Founded in 1839 – 28 years before the founding of modern Canada – Gore Mutual Insurance is defined by its rich history. The insurer has borne witness to two world wars, having pledged $50,000 and $100,000 to support the Canadian war effort in WWI and WWII respectively. The Canadian insurance company has also seen the advent of automobiles, offering automobile insurance for the first time in its centennial year, and then went on to help the victims of the catastrophic Grand River Flood. Later, in 2015, when new legislation offered the chance to demutualize, the firm decided against this, harking back to its long held desire to help communities in their times of need. Rooted in a tradition of courage and cooperation, Gore Mutual may be Canada’s oldest property and casualty (P&C) insurer but it isn’t bound by its historic legacy. In fact, in many ways, it has always been at the forefront of innovation.
With almost two decades of experience at Gore Mutual, Jamie McDougall, Vice President, Business Intelligence & Analytics, has had a lasting impact on the firm’s digital and insurance footprint. Marrying his innate knowledge of the claims and underwriting business with a zeal for technology, he affirms that digitisation is helping the company “enable our broker partners in an increasingly digital world”. “We are using the explosive developments in digitization data, business intelligence (BI), self-service analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable a mature business transformation that is both genuine and thoughtful,” he explains.
The handling of data is nothing new for the insurance industry, but disruptive technologies are helping to uncover endless new opportunities. Gore Mutual Insurance has identified BI and analytics as one such innovation which is a “strategic priority”. With the aim of making its use more pervasive in the business, Gore Mutual established BI and analytics as a separate entity and asked McDougall to take on the role of Vice President of Business Intelligence and Analytics. In doing so, Gore Mutual has sought to put more meaningful data, analytics, insights and information at its leaders’ fingertips so that they can make better decisions whilst enabling conversations across the business. “Ongoing advances in data analytics allow us to be more agile and gather insights in the business,” says McDougall. “It helps us improve our broker experience and the experience of our consumers. We’re becoming more proactive and not just reactive. We are driving improved claims and underwriting operations,” he adds. “The new entity is ensuring clarity of focus. It indicates to the organization that this is an enabling set of technologies and we recognize their value in the insurance space.”
Good BI requires good data – and this was top of the agenda for Gore Mutual as it embarked upon its latest digital transformation efforts. “We're heavily focused on creating curated, quality data assets to build trust in the information,” says McDougall. Forging a promising partnership with Information Builders, the Canadian business has worked hard to master its data and build quality data assets. “We utilized their platform as a way to distribute information and insights to the appropriate individuals so that we can make better and more informed business decisions,” he adds. “It has absolutely delivered concrete value to our consumers, to our brokers and to our business.” This has allowed Gore Mutual to provide more sophisticated pricing to the market, whether offering auto insurance or even flood and earthquake insurance. Gore Mutual has also developed close ties with integrated software company Earnix, using its software to further empower the organization.
In the fast-moving world of technology, close collaboration is everything. Championing this spirit, last year Gore Mutual built its Discovery Concourse in its campus in Cambridge, Ontario. This is a spot where continuous innovation seems to be in the air and where the hands-on creation of insurance solutions is commonplace. Featuring a high-tech innovation lab, McDougall says this area acts as a hub where “brokers, insurtechs, reinsurers, technology partners and Gore Mutual employees from different departments can collaborate on solutions to solve industry issues”.
This proactive stance is a must in the insurance world. The nature of risk is ever-changing – and insurance needs to transform with it, not only to remain commercially viable but also to protect customers. “In our business, responsiveness to the consumers’ needs is critical: we want to be there when they need us,” notes McDougall. “If we know that a dramatic storm is coming or a forest fire is burning, we can be proactive and identify the exposure, policies, and those consumers at risk. At times we have proactively called brokers, identified the consumers in their portfolio that are at risk and then proactively contacted them to ensure that they're okay and that they didn't experience loss. This data offers transformative value that we can bring to the business.” As well as using its own analytics, Gore Mutual has worked shoulder to shoulder with Aon to try and understand the “complexity of catastrophic loss protection” when creating models for flood or earthquake risk. The firm has also forged ties with DMTI for detailed location information, which McDougall describes as “a quality data provider”. Another key insurance industry data partner, OPTA Information Intelligence, has enabled Gore Mutual to improve its assessment of risk through advanced information tools as well as through OPTA’s developing of advanced analytics and modelling. Gore Mutual’s openness to enhancing its abilities through quality partnerships is a credit to the insurer and a recognition that in advanced analytics there are many paths to success.
As well as industry partnerships, McDougall is keen to shout about Gore Mutual’s remarkable network of brokers as well as its internal team. Attracting and retaining talent may be a challenge for some businesses, but at Gore Mutual McDougall asserts that individuals seeking “breadth of scope, accountability and ownership” are easily attracted to the firm. “We’re large enough to be dynamic and creative,” he adds. “Our value proposition for attracting and retaining talent is about creating a very complete and holistic value proposition for employees.” McDougall has evidence to back up this claim: last year Gore Mutual was awarded for being a ‘Best Workplace in Canada’ and also recognized as a ‘Best Workplace in Financial Services and Insurance’ by the Best Workplaces Award and Great Place to Work® Canada respectively. In February 2019, the business was named an ‘Employee Recommended Workplace’ for putting employees’ health, wellness and workplace experience at the forefront of its operations. McDougall is confident that 2019 will remain a banner year for the firm as there has been a “resurgence or recognition of the mutual proposition”.
On the road ahead, Gore Mutual is set to keep its finger on the pulse of the latest technology trends as it constantly evolves and grows into a leading mid-market modern mutual insurance company. Yet it’s clear that despite this bright future, the firm won’t forget its historic legacy any time soon. “Gore Mutual will be 180 years old this year and we’re very proud of our history,” concludes McDougall. “The organization started as a district mutual fire insurance company and has become ingrained in the communities where we live and work – it's part of our story.”
“We're a modern mutual,” he asserts. “We continue to grow and invest in our people, our business and our communities. I’m confident that Gore Mutual will continue to evolve to become an increasingly analytic yet always human business.”