Canadian Underwriter

Post-pandemic mindshift needed in claims leadership: Desjardins execs

August 27, 2021   by Canadian Underwriter Staff

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Claims leaders will need to evolve their mindsets if property & casualty insurers are to succeed in meeting customer demands post-COVID, senior Desjardins Insurance Group execs suggest.

“Before the pandemic, we thought we were doing a good job, but we learned as an industry — and even in an organization as large as ours — that we can and should be a lot more agile,” said Ken Lindhardsen, vice president of Desjardins’ accident benefits and bodily injury claims operations.

Lindhardsen spoke at the Reuters virtual Future of Insurance Canada event Thursday, during which senior Desjardins claims leaders reflected on key lessons from the pandemic.

“We’ve learned that multi-year plans can change on a dime. Flexibility will be key and therefore the mindset of leaders must evolve, especially in remote work environments in a post-COVID-19 claims environment,” he said.

Things like video calling with claims customers, giving customers the ability to report simpler claims online, and using digital tools and AI for estimating and following up with customers post-claim will become more important in the claims process in the future, said Michel Martineau, vice president of Desjardins’ claims division.

However, in complex large loss claims especially, Martineau said there will always be the need for human interaction and expertise. “Claims can be a stressful situation all round, which is why it will continue to be a priority to attract and retain talent in this area. The success [in claims handling] will be combining these digital tools to interact with and serve customers on all different channels, with human expertise and interaction — and knowing where and when to support both.”

Another key lesson from the COVID-19 crisis was how to harness a remote workforce, Martineau said.

Before the pandemic hit, Desjardins was in the pilot phase of enabling technologies for remote work for its claims division. The company was forced to accelerate these plans when all its claims offices closed at the start of COVID-19 — something no one thought would ever happen, Martineau said.

“What was a pilot turned out to be a full launch to 9,000 employees,” Martineau said, adding that nearly all the insurer’s claims division staff now work remotely. “In claims, we’re used to managing stress, but pairing our team with the business continuity team was a powerful decision in collaborating to get us through COVID-19.”

When accident claims decreased during the pandemic due to people driving less, Lindhardsen said he offered his claims team to other departments within the company that needed support, which led to improved training and streamlined service.

“We’ve learned that there’s strength in working together, not in silos…and that flexibility and adaptability are critical in a time of crisis,” he said.

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