June 23, 2024

Serene Nest

taking care of your health, Our Mission

Industry Voice: The role of brokers in the Canadian marketplace

3 min read

When I began my career in the insurance industry in 1990, I was taught (the company had a six-week training programme at head office, referred to as ‘new man school’) that “insurance is sold, not bought”. Accordingly, I was provided scripts to memorise and instructed on how to counter objections that might come up during a client meeting.

Today, that paradigm is no longer the case. According to a 2021 article by Insurance Thought Leadership, we are now in a middle ground where insurance is both sold and bought. Customers still rely on advice about insurance but they also begin their searches online, speak with friends and family, read online reviews, and as a result, come better prepared. The pandemic accelerated the move to digital with some customers not speaking with an agent or broker before buying a policy.

This increased influence of advice and expertise has resulted in many companies expanding their travel insurance ‘bench strength’

However, according to a September 2023 McKinsey & Company article, the insurance industry cannot sacrifice the human touch and focus solely on digitisation – insurance customers rank agents as the most trusted source for learning about insurance products.

As President of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), I have had a front row seat in the important role travel insurance advisers (brokers, agents, licensed call centres) have in offering travel insurance.

Understanding the customer 

Travel insurance advisers understand the unique needs and habits of consumers of all ages (single travellers, families, ‘snowbirds’, Super Visa applicants etc.), enabling them to help compare, combine and coordinate travel insurance options to find the right coverage at the right price to meet their personal requirements.

Jeff Pudwell, President of 21st Century Travel Insurance, feels that “unless you are a very savvy consumer, buying a product as complex as travel insurance without speaking with anyone can often result in a purchase driven by price alone. The best deal is often not good value at all if there are special needs that are not adequately addressed by the product purchased. An agent or broker who knows their stuff can help tremendously in finding the right coverage and in providing support with the claims process should a claim occur.”

Since 2020, Canadian consumers have come to rely more heavily on their travel insurance advisers, as many needed advice on how to obtain their insurance coverage during uncertain times – with Covid-19 waves, government of Canada travel advisories, the weather- and airline-staffing-related flight disruptions, to name but a few. The value for consumers is that travel insurance advisers bring choice, advice, and help with selecting the right coverage for the right price. For Canadian snowbirds, this is particularly important as factors such as age, medical conditions, even trip duration all play a part in finding the most appropriate insurance and are where the value of a travel insurance adviser can be most felt.

Will McAleer, Vice President of CanAm Insurance Services, echoed the need for coverage certainty, particularly with those with more health considerations: “While it is important for all travellers to ensure they have coverage for their medical conditions, it is often the snowbird who knows most about their conditions and the need to ensure there is proper coverage in place to address them. For these customers, speaking with an insurance broker who specialises in travel insurance is often the best decision. The last place you want to be checking about your coverage for a pre-existing medical coverage is on the way to the ER!”

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