In the second part of David Eline’s interview with World of America CEO Lourdes Peters, she explains why, despite the impact of COVID-19, there remains a reasonable degree of optimism about the market’s health and its growing appeal to clients.
Despite the undercurrent of the pandemic and the uncertainty as to the length and impact of international governments’ restrictions to control the virus while global vaccination is beginning to roll out, Lourdes believes there is room for positivity as the appeal of comprehensive health insurance increases.
“I can only speak for Latin American and the Caribbean, but having spoken to our agents across our markets, all are reporting steady rising sales,” she explains. “We are very optimistic about the growth of our industry both domestically and internationally.”
World of America is continually expanding its reach and diversity in products. “As a broker, you have to be at the forefront of changes and keep up with the times,” adds Lourdes. “This year, we celebrate 39 years with an impeccable reputation. We occupy the top positions in sales for the companies we represent, and our growth is reflected by the diversity of companies and markets we reach.”
The broker surveyed their agents across 24 countries, and the results have highlighted the relationship the company enjoys with its partners. In the survey, 96.57% of the broker’s agents gave its service performance top marks.
“That makes us very proud,” added Lourdes. “More and more professionals worldwide are contacting us to join us and become our advisors. We continue to expand in a controlled manner; we believe it is the only way to deliver quality assurance. We have invested in new and innovative products alongside continued and constant training of our employees and agents while providing comfortable and agile tools to handle the day-to-day business.”
While many leading private medical underwriters are looking to technology to create new distribution channels and enhance broker’s and agents’ ability to speed the quotation and sales processes, Lourdes says COVID-19 has increased the speed of change and necessity of remote working.
“Some companies and brokers discovered the benefits of technology during the pandemic others that had to catch up needed to change with no digital infrastructure in place, putting them at a disadvantage,” she explains. “We saw the digital opportunity several years ago and established an aggressive approach for ourselves and took advantage by developing a system that included everything necessary in operating on multiple levels and markets.”
For World of America the transition to a fully remote operation was swift.
“Conditioning the entire organization to work from home, both in the United States and in the local offices in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, only took us a couple of days,” says Lourdes. “At the beginning of the crisis, we already had all the newly developed technology within our agency, which would allow us to work remotely from home without compromising the security of the information we handle. The experience has been very positive. We have increased our productivity thanks to technology coupled with our employees’ and executives’ commitment. As a firm, we have been able to switch to remote working rapidly. It is something that we had been doing before the pandemic, so the change was not a difficult one for us.”
She added: “We decided to cloud base all our systems while working with our agents in assisting them in doing the same. In effect, we have supported them to move towards a more digital way of working, which has created a great deal of loyalty. It made sense that for the benefits of the work we had done to be successful, we needed both ourselves and the agents to be able to operate in the same way.”
By the time the world was forced to learn to work remotely, World of America had already put in place all the steps and processes necessary with its agents to deliver immediate and timely benefits, she said.
While Lourdes said, World of America employees have missed the camaraderie they a return to the workplace. Looking to the future, she says it is improbable we will see a return anytime soon to the working environment we had in place before the pandemic.
However, threats remain for the market. The growing interdependence, while delivering benefits, also created new risks that needed to be recognized and addressed.
“Our model offers vital services that allow us to maintain a competitive advantage, ” Lourdes explains. “Therefore, we must always strive to be part of a greater solution.”
“Choosing the best products and working on permanent training and support to have the best advisers in the market is what drives us, and being the best in service is our primary objective.
“We have been an industry leader for the past 39 years. Our customer satisfaction is driven by the demand to provide personalized services in an environment that is continuously changing.”