by Angus MacCaull

Sharon Ludlow became the new president of Aviva Canada last June. She’s been busy meeting Aviva staff and independent brokers around the country, flying in and out of Toronto, where she’s always called home. I had a welcome chance to speak with her on the phone in December. It was neat to have a brief chat with someone on the Women’s Executive Network’s list of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women for 2013.

Sharon told me that her first year at Aviva is going well so far. “My vision for Aviva is to win in the markets where we play,” she said. I asked her what she sees as some of the main issues in the insurance market in Canada today.

The first important issue according to Sharon is to serve customers in the way that they want to be served. This means an increasing focus on digital interactions. There are more and more customers who want to discover and reach out to companies through the internet, so it’s key to have the presence and the capabilities to respond. “Customers want to use whatever service is easiest,” she reminded me, which is probably true in just about every industry.

Another issue that Sharon noted, one which is also relevant to a lot of industries, is the ability to react to market disrupters. We live in a period of acute technological and social change. This means that sometimes unforeseen factors come along and disrupt the normal activity in a market. An example from outside the insurance industry that’s been in the news recently is the company Uber. Uber is a ridesharing service facilitated by a smartphone application that has completely disrupted the market for taxis in certain cities. If traditional taxi services want to flourish, they’ll have to find a powerful way to react.

The final issue that was on Sharon’s mind was the use of predictive analytics. “The companies that are going to win are the companies that embrace using predictive analytics,” she said. She stressed that it’s important for companies and brokerages to set up the kinds of data systems required to do this work. Insurance at its core deals with statistical realities. A certain number of people in a certain area are going to have a certain number of accidents that require a large expense, whether it’s the loss of a car, or a home, or anything else held dear. We know that these losses will come—we just don’t know exactly which individuals will be affected or to what extent. Predictive analytics can’t completely solve these unknowns, but studying the appropriate numbers can give us all a clearer picture and the ability to make better estimates.

Wrapping up, a thread that goes through all the issues that Sharon and I talked about is our new online reality. “We want to be digital first in our interactions with brokers and with markets,” she told me.  Aviva is paying close attention to this, as are we at AA Munro.


Headhot of Sharon Ludlow
Sharon Ludlow