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Insurance industry relationships key to risk manager satisfaction

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QUEBEC CITY — Insurers have come a long way in simplifying their policies, but brokers and insurers don't always take into account their customers' preferences when revamping their programs, according to the president of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.

Rick Roberts, RIMS president and director of risk management and employee benefits for Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc., Simsbury, Connecticut, said insurers have made progress in standardizing wording wherever they can.

“The old policies were unbearably difficult,” he said during a session at the 2015 RIMS Canada conference in Quebec City on Tuesday. “Now they're a lot tighter in wording, which I think is better from the insurance carrier's perspective as well because it's easier to understand.”

Mr. Roberts had high praise for the property policy issued by insurer FM Global, which is not his company's insurer. “You can read it as a noninsurance person and you can understand what's going on,” he said.

About 50% of clients read their policies, although it depends largely on the size of the risk management department and whether the risk manager has multiple roles within the organization, said Robert Dunn, chairman and managing principal of Integro Canada Ltd. in Montreal.

Mr. Roberts said he does not usually read his entire policy, instead relying on his brokers to ensure the policies have the coverage he requires. “I pay our broker quite a bit of money to negotiate and put policy language together so I know what should be in it,” he said. “I read a policy word for word if there is a claim.”

The high value of relationships

Mr. Roberts said his relationship with his long-time brokerage recently experienced complications after the unidentified firm changed its service model and several familiar faces left.

“I've never been asked if that's the service I wanted or if it's appropriate,” he said, adding that the change created a frustrating situation for him because three brokers from the team serving his company left the firm. “It's chasing good brokers out of their business. They're good brokers, so obviously your model isn't working quite right.”

The firm was previously the company's only broker, but Mr. Roberts now uses multiple brokerages.

“The broker that left, he had been with us for 15 years, and he knows our property insurance and us as a company,” Mr. Roberts said. “To me, it's still an individual game. It's not the firm game.”

Even though insurers are prone to make similar program changes, Mr. Roberts said his relationship with his insurers has been extremely stable, with the company having placed coverage with one insurer, American International Group Inc. unit Lex London, for about 25 years, he said.

“We're not a shopper of insurance,” Mr. Roberts said. “We've been with a lot of our carriers for a long, long time. It is that relationship that does allow you to get enhancements to your wording each and every year. I find the long-term relationship far more valuable than saving 10% one year and then seeing your premiums spike.”

Lynn Oldfield, president and CEO of AIG Canada in Toronto, emphasizes the relationship-building aspect of the insurer-client partnership, even in an age where young insurance professionals, like their brethren in other industries, are more likely to text than pick up a phone. She has even implemented “the Lynn rule,” which means her insurers are allowed one electronic interaction — one question and answer delivered electronically — before a phone call must be made.

“In a perfect world, I would like to deliver your policy the day you bind coverage, and to me that is the ultimate in contract certainty,” she said when asked what one thing she would change in the industry. “That means, to me, simplification.”