Canadian Underwriter

Digitization is ‘much more than going paperless,’ panel says

September 30, 2021   by Canadian Underwriter Staff

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Going digital doesn’t simply mean going paperless — it’s about the end-to-end customer experience, panellists participating in a Canadian Underwriter webinar advised.

“When we talk about going paperless, it’s much broader and more robust than simply not mailing out paper documents to clients,” said Karen Hoflin, vice president of Go Insurance. “It’s about repositioning ourselves in the marketplace using digital tools that will make doing business with us easier, make us more accessible to our clients, and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Hoflin and other panellists Wednesday shared lessons from their digitization journeys during a webinar titled, “The 80s called. They want their paper back,” which was moderated by Greg Meckbach, Canadian Underwriter’s associate editor.

Steve Whitelaw, vice president and general manager of Applied Systems Canada, said more brokers are realizing the importance of investing in digital technologies, which allow seamless interaction with customers through the entire insurance lifecycle.

“Brokers are working hard to adapt and continue to protect the broker-client relationship by providing services in ways customers prefer. We’ve seen this through increased uptake in brokers accessing further training to continue to deliver the value proposition to their customers,” he said.

However, going digital doesn’t mean completely removing human interaction, said Kyle Paterson, director of culture and business development with Bryson Insurance.

“We’ve found that meaningful face-to-face relationships still work for us,” Paterson said. “But we’ve realized it can be cumbersome and challenging to always serve that way.”

When Bryson Insurance first started its digitization journey, it was “more reactive,” Paterson said, referencing his brokerage’s adoption of Epic, a cloud-based broker management software product from Applied Systems. “Now, we’re building on being more proactive, still working on bite-size chunks at a time to manage change as we continue to digitize.”

Going digital has opened up many new possibilities for his brokerage, Paterson said, “both in a sense of where we’re now able to focus our energy and time, and also in identifying more areas where we can further digitize.”

The journey has however not been without its challenges, he added. “We’ve learned to be a lot more patient. Having dedicated resources to manage unintended consequences like overlaps, having a dedicated trainer to help the team through the digital journey and creating incentives for staff really worked for us.”

Hoflin’s brokerage has also adopted Epic, and one of the main challenges has been helping staff become more nimble.

“The key is to recognize change champions and enable them to inspire others, to make staff feel heard, and communicating clearly and often,” she said. “When thinking about technological transformation, it really starts with a mindset on what it will mean for the future of your business.”

Hoflin added that teams have to “be brave and be willing to fail, long before we have lots of wins.” She encouraged other brokers to look at digital tools not as an expense, but as a revenue generator, much like adding a new employee.

Whitelaw said that digital transformation means enabling insights-driven efficiencies, omni-channel experiences and creating new sources of revenue.

“Digital connectivity between the broker, customer, insurer and third-party provider will remain the lifeblood for the industry,” he said.

According to Applied’s latest research, two-thirds of Canadian brokers now provide self-service portals. However, the most recent Ipsos CSI Insurance Study revealed that less than 25% of Canadian consumers were satisfied with the communication they received from insurers. Whitelaw said that gap creates an opportunity brokers to compete with directs and banks, which are doing a “great job of automating front office activities” to engage with customers end-to-end.

Hoflin and Paterson agreed that brokers can offer an even better customer experience than banks and direct competitors.

“As brokers, we can be a lot more nimble in our approach and take what our competitors do and build on it,” Hoflin said. “It’s about picking the right software and partners, and utilizing the right tools and insights to always look at how we can enhance the customer experience, how we can be better than our competitors and — if nothing else — be accessible in ways our customers prefer.”


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