Excel-ing at the game

By Geoff Lee

August 4, 2016 10:24 AM

Lareese Graf, general manager of Excel Insurance Group Inc. in Lloydminster is bucking the trend with a menu approach to new annual renewal policy coverages that they might not need or want to save them a lot of money in the current economy.

Excel Insurance Group in Lloydminster is not bowing to pressure from the 30 or so insurance companies they represent to automatically add new coverages to their clients’ policy renewals.
“We’re aware of the risk of not automatically adding coverages, but we believe people are smart enough to understand and make that choice themselves,” said Lareese Graf, general manager.
The local brokerage, one of 10 in the Excel group is offering its property insurance clients a pick and choose menu that could lead to savings up to $1,000 for unwanted or expensive home insurance coverages in addition to annual premium markups.
“The majority of our carriers are coming out with anywhere from two to four new property coverages,” said Graf, citing new flood coverage as an example.
“That’s the primary one that’s coming out.”
Other new notable coverages in Canada for some policies include home equipment and ground water or overland water insurance.
“In the insurance world you never need them until you need them, so that’s how the other brokerages look at it,” said Graf.
“We’re taking the unpopular stance compared to the other brokerages and direct writers of not automatically adding these coverages to our insureds’ policies.”
Graf explained it’s the brokers, not the insurance companies they represent who determine if new coverages can be added automatically without consulting the policy holder first.
She said she’s okay with her brokerage going rogue to keep customers happy.
Graft said Excel wants their clients to be educated and understand the coverages that they are offering them with an eye to saving them money during the current economic slowdown.
The local insurance group is one of 31 firms included in Insurance Business Canada magazine’s top brokerages for 2016 with its standout customer service mentality.
Staci Obchansky, account manager said as each policy comes up for renewal, it’s standard practice at Excel to contact each client and go through it with them.
“We let them make the decision and the policy changes as they feel it needs to be done,” she said, noting essential coverage needs are specific to each insured client.
“Every case we want to look at it and see what best suits their needs and go from there.”
Graf said the flash flooding of many Lloydminster homes in the July 11 downpour would have triggered flood insurance coverage for those who had it, but she said it should be the consumer’s right to add it.
“Upon renewal they have to make the decision if they want the coverages or not,” she said, adding flood insurance is not appropriate if you live on top of a hill, like she does.
Graf said they have a checklist they go through with their renewal clients to keep them up to date on various changes to their property policy including wording changes and new deductibles and limits.
“It’s a lot of work for us right now, but we’re willing to do the work to satisfy our customers needs rather than make them cranky because of a rate increase,” she said.
Graf added the motivation to be different comes from the experience of sales staff like Obchansky who had previously worked at other brokerages that dealt with a lot of angry customers who had coverages automatically added at renewal time.
“That’s what we heard when we started this brokerage was that people did not want that,” said Graf. “They want to be educated; they want the option.”

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