Canadian Underwriter

Understanding consumer view key to meeting expectations: Forgeron

October 29, 2015   by Angela Stelmakowich, Editor

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Considering things from the consumer perspective is important for insurers to truly understand – and, in turn, be able to respond to – ever-evolving consumer expectations, Don Forgeron, president and CEO of Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), suggested Thursday at IBC’s 15th Annual Regulatory Affairs Symposium.

Kicking off symposium in downtown Toronto, “when the world is changing as quickly as our world is, getting those expectations right is paramount,” Forgeron emphasized.

Consumer expectations changing, understanding that viewpoint essential

“We can’t give consumers what they want until we know what they expect,” he told attendees of the symposium, the theme of which was the changing expectations of consumers, regulators and insurers. “And insurers and regulators can’t do their jobs unless they know what’s expected of them.”

Citing a recent KPMG International paper, Forgeron said that it touched on many opportunities and challenges for the insurance industry.

“But the common thread throughout the paper is the opportunity to grow and to innovate by improving the consumer experience,” he told attendees. “In other words, understanding the consumers’ expectations and putting them at the centre of everything we do.”

An integral part of the changing world involves consumer use of – and reliance on – technology.

“We know consumers are embracing technological change with enthusiasm – and that they are expecting all the businesses they deal with to offer them the same convenience,” Forgeron pointed out. Consumers expect that convenience should extend to insurance, he noted, such as using their phones to show their proof of insurance or to check their policies.

The KPMG paper, for example, “suggests we embrace technology companies and automakers as partners rather than disruptors. By teaming up, we can maximize the use of technology to better serve consumers,” he said.

Don Forgeron

As an industry, it is necessary to “work hard to better educate ourselves about today’s consumers and their needs, and share what we learn with regulators,” Forgeron suggested.

“We know our consumers need protection,” he said. Consider, for example, if a consumer is told his or her home is more at risk for flooding because of the changing climate, or a consumer who hears about hackers attacking vehicle electronic safety systems. These are the times consumers will also want to hear they are protected with insurance, Forgeron suggested.

It is these changing times – where consumer expectations are changing, technology is all around and guidance is needed – that may provide an opening for insurers to demonstrate leadership and cement relationships. Consumers are “asking for innovative and timely introduction of new products to serve their needs,” Forgeron said.

The importance of putting the consumer at the centre was a point made in IBC’s submission – prepared by its members – on the mandate review of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Noting that IBC wholeheartedly supports the review, “we have called for a regulator that places the consumer at the centre and encourages product innovation and competition in the marketplace,” Forgeron said.

“The FSCO mandate review by the Ontario government creates a huge opportunity on many levels. But at its core, it’s an opportunity to give a new focus to an agency that plays a critical role in Ontario’s auto insurance system.”

Forgeron told attendees that IBC members envision a four-point mandate for FSCO: ensuring fair treatment of consumers; working proactively to preserve the conditions for affordability, choice and availability; supporting and promoting a healthy financial services sector; and encouraging competition and innovation to meet consumers’ diverse and changing needs.

The FSCO mandate review and the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators’ work on market conduct initiatives “are two good examples of how regulation and regulators can evolve to benefit consumers, and assist our industry in meeting the challenge of exponential change – and changing consumer expectations.”