Calm in Crisis with Technology

Michael Spiar, Broker Relations & Communications Specialist | The Alberta Broker, August-September 2016

Over the past several years, the insurance industry has been under enormous pressure to adopt new technologies in order to better meet the expectations of today’s evolving consumer. To be sure, the benefits of doing so extend beyond customer service—digital workflows improve efficiency, reduce costs and enable employees to focus  on serving customers instead of filing paper.

Most importantly, they enable our industry to continue serving those customers in the event of a large-scale disaster, and to do so as quickly as possible. It would be the ultimate irony if the industry tasked with providing business interruption insurance were unable to do so as a result of, well, business interruption. As many brokers can attest, just because their office is damaged as a result of flooding or wildfire, the number one priority must continue to be serving customers and helping them get back on their feet.

“Our office in Fort McMurray is located right downtown, so we were evacuated in early May along with everybody else,” says Chris Floyd, president of TW Insurance Brokers. “We just reopened the week of June 13. And yet, we had complete business continuity.”

To accomplish this, TW Insurance equips its staff with laptops rather than traditional workstations, enabling them to connect to their broker management system (BMS) to access customer data and documents no matter where they are, and shifts workload to its other offices as needed. “They can connect remotely to the BMS and to our telephony and do so in the course of a normal workday, not just in catastrophes,” adds Floyd.

In the case of Fort McMurray, TW Insurance ensured that brokers equipped with laptops were present at both the Edmonton and Lac la Biche evacuation centres, available to support customers in need.

The floods of 2013 affected many other brokerages in a similar way, including Calgary-based BlueCircle Insurance. “We were out of our office for about a month, and during that time, of course, we still had to work,” says Dirk Bruggencate, partner. “We had people working from home, gathered in our president’s house and took full advantage of technologies such as eDocs and eSignatures to continue serving clients. We were able to send them documents in a timely manner, they were able to sign those documents in a timely manner and people were extremely happy with that.”

For Floyd, technology is just another way for brokers to put people at the centre of what they do—particularly during periods of high demand such as during the wildfire. “We made communication a top priority. Email, Twitter, Facebook, websites, these are all great ways to reach people. eDocs and eSignatures are fantastic for continuing to carry on the business of insurance, but it all comes back to putting the customer first.”

TW Insurance also used its website and social media platforms to go beyond the business of insurance, supporting customers on a more personal level. “For customers who need service on their policy, eDocs and eSignatures are great, but others just need emotional support during a crisis,” adds Floyd. “We have a partnership with Graham Guidance, a counseling service, and were able to put their advice and resources right on our website and social media.”

It is not just brokers who benefit from technology in a crisis. Claims management firm Crawford & Company made headlines last September when it used an aerial drone to survey damage at a fire-loss site in Waterloo, Ontario. The potential for drones in insurance is vast. “It could be on a large commercial loss such as a warehouse or industrial site, where access may be delayed due to safety concerns or clean up,” said Pat Van Bakel, president and CEO. “A drone could give almost instant information on the extent of damages.”

All IBAA members are automatically members of CSIO, and may access educational resources about technology including videos, webinars, white papers and articles on many of the technologies mentioned here on our website, including eDocs and eSignatures. Visit to learn more.