Building Your Go-Forward Response   
Dave Smiley, Chief Operating Officer, Unica Insurance 
It’s during challenging times like these that we have to think creatively to attract new customers. It’s the opportunity to reflect on current portfolios and the markets we’ve traditionally targeted. Brokers who are historically proactive and used to a sales-oriented culture—going after business versus waiting for the phone to ring—are still successful writing new business.   At the outset of this pandemic, brokerages were receiving dozens of calls from clients inquiring about premium relief, payment deferrals, NSF fee waivers and coverage changes. Brokers who responded quickly and in a positive way with the goal of getting back to business-as-usual are seeing opportunity in the shortcomings of brokers who did not respond well to this change.   
Brokers with a
 wait for the industry to go back to business as usual
 approach may find themselves struggling—the insurance industry may never return to its former status quo. By embracing this opportunity to focus on advancing technology and work-from-home capabilities, it may put you in a better position to serve the types of clients that require a broker’s touch.   Those that were paperless before, that were leveraging the capabilities of their BMS system, invested in technology and perhaps gotten a bit creative in terms of flexibility for working-from-home have done well and will continue to do well in the new world. I suspect it has also encouraged some brokers to reflect on the type of customer best served by a broker.    Although any customer can benefit from working with a broker, a healthy percentage of these clients may be content to operate digitally, direct or with a call centre. But there will still be clientele that continue to value the advice, options, expertise and service of a broker—clients that are less likely to have been impacted as strongly by the pandemic as others. Brokers understand which types of customers are more sustainable, insulated and protected from situations like this, and are also less threatened by a digital environment where direct writers and online players will continue seeking customers in the future. 
Build your plan—not just for disasters and typical business continuity situations—but as a permanent, go-forward response to how the new working world might look.
Brokerages finding themselves in new working environments will have the opportunity to test and craft formal plans with collaborative workspaces and customer engagement tools based on valuable feedback from their staff, who may no longer need to be in the office every day. Build your plan—not just for disasters and typical business continuity situations—but as a permanent, go-forward response to how the new working world might look, to help drive culture and help change the working environment.   Having said that, I believe the biggest change may not be process or technology related but hiring strategy and shifting mindsets to recognize that the people you hire need to be professionals with expertise and a passion for their work. Give them the right tools, processes and logistics to manage well, then trust them to do the right thing and execute what you need done. I’m not convinced our industry has historically done well with this approach—we need to be recruiting proactive people who will thrive in a professional environment and are willing and able to work from home while still delivering excellent value. Individuals who simply do what they’re told require much more hands-on, face-to-face leadership that better lends itself to an office environment.  As a niche Commercial and VIP Personal insurer, it was critical for Unica to quickly transition to a work-from-home environment to maintain strong service levels in  underwriting, billing and claims. We’ve been focused on helping our broker partners reduce workload and duplication of effort. When the time comes, we are offering to automatically restore coverage on insureds’ vehicles to significantly reduce the number of manual, high-touch changes required by brokers. Our recently announced 15% COVID–19 Premium Relief Refund and waiving of NSF fees have already helped limit the number of inquiries brokers are having to field from their customers. If we can make life a little easier for brokers during this unprecedented time, it will make it easier for everybody.   On behalf of Unica, thank you to our broker partners for your support during these challenging times—your personalized, caring service and strong knowledge of client needs are evident now more than ever.  
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