Canadian Underwriter

The quaint ‘killer app’ that helps brokers talk to underwriters remotely

April 13, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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Not all meetings during a pandemic need to be structured around a videoconference call, commercial insurance experts said during a recent webinar.

“I think we all have to be cautious about just loading up our entire agenda with Zoom calls and things like that,” said Stéphane Lespérance, president of commercial risk and health solutions at Aon Canada.

“You don’t always have to organize a [conference] call or a specific time to talk about something. Just pick up the phone and talk to your underwriter,” said Steve Phillips, chief operating officer of Sovereign Insurance, during Commercial lines post-COVID: What the future holds, a webinar hosted Apr. 12 by Canadian Underwriter.

The context of the panelists’ remarks was observations that insurers’ risk appetites change, and this has been especially true since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

Brokers are marketing risks to different markets, so underwriters are getting communications from brokers looking to insure commercial clients, but some commercial risks do not fit the carrier’s risk appetite.

“I always say, when I am talking to brokers, you should push your insurance companies to tell you more clearly exactly what risks [the insurers] like and [what risks the insurers] don’t like,” said Phillips.

The panelists were then asked whether it is more difficult to have those communications about risk appetite and what data underwriters need from brokers when working from home, either as an underwriter or a commercial broker.

“It [the communication] does not always have to be structured around a half-hour Zoom call or whatever the case may be,” said Richard Grant, chief operating officer of Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company.

“Remember this killer app: It’s an interactive voice application. It’s called a phone,” quipped Phillips.

“If you were carving out time to prospect clients regularly (before the pandemic), you still need to do that,” said Lespérance. “It’s the same thing with the market discussions. There is nothing like picking up the phone.

“I think all of us are kind of surprised when that phone rings. It seems like everything now is handled through emails and through Zoom calls. [The pandemic] kind of changed the dynamic and I do think that entering into 2021, everyone is having this target or mandate to change, a little bit, how we are operating and shifting a bit from where we were back in 2020. It is evolving and I would say other industries outside of insurance are also facing the same sort of challenges.”

Outside the context of the webinar, in Canadian Underwriter‘s 2021 National Broker Survey, brokers have expressed some concern about response times regarding broker submissions to carriers. Some have noted it is not always easy to get busy underwriters to take their phone calls.


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