Desjardins General Insurance celebrates its 25th anniversary as a direct insurer
LÉVIS, QC, Aug. 15, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - In 1987, Desjardins launched direct insurance in its caisse network and by phone—an ambitious and necessary initiative to turn around an industry that was experiencing major financial difficulties.
Desjardins had been selling general insurance products through a brokerage network since 1945, but in the 1980s, the cooperative took the bold step of changing its property and casualty insurance business model by making insurance available directly through its caisse network and call centres.
"Caisses weren't very enthusiastic at first. You have to remember that our property and casualty insurance business wasn't exactly flourishing at the time, and that we came within an inch of shutting it down altogether. But we were able to convince them that by changing our business model, we would all come out winners. In less than a year, over 200 caisses had an in-house insurance agent," notes Sylvie Paquette, President and COO of Desjardins General Insurance Group.
An industry turned on its head
The initiative, dubbed the "insurance war" by the media, was one of the most controversial developments to hit the industry. Not only did it revolutionize Desjardins caisses, but it also marked an incursion into what was traditionally brokerage network territory. Desjardins had to plead its case in court to retain the right to distribute direct property and casualty insurance.
"It was a major project that forced us to think outside the box, which isn't always easy. But when we look at how far we've come since 1987, we're glad we took the gamble. We currently have over two million insurance policies in force and we're proud of that!" adds Ms. Paquette.
In offering direct insurance to its members and clients, Desjardins set high customer service standards that are now industry standards. "We had to be irreproachable to convince our clients of the benefits of direct insurance. So we offered them our full support, from quotes to claims. In addition to being present in caisses, we set up call centres with extended business hours and 24/7 claims service," explains Ms. Paquette.
Today, 25 years later, Desjardins General Insurance is pleased with its track record. Its market share in Quebec has grown considerably from a paltry 0.4% in 1987 to nearly 20% in 2012. In short, Desjardins acted as a catalyst by setting the pace for the industry. Its success led to the expansion of other direct insurers and prompted banks to follow suit. The upshot is that Quebec's direct insurers now account for 60% of the personal lines insurance market.
Stimulating the economy across the country
A look at Quebec's economic landscape reveals that Desjardins General Insurance plays a major role. Indeed, to serve such a wide customer base, Desjardins relies on a large and highly skilled workforce.
In addition to some 400 insurance agents in caisses across the province, the insurer has 2,400 employees at its headquarters in Lévis and in Quebec City and over 430 in Montreal. With its growing presence outside Quebec, Desjardins General Insurance is creating new jobs elsewhere in Canada. Mississauga and Ottawa now boast a total of over 1,210 employees, while the company employs a staff of nearly 20 in Alberta.
"We're investing a lot of energy in strengthening our position across Canada. We've only been operating outside Quebec since 2000, but we already rank eighth among Canadian insurance companies, all business lines combined. And we intend to continue building on this momentum," concludes Ms. Paquette.
About Desjardins General insurance Group
A subsidiary of Desjardins Group, Desjardins General Insurance Group provides home and auto insurance to consumers across the country and commercial insurance to businesses in Quebec. With 4,000 employees across Canada, a portfolio of more than 2 million policies in force, gross written premiums of $1.9 billion and assets of nearly $4 billion, DGIG ranks among the largest P&C insurers in Canada.
About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group www.desjardins.com is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada with assets of $194 billion. Drawing on the strength of its caisse network in Québec and Ontario and its subsidiaries across Canada, it offers a full range of financial products and services to its 5.6 million members and clients. Desjardins specializes in Wealth Management and Life and Health Insurance, in Property and Casualty Insurance, in Personal Services, in Business and Institutional Services. "Best Corporate Citizen in Canada" for 2012 and among Canada's Top 100 Employers for 2012TM, Desjardins is supported by the skills of its 44,645 employees and the commitment of nearly 5,400 elected officers. A new education and cooperation program is now available to Desjardins members and the general public. For more information, visit www.desjardins.com/co-opme.
SOURCE: Desjardins Group
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