Published: October 29, 2018
Payments Canada spoke with Brenda Gibson, Vice President, Financial Planning and Analysis at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company about the opportunities modernized payments can bring to insurance organizations and their customers.
What are some of the payments challenges the insurance industry faces?
One of the biggest challenges facing all businesses, not just insurance, is keeping pace with customer expectations. Technology enables this in most cases, but technology is only part of the solution. The other pieces are data and process.
In Canada insurance is primarily sold through intermediary brokers. As a result, customers don’t distinguish between insurance companies and brokers. They simply expect a seamless payment experience. In order to provide this experience, process, data and technology need to be aligned. This alignment in itself has really been a huge challenge for the entire industry. The core issue is around effectively passing the payment from one party to another, along with the relevant data.
What opportunities associated with modernized payments are you most excited about and why?
In insurance there are two primary types of payment streams. Claims payments – getting out money to people in their time of need as quickly as possible – tends to be the top focus. However, one of the biggest opportunities associated with modernized payments that I’m most excited about is around premium collections. Premium payments - categorized as large volume, low dollar value transactions in the payments landscape - represent the biggest bulk of our use of the payments system. These type of transactions really lend themselves to mass efficiency needs.
How do you think ISO 20022 will positively impact your business processes and possibly customer satisfaction here in Canada and beyond?
An insurance transaction is initiated when a customer is in a broker’s office and purchases insurance or makes changes to an existing policy. These transactions trigger a payment or a payment adjustment. It is important that the data follows that payment so the policy and a customer’s payment method are appropriately adjusted. ISO 20022 - underpinning Canada’s modernized payments infrastructure - will facilitate this transaction flow, enabling that data and payment to flow together seamlessly between customer, broker and insurer. This will, ultimately, lead to a better experience for customers and brokers.
Another aspect we're excited for when it comes to ISO 20022 is the opportunity to have a common messaging standard for our policy and billing applications. For all of our offices - in Canada and the U.S. - we have the same policy management system. Having the same standard across all systems will allow for consistent maintenance on the end of processes, which vary in each country.
Modernizing Canada’s payments system is a collaborative process, involving Payments Canada’s member financial institutions, our regulators and stakeholders such as Wawanesa. How has your organization been a part of this collaboration?
I’ve been involved with Payments Canada’s Stakeholder Advisory Council since 2015, as a representative of the property and casualty insurance industry. Wawanesa is very supportive of my role, as a significant corporate stakeholder in the payments system.
Wawanesa is also working with Payments Canada on some case studies around ISO 20022. Our goal is to use the studies to showcase the business case for ISO 20022 adoption and work with our bank to better understand what's involved with implementing the standard.
Wawanesa Mutual Insurance is the largest Property and Casualty Mutual insurer in Canada with $3 billion in annual revenues and assets of more than $9 billion. Wawanesa Mutual, founded in 1896 with executive offices in Winnipeg, is the parent company of Wawanesa General, which offers property and casualty insurance in California and Oregon, and Wawanesa Life, which distributes life insurance products and services throughout Canada. With over 5,000 employees, Wawanesa proudly serves over two million policyholders through nine regional offices and 41 service offices in Canada and the United States. Wawanesa actively gives back to organizations that strengthen communities where it operates, donating well above internationally recognized benchmarks for excellence in corporate philanthropy.