Canadian Underwriter

How the pandemic made for better strategic planning

March 3, 2021   by Adam Malik

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced one insurance association to change how they typically map out their future. The result ended up being a product they believe is better than something that would have been produced in normal times.

For many, planning strategy may involve a day or two retreat to hammer out the issues. But a global pandemic nixed the usual plans and sitting around a table wasn’t an option. For Facility Association, the longer timeframe to gather thoughts ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was able to come up with a more thought-out plan.

Because of the challenges of working remotely and working around various schedules, the process to come up with a new strategic plan took longer — but also allowed for more measured thought, said Saskia Matheson, president and chief executive officer at Facility Association.

“When we took this on, we went through an exercise over a period of months,” she told Canadian Underwriter. “It was interesting to do a strategic review with the pandemic because, I think, under normal circumstances we probably would have — as most organizations do — done an off-site [meeting]. We would have had breakout sessions.”

But the virtual environment changed things. The review period ran over a long period of time and allowed for greater research.

“We surveyed our membership, we surveyed the top writers, our regulator stakeholders, the broker associations, as well as our sister organizations in the industry to ask those dangerous questions: What did we do well? What don’t we do so well? What are our strengths and what are our weaknesses? What’s keeping you up at night? Where can we be in that environment?” she said.

Armed with all that information, the association was able to take a wide range of material to the board and have a longer session where those conversations were continued and focus areas were hashed out.

“The whole exercise took a number of months, but as a result we had the opportunity to [take our time with it],” Matheson observed. “It wasn’t done in an afternoon. It was built over time with data and input from a number of organizations.”

FA has been expanding its role over the last few years as it takes on a greater data governance presence, so an exercise involving greater discussion was beneficial.

“The regulators look to FA to implement governance over that data and ensure that it is accurate [and] that it is secure,” Matheson said. “That has been a new focus for us and elicited us taking a good long hard look at our strategy, and making sure that it had to expand to incorporate that new area.”

“Never let a crisis go to waste” is the saying and FA found a bright side to the upheaval brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic last March.

“There’s always a silver lining to any challenge, and working the strategic review like this — whether we were doing that in-person or virtual — I would do it in a similar way again,” Matheson said. “Strategy is so important; taking the time to really dig in and work with.

FA is also steadfast about maintaining its role in the shadows. “FA’s always been about minimal market presence. And no matter how exciting and interesting our strategy is, the concept of FA maintaining…a minimal footprint, still remains critical for us,” she said in an interview. “We want to make sure that we do our job in the lowest profile possible so the industry can go about doing their jobs with the fewest problems.”

It’s important for the group to remember its core mission — ensure the availability of auto insurance to those who need it.

“Customers are best served in a competitive market, through private insurance. So we want to make sure that we are the smallest we can be so that the burden of funding the FA…is not a major driver of activity at individual companies,” Matheson said. “We are a cost that is borne by the industry, but we want to be a tangential cost, so that the industry can focus on providing competitive value to customers. We try to stay in the shadows.”


Feature image by Le Moal

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