Women of Influence: Cathy Preston

By Kate McCaffery | August 18 2014 09:00AM

Cathy Preston

Conviction strengthened by personal experience

Cathy Preston, vice president, life and health insurance at RBC Insurance, is an advocate for clients, and for those who serve their needs, as well.

Professionally, she is of the opinion that Canadians generally do not have enough insurance coverage for their needs.

We need to transform...How do we make it easier for sales people to sell, and for the Canadian population 
to get insurance?

Personally, that conviction is strengthened even further by her own health: Just two years after her own mother died in 1996, Preston was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis – the same autoimmune disorder her mother suffered with since Preston herself was eight years old.

“The future became frightening,” she says. Still, with the help of her employer, the insurance coverage she had in place for herself, and medical advances that far exceed those available when her mother first fell ill, she was able to successfully recover from her first round with the disease.

“After having illness in my immediate family when I was so young, and then being there myself, it changed my perspective. It’s probably made me even more passionate about this business, and more passionate about making sure people have enough coverage,” she says. “I get really discouraged when people really needed the extra coverage, but have not gone out to get it, and something adverse happens to their family. It’s hard to take.”

Where some banked-owned insurer executives might, understandably, be more focused on direct sales, she is a strong supporter of the consumer-advice relationship advisors have with their clients. “A lot of people still appreciate the face-to-face conversations, especially when you have so many insurance options out there.”

In addition to working with the Arthritis Research Foundation (she is currently fundraising to support new testing technology that will identify if treatment is working, far sooner and less invasively than can be determined today), Preston speaks at conferences, making presentations to the likes of Best Doctors, and to Ryerson University’s, Women in Leadership.

Natural tie-in

Professionally, she says there is a very natural tie-in for the industry to her work with the foundation. “Arthritis is the leading cause of disability now, and it’s related to a lot of co-morbidities – heart and stroke, cancer and mental health. It’s costly for employers, for insurance companies, for governments, and families.”

Historically, she says insurance companies have tended to focus on product delivery from an operational point of view. Today, though, she says “there is a lot more outward reaching from the industry, which I’m pleased to see.”

Internally, the company is working on the creation of simplified, more understandable contracts, and simplified products with fewer underwriting questions. “We need to transform,” she says. “How do we make it easier for sales people to sell, and for the Canadian population to get insurance?”

“Moving the life and health business forward is important for me. I’m always hopeful people have the right coverage. When you do get sick, families are affected drastically. One thing you don’t want to focus on is the financial aspect of it.”

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