Canadian Underwriter

Leaving hibernation: What’s next for P&C industry?

April 21, 2022   by David Gambrill

Bear having a look out of his cave

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Look for Canada’s P&C industry to fine-tune the hybrid workplace model over the next six months, as the country starts to ease pandemic restrictions, industry execs say.

The tinkering will involve achieving the best balance between meeting in person with clients and colleagues, while maintaining the ability to focus on getting the work done in the privacy of home.

“I think a lot of people are looking backwards and saying, ‘You know, I just want to get back to what I was doing in 2019.’ And I look at it quite differently,” Andrew Steen, president of Berkley Canada, said Thursday at the CIP Virtual Symposium, Pivoting with Purpose, held by the Insurance Institute of Canada. “We have this opportunity…in the next six months [to]…capitalize on the best of two worlds.

“One is being together. We know being together is the place where creative, collaborative problem-solving happens best. There’s lots of science and behind that. Those moments are really important for helping us innovate, and improve solution-making as we go forward.

“The other piece is we’re also going to have this time where we are separated, head down, super-productive, working away at our tasks.

“I’ll be honest, I’m not smart enough to know the right combination of time between those two things,” Steen says. “It’s why we don’t have a forced hybrid model. We’re going to get that right over time. We’re going to get a lot of feedback from our staff.

“From my perspective, I think we can create a place where people — maybe for the first time — can do the best work they’ve ever done. And if we can create that place, boy, the magic that can come from that, to solve problems by having people working at a higher intellectual level, that’s like gold. So that’s where that’s where we’re headed.”

And it won’t just be seeing colleagues, adds Nathan Ballantyne, president and CEO of TIPI Insurance Partners. “You know, our clients are [starting] to really feel the grind from the last few years of rate increases. So, getting out and spending time with our clients and team that’s basically what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Victoria Stanhope, president and CEO of Stanhope Simpson Insurance Ltd., amplifies the point, saying in-person relationships are the industry’s mainstay.

“I am looking forward over the next six months to reconnecting in person with customers,” she says. “We’re doing that now here in Nova Scotia, and it brings the fun back into our industry, quite frankly…That’s why us brokers get out of bed every morning, shall we say…I’m really excited for that getting back to that ‘Old School’ way of doing business with customers and my fellow team members.”

Travel, of course, is a big part of re-kindling the personal relationships within the industry. But with travel opening up, don’t necessarily look for a modern reincarnation of ‘The Roaring 20s.’

The pandemic opened up a new, less expensive, more efficient way to meet people — videoconferencing. And that may replace what panellist Laila Brabander, senior vice president and chief underwriting officer (Canada) of Chubb Canada, refers to as “unnecessary travel.”

“I know all of our expense ratios are improved with the lack of nonsensical business travel, and I’m looking forward to more strategic meetings now, and meanings that are more meaningful,” Brabander says.

Expanding on her point, Branbander says pre-COVID, “We had been in a rut as an industry, just saying, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go travel to those meetings. WebEx, Zoom, they weren’t even in our wheelhouse. So, I’m looking forward to more balanced travel, because it’ll be more strategic travel, and it’ll be more enjoyable.”


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