Our Ontario Insurer Q&A blog series aims to provide consumers with some important insights into how insurance works in this province, and should help to counter some of the myths and misconceptions floating around in the media these days. We’ve presented some challenging questions to the market leaders of Ontario’s insurance industry, and you just might be surprised by some of the responses.
In this first installment of Ontario Insurer Q&A, Echelon Insurance answers some of the current hot button questions regarding insurance in Ontario. Founded in 1997, Echelon specializes in non-standard vehicle insurance, such as for high risk drivers, motorcycles, and vintage cars and motorcycles, and have recently expanded to offer standard commercial insurance and surety.
We’re always hungry for input from Ontario insurance companies. If you’d like to participate in the Ontario Insurer Q&A series, please drop us a line!
People claim in the media and on online forums that auto insurance in Ontario is making buckets of money for insurance companies and that the government guarantees profitability. Is this true?
Despite media perception, this simply isn’t true. In Ontario, the government plays a large role in regulating insurance rates to ensure that consumers have access to the insurance coverage that they need, and that insurers offer this coverage at fair rates. While your automobile insurance rates may seem high, the bulk of the premiums collected are spent on the cost of claims. For every Ontario automobile premium dollar that insurers collect, on average, $1.03 goes to claims costs and expenses – from repairing vehicles, to providing medical care for automobile accident victims.
As a publicly traded company, Echelon is in business to make a profit for our shareholders, however, we are also committed to reinvesting our profits back into our systems, and ongoing product development to ensure that we are partnering with our brokers to offering the right coverage.
What do you feel are some challenges faced by insurance companies in Ontario today, and what could they change to make auto insurance more “fair” for the consumer?
In addition to stringent government regulations, insurers face the ongoing challenges of unpredictable weather events, consolidating competitors with growing economies of scale, and rapidly evolving technology.
We think that a focus on technology will be one of the best ways to make the auto industry fairer. At a very basic level, technology speeds up the policy process, improves customer experience, and gives insurers insights to design and fairly price better insurance products. While Echelon isn’t the biggest player in the game, we are committed to continually improving our technology to make insurance easy and fair for our customers and brokers. At the same time, we work with our broker partners to better understand the unmet insurance needs of Ontario drivers and business owners, so that we can offer fair and accessible products to give them peace of mind.
Most importantly, we believe that consumers will find the fairest insurance by working with a broker, who has access to a wide range of insurance solutions, and their best interest in mind.
What are some of the most unique (unusual/memorable/quirky) home insurance claims that you have come across?
Well there have been many interesting home insurance claims in our near 20-year history. We had a claim a couple years ago involving a tree that feel through the insured’s roof. Upon inspection of the loss, the adjuster came across a family of raccoons in the attic of the home. We had to deal with this unexpected surprise and arrange repairs, after the successful relocation of the raccoon family.
What would be your advice for a first time home insurance purchaser to set themselves up for a lifetime of great, worry-free insurance?
Take your time, do your research and consult with an insurance broker. This is one of the most important purchases of your life and you want to make sure you find the coverage that fits your needs. Brokers understand the risks that your unique home may be susceptible to, and they can recommend coverages from a wide range of insurance companies, that are suited to your unique needs. The cheapest insurance is not always the best coverage.
What advice can you give someone who needs to make a claim and is hoping for a simple and quick resolution?
Immediacy is key. It’s important to report your claim right away as it gives our claims team a head start in resolving your claim. In some cases, we may even be able to prevent further loss, like in the event of a flood or other property damage.
During the claims process, it is important to work closely and with your insurance company’s claims professionals, and provide them with as much information as possible. Being accessible and collaborative will help to move your claim along, so that we can get you back to your pre-claim state!
It also goes a long way to make notes and take photos where and when possible. This can help prevent information from being lost or forgotten.
Many insurance companies, including Echelon have set up after-hours services, so you can report your claim anytime and anywhere. Don’t wait, report your claim!
What do you think will happen to auto insurance when self driving cars become the norm? Will owners still need insurance, or do you think the insurance will be provided by the car manufacturer?
We think that there will always be a need for auto insurance; however, the normalization of self-driving cars will add complexity to the system. Today, we have an established system for determining the cause of most car accidents to determine which insurance company or party should be held responsible for the cost of damages. With self-driving cars on the road, this dynamic will undoubtedly change, and we will now have to determine whether a vehicles hardware, software, or human error led to an automobile accident. Layer in the possibility of cyber-attacks, and it becomes even harder to determine the cause of an accident.
While car manufacturers may consider providing insurance for their hardware, and even software, we think that the expertise of insurance companies and brokers will always be required – although the products and services that they offer will likely evolve alongside technology.
With insurance rating data becoming more granular, do you think traditional broad rating factors such as gender and postal code will still be used as rating factors in the future?
We feel that the customer’s postal code and or location will always be a factor in insurance rating, geographically dependent factors such as population density, traffic patterns and availability of services are always going to be key driver of loss costs. Newer advances like using geospatial coordinates or satellite imagery allow for specific aspects of a consumer’s risk exposure to be analyzed and compared, but address continues to play a key role in risk. In terms of gender, we think that the progression and expansion of available data will allow us to see if the insurance industry’s previous notions of gender are in fact still accurate. In the end, the data will decide what factors should be considered in rating!
Cats or dogs?
Dogs, and cats that act like dogs, as they are loyal and survive and thrive by working together.
Special thanks to Echelon Insurance for taking the time to participate in Michell & Whale’s Ontario Insurer Q&A.