Originally Published by Canadian Underwriter, December 23, 2020.
Chris Sekine, President, CEO, Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company
COVID-19 has affected most businesses, and the insurance industry is no exception. Businesses are operating in a more uncertain environment than ever before. Insurers and reinsurers have adjusted underwriting appetites, which has influenced portfolios, available capacity, and pricing. Given current hardening conditions, we expect industry results to gradually improve. For many businesses, near-term results will be contingent on government support in response to the pandemic and the potential for further lockdowns.
Insureds are navigating challenging industry dynamics. The pandemic, combined with the hard market, amplified the need for brokers and their value. This is true for both insureds and insurers, and especially those with complex commercial risks. Trisura is a broker-driven company and we are working closely with our broker partners to navigate these turbulent times.
We expect the risk tolerance of businesses/insureds to evolve. Cyber risk is a good example of an exposure that businesses may not have appreciated. As cyber attacks have increased through COVID-19, businesses are looking to the insurance industry to help manage this risk.
We expect many business trends established before COVID-19 to return and business operations will resume much as they were pre-pandemic. For example, we anticipate a return to working in-office and in-person interactions with our brokers and partners. Although most companies successfully transitioned to working remotely, we don’t believe that is sustainable in the long run. Businesses rely on personal relationships. Virtual meetings are a great temporary measure, but they simply can’t replace in-person meetings.
That being said, the success of remote working arrangements will provide a broader tool set to employers and employees. For those with appropriate job functions, employers should offer flexible working arrangements.
Embracing technology will enhance productivity and collaboration of established operating norms. What hasn’t changed is that good people are the very core of a successful business.
This year’s Insurance Business Canada awards may have taken on a different format, but there was no denying that the excitement could be felt through the entirety of the event. The event celebrates the insurance industry, recognizing organizations and professionals for their dedication and achievements. And we are proud that a member of Trisura’s talented team was selected as the 2020 Underwriter of the Year!
Emily Thompson, a senior underwriter for Trisura, has been in the insurance space for seven years. Throughout her career, she has been eager to learn and grow, and is now often consulted for her expertise in the surety space by both clients and peers alike. As 2020 has proven to be a year full of unique challenges, Emily has been integral in Trisura’s approach towards working through the pandemic, maintaining a sense of consistency and continuing to offer unique solutions for industry partners.
Congratulations, Emily, on this much-deserved accolade!
We chatted with Emily about her professional journey so far. Below, she delves into how she got started in the industry, the help she has received and her advice for potential industry newcomers.
Trisura: What is your favourite part about working as an underwriter in the surety space?
Emily: Without a doubt, the people. The surety industry is very people-driven and working collaboratively with great people across our industry makes the work exciting. Every client is unique, and we are often presented with scenarios where a traditional approach might not work. I find that through collaboration, both internally and with our external partners, we can arrive at a positive outcome for everyone. It’s exciting to deliver a tailored solution and enjoy in that success with others.
Trisura: What drew you to the industry?
Emily: As a math and business student in university, surety underwriting intrigued me with its combination of financial analysis, understanding a business’ health and the teamwork involved between the surety, broker and client. But while the numbers tell part of the story, listening to a client proudly tell the story of their business and their past successes builds a strong connection with the client, and gives me, as an underwriter, a glimpse into their world. Getting to know the people in a business provides a great insight into how they operate and how I can best support them. The analytical part of the job drew me in, but its the people I have met that make the industry a great field to work in.
Trisura: How has the pandemic impacted your role, and have you implemented a new approach in conducting business with your brokers?
Emily: The pandemic has had a big impact! To me, the most important thing has been maintaining strong communication. Everyone is managing more uncertainty than ever, while also navigating a new work environment and managing multiple priorities. Maintaining transparency and open communication has been important to me in conducting business. I also aim to ensure the way we operate continues to be consistent and offer stability.
Trisura: Do you have a mentor? If so, what sort of impact has he or she had on your professional development?
Emily: I have had a number of mentors over the past few years at Trisura. Each of them has taught me a lot about the industry, underwriting, communication–you name it. They’ve also given me a lot of room to practice new skills and throw myself into new projects, learning more along the way. I can’t thank those mentors enough for allowing me many opportunities to grow both as an underwriter and a person. There is always more to learn, and I am excited to continue to do so, with the support of some great people at Trisura and throughout the industry.
Trisura: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in insurance?
Emily: Dive in and be curious. For me, I was looking for a career in a field relating closely to my math and business background. I hadn’t considered insurance seriously, until my second co-op term with Trisura when I started in surety underwriting. In the first few days, I quickly saw how interesting the business was and began asking questions and soaking up information. As I immersed myself in the industry, it opened doors that I didn’t even know existed. There is always something more to learn, and I’m excited to see what more is in store!