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Four ways Intact defends itself from disruption


February 26, 2021   by Greg Meckbach


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Canada’s property and casualty insurance providers are not likely to be affected by aggregators to the same extent as their British counterparts, although brokers could certainly face disruption from technology firms, Intact Financial Corp.’s chief financial officer says.

“The biggest threat [to traditional P&C providers] is a strong technology player that has extremely strong customer knowledge with a big brand,” Intact CFO Louis Marcotte said during a virtual fireside chat Feb. 24. “That player can come in and disrupt, but likely they are going to disrupt on the distribution side of the business. They are unlikely to put capital up for manufacturing, and they will not want to put boots on to go clean the basements.”

During the 22nd Annual Credit Suisse Virtual Financial Services Forum, Credit Suisse analyst Mike Rizvanovic asked Marcotte why he thought aggregators had such a big impact in Britain on the industry.

Marcotte suggested the British Financial Conduct Authority has made it easy for aggregators to promote the competition of products.

McKinsey & Company reported in 2018 that aggregator websites made up more than half of all direct sales for motor insurance policies in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017.

It is more difficult in Canada for aggregators because auto is heavily regulated and there are differences among the provinces in auto regulations, Marcotte suggested during the Credit Suisse forum.

“We are not sure that [aggregators] is where the disruption will come from [in Canada],” said Marcotte. He alluded to the now-defunct Google Compare as an example.

“You will remember Google tried to launch its [Compare] site in the United States. We were monitoring that carefully. I think what the insurers have learned here is, that you don’t necessarily want to join the aggregator websites. When Google launched its own (U.S.) site, the big players were not participating. So if you are an aggregator, and the Top 10 players are not there, consumers are going to go somewhere else and [the aggregator] won’t be able to be representative of the marketplace. So that threat of a pure aggregator has diminished. In Canada they have not taken hold either.”

Marcotte outlined four tactics Intact is using to defend itself from disruption:

  • Own your own distribution as much as possible. Intact, for example, owns BrokerLink and writes direct through Belair
  • A very strong brand name
  • Having the best technology, whether it is back-end (to manage expenses) or a front-end user interface
  • Be the best at claims settlement

In the United Kingdom, brokers “have not survived well” in an aggregator market based on the cost of buying a lead from an aggregator, Carol Jardine, president of the Canadian property and casualty operations at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, said during the 2019 Top Broker Summit in Toronto.

At that time, Jardine was commenting as a member of the audience on remarks made during a presentation by Justin Thouin, co-founder and CEO of LowestRates.ca. LowestRates.ca gives brokers and directs sales leads to consumers shopping for home and auto insurance online.

“We certainly don’t want to take it in the direction of the U.K., where they are trying to take business away from brokers,” Thouin said of LowestRates.ca in 2019 at the Top Broker Summit. In Canada, some brokers buy leads from LowestRates.ca because the cost of advertising is lower than if the broker bought its own ads. LowestRates.ca wants to work with brokers who are able to follow up quickly when a consumer contacts them shopping for insurance, said Thouin.

Feature image via iStock.com/metamorworks


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