Canadian Underwriter

The pandemic-induced change Intact says has ‘proven to work’

September 28, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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Insurers who sent most of their employees home to work have demonstrated remote access can indeed work — and even offer co-workers an opportunity to get to know each other’s families better — but it may be challenging over the long term, executives from major carriers say.

“I think most companies have shown the ability to work from home. I’m not suggesting it’s perfect but I think it’s a change that has happened now and it’s proven to work so we have to adjust for that,” Intact Financial Corp. CFO Louis Marcotte said during the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference.

“Finding the right way to balance this notion of working from home and yet keeping the company culture, training of people, onboarding people — in a three- or six-month space — is maybe not bad but over [the] long term may be a challenge,” Marcotte said during a panel moderated by Bloomberg journalist Kevin Orland.

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic March 11 by the World Health Organization. Canada’s provinces imposed various restrictions which — along with public health advice — prompted many industry executives to send most of their employees home to work.

During the Bloomberg panel Sept. 24, speakers were asked what are one or two big changes that might persist after the pandemic.

Remote working over the internet provides a “real opportunity to build relationships, whether it is with our clients or internally with our people,” said Leigh Chalmers, senior vice president and head of investor relations and capital markets for Sun Life.

“You are not face-to-face, you are not in the office, but, in some respects, you are getting closer to your employees — getting to know them, their kids and their dogs a little bit better. You are getting to know their environment. So I think that has been a positive and I think that will continue.”

Working remotely “will change the way we recruit people,” said Mélissa Gilbert, executive vice president and lead, finance at Quebec City-based La Capitale / SSQ Insurance.

La Capitale and SSQ closed their merger this past July, forming Canada’s largest mutual when both life and property and casualty premiums are counted. Separately, a La Capitale spokesperson told Canadian Underwriter a new name for the merged firm will be announced this fall.

“Even with 97% of our staff working from home, the merger was announced on January 29th and we completed the merger on July 1,  in the midst of this pandemic situation,” Gilbert said during the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference.

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