been deployed in parts of the country, and Somerville estimates they will be available throughout Canada in 2018.
“If we can deliver technology solutions that make it easier to do business with Aviva, it makes it much more seamless for brokers to transact with us,” he says.
For 2018, Aviva plans to raise the issue of auto reform in Atlantic Canada, Alberta and Ontario.
“You can expect to see Aviva actively involved in looking to bring about reform that ensures we have sustainable and stable products in the regulated provinces we do business in,” Somerville says. “We have an opportunity to get in front of it in Atlantic Canada and Alberta, while I think we’re a bit behind it in Ontario.”
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has enjoyed consistent growth in recent years. It’s a trend that Ulrich Kadow, CEO and chief agent of AGCS Canada, hopes to see continue.
“To date, it’s been solid double-digit growth that we’re seeing, which is great,” he says.
The insurer plans to keep the momentum going by continuing to focus on its strengths—aviation, multinational programs, cyber and manufacturing, to name a few.
“In all of these pockets where we have a core strength capability, we’re going to build out our product offering, we’re going to make the process easier, we’re going to invest in expertise and talent, and just grow organically in these areas,” Kadow says.
Rolling out new products, such as agricultural risks, and expanding existing offerings are also on the agenda.
“In the construction space, we have been very active in larger construction for quite a while,” Kadow says. “With the growth of our middle-market business, we will focus more and more on middle-market construction, which is one of the key strengths of Allianz.”
Allianz is also keeping its ear to the ground when it comes to predicting risks.
“One of the things you notice is how new InsurTech start-ups are using the big data available on the internet to predict exposures—it’s quite phenomenal,” Kadow says. “I think this is one of the areas that we as a company will focus on, and also collaborate with some of these [InsurTechs] on, to make sure we understand the exposures and can give clients adequate advice.”
The insurer also launched AllianzGo—an online quote-to-bind tool for brokers working on small commercial accounts—in the U.S. earlier this year, and it may look at making the platform available in Canada as well.
“We don’t have a current timeline right now, but it’s certainly something I’d like to explore,” Kadow says. “I do see some opportunities in certain segments for our business.”
It’s been almost two years since Chubb was acquired by Ace Limited, and Chubb Canada president and CEO Ellen Moore says it’s been a smooth transition— both for the insurer and its broker partners.
“In Canada, we’re really excited about the continuation of the journey, and of the expanded product capabilities and services that the coming together of these two companies brings to our brokers,” she says. “The integration has not stopped us from being very market-facing. We’ve been very visible to [brokers].”
The key to the transition, Moore says, was communication.
“We were out early and often with the message that this is a growth story for the new Chubb: two very successful companies, both in market penetration and certainly financial strength, that could complement one another and push more product into the Canadian marketplace.”
Chubb recently launched a small business platform in the U.S., something Moore hopes Chubb Canada will be bringing to market in 2018.
With cyber security on the minds of many, Moore notes Chubb Canada is well positioned to help brokers ramp up their knowledge of cyber risks. She says Chubb has “on-the-ground experts in Canada” standing at the ready to educate brokers on Chubb’s cyber offering.
“I think that is where our brokers will be spending a fair amount of time over the next couple of years, learning the product and appreciating how they get in front of boards of directors and management teams to be able to sell this very needed coverage,” she says.
Continuing to invest in its broker channel will remain a key priority for Chubb in the years ahead. “Chubb is very committed to the independent broker channel, specifically in Canada. We’re always looking for improved technology to work in concert with our brokers so there’s an ease of transacting business with Chubb.”
Travelers Canada has its sights set on growing its TRAVELERS OPTIMA™ personal auto product in 2018. The insurer introduced Optima to Atlantic Canada in August, and broker feedback has been very positive, says president and CEO Heather Masterson.
“It’s been a successful launch to date and the feedback from our brokers has been tremendous, with growing excitement about its sophisticated individualized rating and competitiveness in the marketplace,” she says. Travelers Canada intends to start developing Optima for the Alberta market next. “We aim to have this product rolled out across the country in 2019.”
But that’s not all brokers can look forward to in the years ahead. Travelers Canada will be developing a digital platform designed to help brokers serve micro and small commercial business clients.
“The platform will allow brokers’ clients to selfserve, while still giving them access to a trusted advisor,” Masterson says. “We aim to build out the platform in 2018 for a launch in 2019.”
The insurer also plans to continue raising broker awareness around Travelers Risk Control On-DemandSM, a digital risk control service that allows brokers and clients to consult with experts on mitigating risks.
“[It’s] a real-time, on-demand virtual consulting platform that the broker or client can access directly and ask any type of risk control question and get an immediate response to put a plan in place,” Masterson says. “We’ll continue to promote the specialist-led benefits that this free platform offers our brokers and their clients.”
Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the December 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine
This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.