Moving forward: Q&A with Intact’s Louis Gagnon

Company pledges a bigger tech investment for brokers.

What’s next for Intact? As the company moves forward with its $6.5 billion AXA Canada acquisition, clues about the soon-to-be-integrated company’s next steps are starting to emerge.

At the recent IBAO Young Brokers Conference, Intact Insurance president Louis Gagnon made several assurances to the brokers gathered in Niagara Falls: a bigger, more diverse Intact would allow for more investment in key areas like technology, branding and broker support that wouldn’t just benefit brokers—but would give the company a competitive edge in a market poised for new entrants.

“Big brand names are coming out right now, which could appear in Canada, and they will use their brand to come into the market,” Gagnon said.

He also stressed that the company wouldn’t pare down claims support or commissions following the merger. But questions still remain about other aspects of integration – what about product lines, or even broker lists in overlapping regions? Gagnon spoke to Canadian Insurance Top Broker about the road ahead.

Q. Intact has pledged to make a major investment in technology for brokers – what specific broker tech needs (ie. portals) will be addressed?

A. The size of the new organization [and its] financial stability will give us the potential to spend more in two areas that are key for the future of brokerages – investing in technology and developing and promoting a strong brand.

[We want to] make sure that the link between us and brokers is fluid because I think that having great technology between all stakeholders – between us and brokers as well as between brokers and customers – is a key factor to the success of any organization. The link between these three stakeholders [companies, brokers and customers] is key.

The Internet is here to stay and we have to position ourselves with the broker on the Internet in a way that will create an appealing offer. To do that, you need to invest in platforms that are modern and user-friendly and aligned with broker and customer needs. All our investments [in technology] will be based on making it easy for brokers and customers to deal with us.

This is the first place where we’d like to use our size and financial stability to spend. The second one is on our brand—we believe a strong brand will be a key factor in the decision process of consumers. It’s important that we have a well-recognized brand, one that consumers will buy in to and brokers will feel they are selling a product that is well-known so that they can sell that product more easily.

Q. So are you tying in ease of communication and ease of use with the brand?

A. Absolutely, that’s what it’s all about. Consumers or brokers are going to go the way that’s easiest, most affordable and that resonates with them in terms of quality and reputation.

Q. Following the merger, Intact will have a presence in some new markets, but it will also have more broker saturation in others. Will there be changes to the broker roster?

A. The market is very competitive. We have no intention of changing the composition of our broker list with the addition of AXA brokers. We will continue to manage brokers as a whole.

Q. What impact will the merger have overall on product lines? Will any lines be culled?

A. There are a few reasons why we were interested in AXA: because of their discipline, their financial performance and stability, depth of their management team, and their wide product suite. We will look at the two suites of products, our and theirs, and combine the two and make sure we’ll keep everything that we can and even expand going forward.

Q. Current Intact brokers aren’t expecting big changes post-merger. What advice or assurance do you have for them?

A. We have established great relationships with existing Intact brokers over the years and it shows in [IBAO’s Broker’s Choice] survey results in Ontario where they [brokers] decided that we were the insurance company of choice. Ontario is only one example; we believe we have the same philosophy [across the country]. We are building a world-class Canadian-owned P&C insurer, where all decisions and processes will take place close to home.

We’ll keep our locations where they are right now and we will continue to offer them [customers] the best claims service. [Despite the integration] we have to make sure we don’t jeopardize customer or broker service. We’ll also have financial stability. We are there in good times and bad times. We will also offer an extended suite of products for existing brokers. It’s a great proposition.

Q. What assurances do you have for an Axa broker who’s never worked with Intact before?

A. First of all, we’ll say, “welcome.” It will be a great opportunity for them [AXA brokers] to build that world-class business [with us]. They will see that we are very close to our brokers; our [broker] relationships are key. We have great financial stability and [can offer them] support for acquisitions/changing their models, a strong brand and investments in technology.

Q. What processes did Axa have on the claims side that worked well for them?

A. We are just starting the integration process, so we’ll be able to see the similarities and differences in the near future.

Q. We’ve talked a bit about branding. How will Intact reaffirm its brand?

A. We will increase the intensity of publicity, marketing and community involvement. We are preparing a plan that will create a bit more brand awareness in the market. It will be a multi-faceted plan that will touch brokers, consumers, customers…many stakeholders across various mediums –TV, the net, etc.

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