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An insurance broker's place in the current climate and beyond

HIGH RIVER, AB, Nov. 16, 2020. It's safe to say 2020 has been a trying year for all businesses and the insurance industry is no exception. Western Financial Group has been able to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19 by focusing on the unique needs of our customers and our people.

Insurance brokers have a valuable role in the current climate which will continue as we move in to 2021. Brokers have a unique ability to adapt to market conditions. Pivoting to the needs of the customer will continue to remain essential.

Moving into 2021, business will have to continue to adapt and pivot, including adopting new communication channels, investing in new technologies, flexible hours and options for customers to contact them.

"Focusing on the needs of the customer has never been more imperative than it is today," says Mark Rouleau, Chief Strategy Officer for Western Financial Group. "There is great opportunity that exists in reinforcing the Broker Value Proposition, beyond the price point, through expanding the customer experience options."

From the start of the pandemic, Western has pivoted to serve the needs of the customer, while maintaining staff and keeping health and safety top of mind.

"We have seen many challenges in the insurance industry over the last number of years, including increased claims due to catastrophic weather occurrences and a hardening market, says Kenny Nicholls, President and CEO of Western Financial Group. "All we know is that it is imperative that brokers and carriers alike evolve and adapt to change quickly and effectively, even more so now than ever before. Businesses need to be nimble and be able to adapt to the changing environment.

"As a group, Western was able to quickly implement a work from home strategy, adapt our employee benefits, and implement new technology to better serve our customers and better support our people simultaneously."

Communication is Key

Reflecting back on 2020, one of the most important things that transpired for Western was increased communication, internally and externally. Having clear direction and knowing what exactly to share with customers and employees was essential and continues to be.

Customers still need insurance and they need the right coverage tailored for them. Having brokers available through a multitude of channels has never been more important. Brokerages, like Western, can demonstrate to customers that they understand the market challenges and still have a full understanding of their risks and coverage needs.

"We didn't really skip a beat," says Joe Sirianni, Chief Operating Officer, for Western Financial Group. "Our people acted quickly and efficiently, and we are so pleased with our strategic response to the changing marketplace conditions, including how we serve our customers in a pandemic. There have been challenges but the value of the broker has never been more important."

Insurance brokers offer a unique perspective as the "middle ground" between customer and insurance company. Having an insurance broker can help customers better understand their insurance policy and have more options for coverage. Through the pandemic, Western has been able to offer customers more options for customer contact by continuing to invest in technology and keep all channels of communication open.

"This year really forced us to expedite our timelines for technology investments," says Rouleau. "As a group, we quickly realized what we would have to do to make investments in our network to continue effectively serving our customers. We were able to continue operating as a group with little downtime while we upgraded our technology on the fly."

Throughout the year, a major importance was also placed on employee benefits, enhanced sick leave and a more flexible work from home model for many employees. Employee wellness was top of mind and continues to be a theme as we finish up 2020.

"The theme of this year has been to adapt and pivot," says Lisa Osachoff, Chief People Officer for Western Financial Group. "Even though this year has had its challenges, we have seen some really great outcomes by enhancing our employee offerings and pivoting during this time. I am really proud of the direction the organization is headed and excited to see what the future brings."

Western Financial Group Inc.

Western is a diversified insurance services company that has been caring for the insurance needs of over one million Canadians for more than 100 years. Headquartered in High River, Alberta, today, Western provides personal, business and life insurance services through more than 180 locations, affiliates, and online, with a skilled and growing team, providing the right protection for all Canadians.

Western is a subsidiary of Trimont Financial Ltd., a subsidiary of The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company.

For further information: Katherine Cormier, Communications Consultant, Western Financial Group, Katherine.cormier@westernfg.ca