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Insurers to build on pandemic innovations
  Covid-19 provided the industry and regulators a real-time test of adjusted rules and policies
clients’ familiarity and comfort with virtual communications, including video calls. After the pandemic is finally over, advis- ors and their clients aren’t likely to revert to previous ways of con- ducting business.
“There’s no reason to drive an hour to spend five minutes with a client and then drive an hour back to your office,” Innes said. “[Doing that] just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Innes said he foresees a con- tinued role for in-person meet- ings over the long term, though, “especially when you’re estab- lishing a new relationship with a client. It’s good for them to know who you are.”
Frank said he hopes the indus- try and regulators can come together to discuss which of the temporary changes can be made permanent. The pandemic has provided the industry and watch- dog organizations a real-time “test run” of adjusted rules and policies.
“Are we concerned we’ve introduced risk in the system by moving to these new, more virtual approaches? Our view is probably not, in almost all cases,” Frank said. IE
together virtually, and remains in frequent communication through one-on-one sessions and group check-ins.
“We are allowed to be honest and we are allowed to have bad days,” Karmali said. “It’s OK to share [that] and let people know where we’re at.”
Karmali anticipates 2021 will bring challenges of its own, but said he and his clients are “cau- tiously optimistic.” He’s also hopeful that the year ahead will continue to shine a positive light on the value of financial advice.
“There is still a stigma that we’re just money managers; that we are just looking at invest- ments and creating and growing portfolios,” Karmali said. “I think what 2020 has shown is that we are a lot more intrinsic with our clients. We are a lot more con- nected with the people behind all that wealth, and that’s a great shift in our industry.” IE
   the canadian insurance
industry is looking to make permanent many innovations it adopted last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital processes, relaxed underwriting requirements and shifting client expectations are set to reshape the industry in the coming year and beyond.
When lockdown restric- tions began last March, insurers adjusted procedures and regula- tors suspended or relaxed rules so insurance advisors could con- tinue to serve clients and conduct new business. Electronic signa- tures replaced wet ones, regu- latory requirements involving in-person client-advisor meet- ings were dropped, and insurers’ digital application processes were streamlined and more broadly adopted.
“Covid-19 has forced signifi-
cant behaviour change,” said Keegan Iles, national insur- ance consulting leader with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Toronto. He estimated that some insurers “accelerated existing digital transformation plans by five years.”
Stephen Frank, president and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Industry Association Inc. in Toronto, said members are investigating how many reforms they can “embed and sustain” in 2021. “Everyone is going to be working really hard on that, both on the broker and the insurer side,” he said.
Byren Innes, managing dir- ector and executive consultant with Jennings Consulting Ltd. in Toronto, said the pandemic led to “a huge productivity gain.”
“Insurance advisors will con- tinue to embrace that produc-
tivity aspect while maybe adding a bit of face-to-face [interaction with clients] back into the pro- cess [post-pandemic],” Innes said.
In the initial weeks of the pandemic, many insurers found it challenging to manage the flood of client inquiries, claims and requests for coverage, said Melissa Carruthers, national life and health insurance strategy and transformation leader with Deloitte LLP in Toronto.
“There was early recognition that self-serve [digital] options need to play a more prominent role in how [the insurance indus- try] interacts with customers,” Carruthers said. Investment in digital self-serve capabil- ities “will be a priority moving forward.”
Carruthers said insurers also will focus on the digital trans- formation of their mid- and back offices, not just their client-facing applications. “You can only be so successful at launching digital tools with a manual backend,” she said. Digitization also will allow insurers to reduce costs.
One of the most signifi- cant changes last year was insurers temporarily raising the non-medical limits on life insurance policies to $1 million or $2 million, depending on the client’s age and other factors, from $250,000.
“All of a sudden, a huge per- centage of the Canadian popula- tion who need life insurance can get it without a nurse having to enter their home or workspace
a large segment of society, but at the same time, from our cli- ents’ perspective, the results of 2020 have actually been quite good,” said Todd Neff, financial advisor with Edward Jones in Burlington, Ont.
In times of economic uncer- tainty, Neff said, his mantra is to “stay calm, stay invested and look for opportunity” — a strategy that will be essential this year. Rather than dwelling on difficult times, he said, he chooses to try to learn from them.
“Look for the lesson,” Neff said. “What I have learned to do is never let a loss or failure pass without digging deep and trying to learn from it so we can get bet- ter because of it.”
You also can slow down and focus on what you can control, said Sue Derlago, vice-president and senior financial planner with Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management in Calgary.
There are many aspects of client service you can manage, from assessing the quality of investments and allocation of risk in a portfolio to addressing a client’s tax situation, Derlago said. “It sounds simple and it almost sounds boring, but hav- ing that consistent, repeatable process has been really critical:
[and] without having to pro- vide a blood or urine sample and answer a lot of questions,” said Cindy David, chair of the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriters and president of Cindy David Financial Group Ltd. in Vancouver.
Innes said he believes the higher maximum non- medical limits “are going to stick,” with insurers relying more on analyzing data they already have to make under- writing decisions. While insur- ers may be taking on more risk with the higher limits, revenue from premiums will increase and costs will be reduced by elimin- ating tests.
David said she anticipates insurance advisors will be “shifting or pivoting their busi- nesses” to take advantage of the increased non-medical limits and target underserved client segments, particularly millen- nials. The higher non-medical limits remove a key deterrent for people wishing to buy life insur- ance, she said: “It is no longer an arduous process that people give up on.”
The pandemic also changed
just staying on course and focus- ing on the things that you do, in fact, have control over,” she said.
You also can control your exposure to external influences — namely, the news. Derlago advises both her clients and her team members to limit their access to the news and stop checking portfolios daily. Such behaviour is “only going to cre- ate fear and anxiety.”
Clients expect their advisors to have the stamina to support them as tough economic times continue, so you should create habits and a routine to remain optimistic, Derlago said. “Our job as advisors is to stay above the noise,” she said.
During the lockdown last spring, Derlago’s team began holding daily group check-ins via Zoom — a routine that has been revived now that much of the country is once again under heavy restrictions.
“Implementing a daily huddle became really valuable for us to stay connected and also keep team members and staff posi- tive,” Derlago said.
Karmali said he prioritizes compassion and encourages celebration to keep his Edward Jones team engaged. The team celebrates birthdays and holidays
One of the most significant changes last year was insurers raising the non-medical limits on life insurance policies
  Lobbying on pharmacare continues
Insurance industry organizations will continue to engage the federal Liberal government about the shape of a pos- sible national drug program.
“We want to make sure that Canadians get to keep what’s working well [through their employer group plans] while
we make changes to help those who need it,” said Stephen Frank, president and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Industry Association Inc.
Said Guy Legault, president and CEO of the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting: “We don’t believe in a uni- versal program that will cost $20 billion for Canadians and will cover less than what most people get through their group insurance.”
    New year,
new sense
of optimism
Tips for refocusing and reframing after a tumultuous year
  l BY MADDIE JOHNSON while predictions for the
year ahead remain fraught with uncertainty, there is cause for optimism as we head into 2021 and — hopefully — leave the worst of the pandemic behind us.
To keep your spirits up and continue providing your clients with proper support, avoid dwell- ing on the difficulties of the past and focus instead on the year to come, suggested Faisal Karmali, first vice-president, portfolio man- ager and investment advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Calgary.
“I think 2020 has shown us the
things that we miss in our lives and what we’re thankful for,” Karmali said. “So, let’s focus on gratitude. Let’s focus on explain- ing to our clients why we’re fortun- ate and what we can be happy for.”
There is no question that 2020 was a tumultuous year. However, the resiliency of the stock mar- ket has been impressive, and the year ended with another bull market after a short-lived bear market last spring.
“I don’t want to minimize the fact that the pandemic has been extremely challenging for
“Our job as advisors is to stay above the noise”

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