How Aviva GCS’s Programs division is charting a new course forward

How Aviva GCS's Programs division is charting a new course forward

How Aviva GCS’s Programs division is charting a new course forward | Insurance Business Canada

Commercial Solutions

How Aviva GCS’s Programs division is charting a new course forward

Find out what 40 underwriters told VP to do next

Commercial Solutions

Desmond Devoy

This article was produced in partnership with Aviva Canada.

Desmond Devoy, of Insurance Business Canada, sat down with John Hastings, vice president of the GCS Program & Portfolio Solutions division at Aviva Canada, to discuss changes in the programs sector, and how the insurer is looking to collaborate more with brokers and their clients.

The Canadian insurance market is undergoing a significant transformation due to the ongoing consolidation of broker distribution and the noticeable increase in Managing General Agents (MGAs), which has prompted a wave of change as there are fewer retail insurers than ever before. Aviva Canada’s Global Corporate & Specialty (GCS) division is actively adapting to these shifts, demonstrating their commitment to staying ahead in the industry.

The division is rethinking how it gets things done, as evident in its GCS Program & Portfolio Solutions business operation, where there is an increased emphasis on collaboration across its broker and client relationships, as well as nurturing existing portfolios, while keeping an emphasis on the most compelling ‘business cases’.

“We are making changes to the way we work. But they are all positive changes, strategic changes. There is a change narrative of looking critically at our legacy business and making sure that everything we are doing is fit for purpose,” said John Hastings (pictured), vice president of the GCS Program & Portfolio Solutions, at Aviva Canada. “It’s meant to work with the best and most innovative.”

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Hastings is the new leader of Aviva’s GCS Programs & Portfolio division and he has spent a lot of time probing into why things were done a certain way as an industry within the programs space.

“Often, I heard variations on ‘that’s the way it’s always been’,” he said. “I’ve found when that’s the prevailing response, there is a terrific opportunity to work with brokers to innovate, improve and consider the risk and opportunities we hadn’t considered.”

So what specific changes are his team looking to bring?

“When it comes to growth, we start with discussions with our brokers on how to grow our existing portfolios first. For new business, we must prioritize inbound underwriting submissions that are part of a broader business case – thoughtful cases from brokers that challenge us to think differently and excite us about the opportunity to invest in their customers channel, market or product,” said Hastings.

Recently, Hastings and his team have partnered with brokers and customers on a diverse range of portfolios in warranty products, fronted programs, beverage manufacturing, food service franchisees, and equipment rental centres, among others.

There are fewer national carriers – an opportunity that Aviva GCS is seizing, re-thinking how capacity, products and services are brought to the market via a program or group-buying channel, in a way that brokers and clients can “succeed together”.

The ultimate aim is to redefine what it means to be a program and/or portfolio solutions provider.

A team approach to innovation

Hastings said he took this innovative approach cue from his team of about 40 underwriters, which he summed up as having the “ambition to develop the coolest stuff.” This means “delivering innovative solutions to our customers and brokers…(by) having the willingness to let the leash go long and see where you get.”

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It is taking a more proactive approach to pipeline management and thinking about marketplaces rather than segments, expanding the view of industry segments like construction or manufacturing to include risks and businesses that are adjacent to, or supportive of, a particular segment.

Hastings intends to have a “more deliberate and proactive approach to program, segment and product development,” he said. He noted that his team is thinking strategically and longer-term, beyond annual program renewal cycles, and is asking for more “robust” business cases from its partners, “cases that go beyond underwriting data found in a routine submission.”

“We are working with our Business Development colleagues to both communicate to, and support, brokers, because it is more work for them,” he said. He has seen several recent examples from “brokers who are receptive to this approach (who have) delivered very high-quality presentations that grabbed our attention and helped us see the future the broker wants to achieve for their customers and their businesses. Their energy and vision is very motivating.”

How else is change helpful to brokers?

“I think even the most conservative underwriting mind opens wider when a case is more compelling, provocative and offers a path forward that, perhaps, we could never have imagined,” he said. “They break down negative biases towards a risk or segment and help an underwriter see where it could fit in their portfolio.”

Finding new ways to reach out to related businesses

So, what is the future vision for GCS Programs & Portfolio Solutions specifically?

“It’s to reach a point where Aviva GCS is the leading insurer in programs and portfolio solutions for groups – buyers, affinity, franchisee, and associations,” he said. “This means you have like-minded, homogenous businesses that are choosing the recommendation of their broker to buy as a collective to enjoy economies of scale, better value, customized cover, and competitive pricing.”

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“I want to be the best offer in that space,” he added.

The second part of the vision is to work with brokers who really understand and value Aviva as a financial services company, and to work together to deliver an integrated offer to their customers.

“Good customer relationships drive growth,” Hastings said. “How we’re changing is asking brokers for opportunities in our existing portfolios and when we consider new opportunities, for their support in creating a pathway to effective engagement with the policyholders, or group buyers, or the associations, or board of directors, to whom we would ultimately deliver service and policies.”

The business in programs continues to evolve and change, and he admits that there is still work to do, but it is going to get better, even if their approach is “slightly unconventional.”

Making connections with customers that validate a broker’s recommendation and demonstrate an insurer’s value tend to build long-term, durable relationships. They “can be a gamechanger,” he said, “and a very competitive advantage to a broker who is open to that kind of engagement.” 

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