The coronavirus pandemic has taught many « lessons » for the insurance industry, and brokers in particular, that will be shaped by the events of 2020 as planned for next year. From the brokers’ approach to their people and their expertise, to their focus on data and technology, many companies are currently pondering how their business needs to change and what the biggest challenges they will face as the tough market continues and where they will be can find ways to capitalize on it.
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Brokerage chief Shawn DeSantis (pictured), President and CEO of Navacord, has some thoughts on how brokers should perform in 2021. When it comes to people, he explains that the value of broker teams cannot be underestimated, like the coronavirus crisis.
« Having our colleagues working in a positive environment and staying safe is what drives our business, » DeSantis said, adding that Navacord’s ability to adapt to crisis situations was critical this year. “Creating flexible working options for our colleagues, better communication with our customers and the use of non-traditional communication tools [are top priority]. The other change for our brokerage is the increased awareness of these issues and the importance of integrating them into our operating model. «
Read more: « We knew that change was coming and that we had to be part of something bigger. »
In terms of expertise, the pandemic has emphasized the importance of having the right risk advisors with deep industry understanding and insurance expertise for clients. In this climate, the generalist broker with limited markets is no longer the right choice for commercial customers, explained DeSantis. Accordingly, the broker for Navacord will continue to focus on industry specialization and provide ongoing training to its risk advisors to ensure they have a wide range of tools to help clients and colleagues succeed. These tools include access to legal advice, loss control, claims advocacy, and actuarial and modeling support.
« This includes a close relationship with a variety of insurance markets so that the right insurance program can be created on reasonable terms for customers, » DeSantis said, noting that internally this development is referred to as a « flight to quality. »
DeSantis continued, “Customers expect more from their brokers, and insurance companies are demanding broker quality more than ever. This, along with the tough market in most of the businesses, adds significantly to the broker’s workload. Having the operational know-how in dealing with the environment is therefore one of the greatest challenges for brokers. «
According to Jones DesLauriers and Navacord’s Q3 Marketplace Insights report, the two areas for Canadian placements hardest hit by current market conditions include properties in essentially all risk classes and Directors & amp; Officials Liability (D&O). Although other forms of liability insurance are available for most industries, capacities have been reduced. These conditions are not expected to exist until the end of 2021 at the earliest.
Navacord is well positioned to meet these challenges as it has been investing in the expertise, talent and development of its operational team and risk advisors for several years. As a result, during the coronavirus pandemic, Navacord has not shied away from putting customers and prospects at the center, offering them insurance solutions and access to different markets, while having the right operational team to provide market-leading service.
Read more: Pandemic Pullback: Relating Financial Market Changes
« The current tough market, coupled with the pandemic, has really created an environment where ‘no’ or ‘we can’t do this’ becomes a simple and understandable answer, » DeSantis said. « The opportunity is to go beyond that and find solutions for underwriters or clients who work for both parties. »
Navacord’s focus on technology is also paramount as the executive team looks to 2021. In fact, COVID-19 has tested the technology systems and requirements of all brokers, with the minimum investment in technology no longer sufficient if brokers want to keep up with the demands of their competitors as well as customers and internal teams in a rapidly changing risk landscape.
For Navacord, « advancement means technology is at the forefront of our business, » said DeSantis. « [We believe] that technology is more important than ever in supporting our colleagues, whether they are in an office or in a work-from-home environment. »
With that in mind, Navacord has focused on having the right security to protect the information of customers and colleagues, and positioning the broker as a cyber expert from both an actuarial and a business perspective. Technology will play a critical role in business development going forward, and will be widely used in webinars and virtual conferences, as well as building national insurance programs through zoom meetings, and improving Navacord’s communication touchpoints with customers.
« Customers are right to ask for more, and Navacord is well received – but are others ready? » said DeSantis.