At a time when society is INCREASINGLY IMPACTED by changing demographics, rapidly evolving technology, climate change and a competitive environment, the insurance industry is charged with responding to new realities, expectations and risks.
“It’s an exciting time for insurance, and we have to continually innovate to offer the products and services that meet consumers’ needs,” says Debbie Coull-Cicchini, executive vice-president at Intact Insurance. Yet despite the backdrop of rapid change, insurance is still a “people business,” she adds. “Intact Insurance is provided through brokers, who can often leverage their local knowledge to help their customers with the right kind of coverage. From our perspective, delivering an extraordinary customer experience is key.”
Ms. Coull-Cicchini sees four key trends that are shaping the insurance industry: evolving consumer expectations, technology, climate change and competition.
By 2025, millennials will make up 75 per cent of the Canadian labour force. These changing demographics mean increasingly tech-savvy customers who expect businesses to be responsive 24/7, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini. “We are putting greater emphasis on creating experiences that are faster, simpler and more empathetic.”
She explains that accessibility and convenience can be enhanced through user-friendly online platforms. An example is Intact Insurance’s Client Centre, a self-service portal that allows customers to access all their insurance information online, including policy details, billing statements, as well as track current claims, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini.
“Technology is changing how we live and do business, and one of the most powerful tools emerging today is data,” says Ms. Coull-Cicchini. Many Canadians are willing to exchange their data for value-added products and services. Usage-based insurance programs, for instance, can offer customers discounts on their car insurance based on their driving habits.
“For example, Intact Insurance has a program called my Driving Discount that records driving data using a mobile app. It looks at metrics like acceleration and hard braking, and allows clients to secure discounts for good driving.”
Data from home technology like Nest, which allows homeowners to set or change room temperatures remotely, or Ring, which facilitates monitoring entrance cameras from cellphones, can improve security and safety, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini. Access to data can do more than offer extra value for customers, she says. “It has the power to change behaviours and shift mindsets.”
Climate change presents one of the most significant challenges facing communities and the insurance industry, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini.
“Climate change is impacting Canadians now. Insurance losses hit a record of $4.9-billion in 2016, eclipsing the previous high of $3.4-billion in 2013, the year of the Alberta floods, which was once considered the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history,” she says. “In 2016 alone, there were 13 significant weather events with losses over $25-million, which places a tremendous strain on our communities.”
While Intact Insurance is focused on helping Canadians get back on track after a weather event, Ms. Coull-Cicchini says it’s also taking a proactive approach to help Canadians protect themselves from increases in severe weather, establishing the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo in 2015 to find new ways to help governments and Canadians adapt to climate change.
The fourth emerging trend is a competitive landscape. “New competitors respond to changing consumer needs with various apps and solutions,” says Ms. Coull-Cicchini. “In addition, we also see a lot of consolidation in the Canadian and global markets.”
In an industry where new products and services come online on a regular basis, brokers are uniquely positioned to pair their knowledge of products with an understanding of the customer, says Ms.Coull-Cicchini, who adds that Intact Insurance looks to broker feedback as well as consumer surveys for identifying market opportunities.
An example is Intact Insurance’s EDGE Complete, a product that was developed in response to a need identified by brokers and consumers, she says. “We heard that businesses would welcome a broad coverage and flexible solutions – so this product is not only easy to understand, it is easy to scale up to reflect business changes. It has been very well received.”
For more related to this story visit globeandmail.com