June 22, 2021 by David Gambrill
After eight years in Quebec with April Canada, Sebastien Gabez is leaving the Canadian operations to join April in the Caribbean, effective July 1, 2021.
After being the managing general agency’s CEO for the past three years, he is handing over the reins to Daphné de Vitton, who joined April Canada about two years ago and is the MGA’s director of marketing, innovation and digital.
“To all of you, former and current great colleagues, broker partners, insurers from U.K., Canada and U.S., competitors, industry partners, I want to say thank you for welcoming me and for trusting me, especially during these last three years as CEO,” Gabez posted on LinkedIn. “Thanks to you, I have come out of this experience transformed and convinced that nothing is impossible when you can count on a committed team that shares the same values.”
On its face, moving from Canada to the Caribbean islands may seem like Gabez is moving from big to small, at least in terms of geographical territory. But the scope of his responsibilities may actually wind up being broader in the islands, as he pointed out in an interview Friday with Canadian Underwriter.
For example, the April Canada team numbers about 120, whereas in the French-speaking islands of the Caribbean, the April team is more in the range of 150 to 160 people. And whereas April Canada distributes exclusively through the broker channel, April in the islands has a multichannel approach, meaning its products and services are distributed directly online, in physical offices, as well as through agents and brokers. Plus, there is a life insurance aspect to the work in the islands.
Gabez emphasized that April Canada will continue to be committed to the broker channel in Canada after his move. “That’s how we want it to stay. You know, brokers are in our DNA.”
What can brokers expect as a result of the leadership transition?
Continuity is key, de Vitton told Canadian Underwriter.
“We are reassuring markets…that there’s not going to be a revolution, but rather an acceleration of whatever is already going on,” she said. “We’re on the right track, just going a bit faster on it.”
Digitization has been a key focus for the MGA, de Vitton said. By that, she means April Canada has simplified and automated a number of processes that connect brokers with the MGA – including getting a quick response to a submission for a quote.
Getting timely responses is a big deal for brokers during the hard market. In its 2021 National Broker Survey, Canadian Underwriter asked an open-ended question to brokers about how their insurer partners could make it easier for brokers to do business with them.
“Be available,” several brokers wrote. Many brokers in the survey expressed frustration with insurance underwriters for not getting back to them quickly, even with a no.
“Everyone is now used to booking their flights, shopping, and doing everything online,” de Vitton told Canadian Underwriter. “We believe there is no reason why we can’t bring this ease of transaction to the broker-MGA relationship.”
Before the pandemic, April Canada visited brokers face-to-face to find out where their brokerages stood in their digital journeys. The MGA wanted to know what kind of broker management systems the brokerages were using, the browsers, their online security systems, or whether or not they had a paper agenda.
“It was really [about] trying to better understand where we could relieve some pain points, where we could make their lives easier,” de Vitton said.
One item of particular interest was to streamline how brokers prepared information for insurance submissions.
Generally speaking, de Vitton said, “we found that what’s annoying for brokers is not getting a response [to a submission], or waiting too long, which is understandable in this market. They would be spending so much time inputting some information….pages and pages of stuff, sending it somewhere into a black box and then hearing back maybe way too late.”
As a result, April Canada created a platform called APRIL ON, intended to function with the speed of an Amazon order. “Brokers can feed the risk [into the platform] and if doesn’t fit [the risk appetite], they get declined right away. It may seem kind of strange to promote a [quick] decline, but…it’s better to get an answer, rather than [hearing] nothing.”
Photo courtesy of Sebastien Gabez’s LinkedIn profile