Canadian Underwriter

The biggest one

May 5, 2020   by David Gambrill, Editor in Chief

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At the time I write this, just under 2 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, and more than 123,000 people have died from it. In Canada, as of Apr. 14, just over 26,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with 823 deaths reported.

Shortly after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Mar. 11, governments across the world, including in Canada, started shutting down travel and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. By Mar. 15, brokerages and insurers were already well underway sending their employees home to work remotely. But as social distancing drags on, perhaps for as long as six to eight months, and as the economy buckles, it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be.

The P&C insurance industry is built to withstand large-scale disasters. Insurance pros are prepared to be there for their clients in times of dire need. But this may be the first time the industry has had to help all Canadians, all at once, through a truly global catastrophe. This, quite frankly, is not “business as usual,” even for the property and casualty insurance business.

For a relationship-based industry like insurance, dark days lie ahead. There are no industry events in which to share knowledge and learn from one another. Personal contact with clients is highly discouraged, as we are all ordered by governments to stay home and keep at least two metres apart from one another. Many Canadians have lost their jobs and their businesses, and the economy is shutting down all around us. We’re all hoping the health care system doesn’t shut down as well.

These are scary times. More than a few veteran industry professionals have told me, “It’s like we are living in a movie.” A dystopic movie, to be sure, and it’s all playing out very quickly. Meaningful, honest and truthful communication is critical now, both within the industry and between the industry and the public. Talking to each other — be it by phone, video, or text — is how we will work out solutions to common problems. This is how the industry has weathered major crises before, and it’s how the industry will help their clients – and each other – through to the end of this pandemic as well.

Stay healthy everyone. And keep talking. It’s working.

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