Canadian Underwriter

5 skills insurance pros need in a more virtual world

June 30, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Everyone in the insurance industry today must have a minium of five skills, and companies need to hire and manage to these skills, according to an insurance executive.

Digital skills, emotional intelligence, resiliency, people-centricity, and being a team player are all must-have skills, according to Erin Fischer, senior vice president and chief claims and regional insurance operations officer at Wawanesa. She says the need for these skills represents “an evolution” of the profession, as today’s interactions become increasingly digital and virtual.

She spoke at the Insurance Institute of Canada’s latest At the Forefront series, entitled Exceptional Customer Experiences in a Virtual World.

Digital skills

Today, insurance professionals are being inundated with emails and text messages from customers — and in amounts that can’t be compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. This requires pros to have enough digital skills to be able to sort, respond, tag, and prioritize appropriately.

“Without these skills, people quickly become overwhelmed and unable to manage more than one mode of communication,” Fischer explained. “That said, it is equally critical for us to understand that our customers also come to the table with varying degrees of digital capability. So we have to be agile and respond to that in the way that feels most comfortable, convenient and safe to them.”

Emotional Intelligence

Thanks to the absence of face-to-face interactions in the pandemic, reading and responding to body language are impossible when people now communicate more often in writing. Since we are now in what she called a “spiritual word of service,” high emotional intelligence is critical to success.

“Thinking about how you respond to an email, or whether you consider [a] phone or video [call]…a better option, is really, really important,” Fischer said. “Understanding what’s going on behind the communication is equally as important. Being sensitive to the situation and thinking about whether or not you’ve already built a trusted relationship with the customer is critical.”


As many have learned, offering customer service in a strictly virtual environment is challenging, Fischer acknowledged. Some people have young children in the background, others have kids in virtual school who need attention and some have other distractions at home. It tests everyone’s ability to be resilient.

“How you respond and how you cope is essential,” she recommended. “Really taking the time to assess your own personal resiliency and the things that you can do to improve in this area will be time well spent.”


Now that more interactions are moving into a digital format, insurance professionals really need to enjoy dealing with people, Fischer observed. And it will be important for employers to hire people who really want to have meaningful connections with clients.

“It goes without saying that to deliver great customer experiences you have to love dealing with people. Not just interacting with people, but true connections,” she said.

It’s something Fischer enjoys. “I love hearing stories. I love learning about people. And I really value all the connections I make.”

Yes, people can be taught how to build people-centricity skills. But there’s another side to it. “What can’t be taught is the desire to want to connect with people,” she said.

Being a team player

A good insurance pro is backed by a team that can come in and help when needed, Fischer said.

“We have to be able to help each other help our customers. To do that, you have to have this give-and-take relationship. Sometimes what you have on your plate is the most important, but sometimes what’s on somebody else’s plate is more important. So, ensuring you come to the table as a team player, but also that you have a team that you work with who equally value delivering great customer experience, is critical.”

Looking back at the five areas, Fischer pointed out that these are not only skill sets that insurance experts need, but they’re also qualities that can be learned.

“My thoughts are that if you step back and do an honest reflection of your yourself is a really important part of assessing where you are,” she said.


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