The COVID-19 virus has forced life insurers in North America to make a “pandemic pivot” towards digital transformation and distribution, practically forcing the industry to positively readjust its business model to virtual.

Michael Williams, head of the Canadian Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (CAILBA), said many MGAs in Canada have had to change their business models since the pandemic entered the country to meet the needs of clients, insurers and advisors.

“You would not believe how hard that was for some of us adjusting to that,” said Williams. “Now, we’ve got it figured out,” Williams told an Equisoft-sponsored webinar on July 23.

The virus has also pushed forward companies’ business continuity plans, which insurers have been mandating MGAs implement across Canada for the past two years, said Williams.

With the demand for life insurance soaring in the United States, there is also a greater need there to adapt to what consumers want in terms of technology and innovation, said Dan LaBert, CEO of NAILBA, CAILBA’s American counterpart.

Brokerage general agencies in the U.S. have been able to pivot without too many hurdles after they followed the lead of U.S. Nationwide Insurance which announced it was going digital with staff working permanently from home.

The need for life insurance has skyrocketed

But LaBert says the future of the industry still comes down to the direction on technology. “The need for life insurance has skyrocketed and the need for applications is already coming in. The brokerage agency, the advisor and the carrier that can [best] adapt to the consumers’ needs fast enough will be the front runner.

“I say this tongue in cheek: but it takes a pandemic to change the insurance industry. But crisis also equals opportunity.”

Tana Sabatino, Implementation Services Specialist at the Canadian Life Insurance EDI Standards (CLIEDIS), said it’s taken awhile, but the industry is finally seeing innovative ways of getting things done, like e-signatures, instead of just revisiting the old rules and procedures.

“Unfortunately, or because of this [COVID-19], we are finally seeing the changes we were looking for.”