IBAO convention: insurers divided on cross-selling

Companies need better tech if they want to do so, says Desjardins' Sylvie Paquette

P&C insurers are of two minds about expanding into life, health and mortgage product lines, speakers told IBAO convention delegates at yesterday’s CEO panel in Toronto.

It’s harder for any company to excel in two industries instead of just one, Intact president Jean-Francois Blais said. And customers may not want to buy all their financial services products at the same time.

In the 1980s, many P&C insurers opened life businesses and tried to sell a full line of products, Karen Gavan, president and CEO of Economical, pointed out. But those lines didn’t do too well. She and Blais agree product expertise is significant, and a P&C insurer might not be so well trusted in other areas.

On the other hand, Desjardins aims to offer as many products as a customer needs. But current technology doesn’t facilitate that well, said president and CEO Sylvie Paquette. Neither does company structure, which is too often divided into silos. Paquette pointed to Credit Mutuel, a French insurer with a 10 percent stake in Desjardins, as an example of how tech can help cross-selling strategies. The company offers P&C, life and health insurance, plus banking and telecom services, but its system pushes all customer data into one place.

RSA president and CEO Rowan Saunders said insurers can build better relationships with clients when they offer more products, but he doesn’t currently see cross-selling as a major focus.

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