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Transformation of P&C business is required, not optional: CEOs at Top Broker Summit | Canadian Insurance
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Transformation of P&C business is required, not optional: CEOs at Top Broker Summit

Brokers and insurers have to be active in changing their businesses in order to move forward

The function of the broker isn’t dead but transformation is required to bring businesses into the future, agreed five chief executives who spoke at Canadian Insurance Top Broker’s annual Top Broker Summit in Toronto on Monday.

“[Mark Twain] said ‘the report of my death is an exaggeration’… I think about the context [of that quote for] the people in the room, the brokers in the room and I believe that,” said Mike George, president and CEO of Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company. “I think the rumours of your demise are greatly exaggerated.”

However, “you’re going to have to up your game,” he added.

George was one of five insurer chief executives involved in a series of small group discussions that allowed broker attendees to speak to leaders about topics such as digital disruption, cybersecurity and carrier strategy.

The end of that session had all five leaders addressing the audience to share their key takeaway from those group discussions and the theme was overwhelmingly clear: transformation is required on the part of brokers and insurers.

George’s advice to brokers is that they choose their partners strategically to ensure that those partners can help brokers move their businesses forward over the next five to 10 years.

Change requires dedicated time to think about the enhancements that have to be made, added Silvy Wright, president and CEO of Northbridge Insurance, who also participated in the group discussions.

“I know that time is limited [and] resources are limited,” said Wright. “Everyone is busy, everyone is selling, everyone is worrying about getting through those transactions but if we’re not thinking about the future, we’re not going to be better off.”

Wright echoed George’s advice on the importance of being strategic regarding broker collaborations. “It is about choosing the right partners and not just the right partners on the carrier side but the right partners on the innovation side and the right talent,” she said.

Rowan Saunders, president and CEO of Economical Insurance, focused on the need for collaboration within the industry. “The main message is that unless we have this mentality of challenging ourselves, disrupting ourselves, someone else will do it to us,” he said.

Change is key and it is not solely on the shoulders of the brokers, according to some of the participating CEOs.

“Protectionism is a fatal strategy. That applies to you as well as us,” said Greg Somerville, president and CEO of Aviva.

Aviva’s own path to transformation is based on an agenda that revolves around the needs of consumers but is also designed to find ways to make its business a cost-efficient one, according to Somerville.

That broker channel isn’t going away but to the extent to which it remains relevant largely depends on everyone’s commitment to reduce costs and bring propositions to consumers when they want them and how they want them, he explained.

David Levinson, president and chief agent of Zurich Canada, explained to brokers how his own company is handling the need to transform in order to respond to the needs of brokers and customers. This means investing in technology and people at the insurer, said Levinson.

“We are training [our employees], we are role-playing,” he said. “We want them to be much better focused underwriters and think about the customer first and be more responsive than they have been in the past.”