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Keeping Small Business Insured During the Pandemic  
Lolita Wong
Senior Vice President, Begin Insurance
Gavin Rajania
Managing Partner,
Billyard Insurance Group
While most businesses have been impacted due to the pandemic, it’s the smaller businesses feeling the greatest effect. The last thing they want to worry about is whether or not their policy will be renewed. These two brokers share how they’re helping their clients mitigate those risks.
How has the pandemic impacted small business’s ability to find insurance?
The pandemic has undoubtedly affected some small businesses’ ability to find insurance. However, we don’t observe much negative impact with our own customers, especially those who already have a policy enforced. The difficulty for some small businesses to find insurance may arise at renewal time, when the insurance company asks for an inspection or the client needs to complete recommendations before the renewal date. Because of the lockdown, clients either aren’t operating at their premises or are unable to arrange workers or contractors to complete recommendations.
Some new businesses have emerged during the pandemic, such as wholesalers or retailers of non-medical supplies (face masks, face shields, etc.). This new type of business may require more product information and business history to underwrite and could take longer than usual to obtain accurate quotes.
As insurance has continuously remained on the essential service list, clients have had access to our brokers throughout the course of the pandemic without interruption. With the shift of workplace models moving from offices to homes, our brokers have remained accessible and available to quote and service clients.
Adjusting to last minute rules and regulations put forth by the Ontario Government has been a learning opportunity for everyone.
What are some of the biggest challenges small businesses face right now?
They’re experiencing financial challenges, and most don’t make it past their first year. The pandemic has made it nearly impossible for many to succeed, whereas larger corporate entities are more readily able to weather the storm. On the other hand, some business demands have increased because of the pandemic. The biggest challenge they face right now may be from the workforce. Some of their employees may be unable to return to the office because of challenges at home such as childcare due to schools closing or taking care of a sick family member. As a small business owner, it’s difficult to find immediate replacements.
Adjusting to last minute rules and regulations put forth by the Ontario Government has been a learning opportunity for everyone. Some industries have thrived while others have struggled. Many industries that were hit hard have had to make the difficult decision to close as they haven’t had the financial support necessary to stay afloat. For others, it’s forced many owners to re-evaluate business models and structures to adapt to the new norm.
Many of our clients' questions and concerns are related to coverage and premium. Questions such as what measures they should take to prevent loss while the premises are unoccupied, or if there are any changes to coverage if they extend or move their business to an online platform. Cyber liability and data breaches are growing concerns for small businesses with very little IT infrastructure.
How has your brokerage helped to support small business throughout the pandemic?
We understand that this is a very difficult time for small business owners. We try our very best to help, listen, and more importantly, look for solutions to give proper advice. We also remind business owners that it’s important to protect their business even if their store isn’t open right now.
We took the necessary action to ensure that all of our teams had full access to their systems within the safety of their own homes. Having access to systems, whether at home or in the office, was effective in minimizing any disruptions of service to clients. We’re currently working with small business clients and insurance companies to provide relief programs to aid small businesses during this time.
Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario
1 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700
Toronto, ON M4P 3A1
416.488.7422 | 800.268.8845
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