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Insurers must prepare for disasters, respond efficiently to customers: Panel


NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario — Greater challenges are requiring even better disaster responses, while remaining engaged and involved can help retain business when disaster does strike, according to speakers at the Canadian Commercial Insurance Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

When severe flooding hit the city of Calgary, Canada, in June 2013, it brought unprecedented chaos and destruction to the city, requiring a faster and more robust response than previous emergencies, according to the speakers.

“We can no longer afford to work at the speed of government,” said Coby Duerr, Assistant Deputy Chief, Calgary Fire Department, during a panel discussion, “Creating value from chaos: Broker/Carrier Lessons from recent cats”.

The floods represented a new level of destruction. “It was like having Niagara Falls running through the city of Calgary,” said Mr. Duerr

Whether the floods represented a 100-year event as suggested by one listener, responders must be ready.

“This is the new normal,” said Irene Bianchi, senior vice president, claims and corporate services, at Toronto-based RSA Insurance Group. “We are planning that way because we don't want to get caught being wrong.”

Responders must “get ahead of the curve and understand what the roles are,” said Bob Fitzgerald, president of ClaimsPro, Inc., of Toronto, which handled losses for 80 different clients during the floods, including about 13,000 claims and over 1,000 commercial losses. He also emphasized “communicate, communicate, communicate.”

Staying engaged with clients after a disaster can make or break an account. “It's the follow through afterwards — you must manage the process,” said Calgary-based Eddie Fung, vice president, BFL Canada. Further, securing coverage in the wake of a disaster for accounts which experienced losses can be difficult, and those brokers who can achieve adequate coverage for these clients can differentiate themselves from the rest, he said.