Canadian Underwriter

Demand for omni-channel drove this brokerage merger

August 17, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Hub International Ltd. is planning to use the recent acquisition of a Windsor, Ont. firm to expand its online services with existing brokerages.

“The reason why we bought Cypher Systems Group is we really felt that we wanted to have an omni-channel offering for our customers,” Hub Canada president Tina Osen said Friday in an interview.

Omni-channel refers to companies in any industry that offer a seamless experience to customers interacting through various means, such as by phone and over the Internet.

Chicago-based Hub was formed in 1998 through the merger of 11 Canadian brokerages. Hub announced the acquisition of Cypher’s property and casualty insurance business acquisition Aug. 2.

With that deal, Hub’s operations now include Southland Insurance Brokers Inc., and Insurance Hunter Services Inc.

“We are very committed to Insurance Hunter,” Osen said Friday.

Insurance Hunter, in essence, is an online brokerage that says it gives consumers quotes from seven carriers in three minutes or less.

Hub is “very committed to build out our mobile capabilities the ability for customers to buy online from us, to self-serve with us where they want to self-serve, to engage with us in the contact centre environment,” Osen said.

About 10% of Cypher Systems customers use the company’s digital capabilities for self-service, Osen noted.

“We would look to expand that capability, ultimately, into our retail footprint so that we can give that choice to our customers,” she added. “That may be payment, that may be an address change, there is a variety of things that could be.”

Southland has brokerage offices in Windsor and the nearby communities of Tecumseh, Leamington and Harrow. Other recent Hub acquisitions include Carlton Insurance Brokers Inc. of Jasper, Alta., Delisle Agencies Ltd. of Delisle, Sask. and Gamble & Associates Insurance Limited, which has nine brokerage offices in southwestern Ontario, including Sarnia and London.

Hub needs bricks-and-mortar brokerage offices to “help customers who are coming off the street,” Osen said. “We see that continuing for the near term.”

But Hub also needs to serve consumers who want to get things done from home.

“Often I am coming home at the end of the day and after my children are in bed, if I’ve got some things I want to take care of, I want to have that ability to do that online,” Osen said. “Cypher brings that capability that we didn’t have into the mix.”

With the deal announced Aug. 2, Hub owns the property and casualty business of Cypher Systems. The non-insurance operations of Cypher Systems – which Hub is not buying – include the Windsor Spitfires junior hockey team. Hub will establish Hub Customer Central, which will be led by Stephen Savage, John Savage, Brian Schwab and Dave Dyer, the executive team of Cypher Systems.

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