Digitization is shaking up industries across the globe and it seems the insurance sector is no exception.

For PBL Insurance, which has provided risk and insurance services to Canadians for almost a century, there was no doubt that digitization would be a central pillar of its strategic plan.  The firm’s Director of Technology, Joey Faraone, says that by undertaking a root-and-branch digital transformation and overhauling its legacy systems, PBL Insurance is “re-writing the way insurance companies do business in Canada”.

“I would say that technology is playing a very big role in driving PBL’s transformation,” he explains. “We went from having some very old technology pieces running our network to understanding that now is the time to invest and prepare the company for the next 20 years of the technology curve.”

Previously, Faraone says that PBL Insurance didn’t have a focused internal technology direction and so the Canadian firm decided to bring its digital strategy in-house. “The company wanted to get a better grasp on today’s technology and look at where technology will take the insurance industry in the future,” he says. “I was brought in to lead the development and management of new technologies and ensure that they align with the company’s business strategy.”

Becoming a digital broker is no easy feat, but this transformation was firmly at the top of PBL’s agenda. Starting from the ground up, the Ontario-based company set up brand new back-end infrastructure, including new fiber circuits, routers and switches. “We're wiping the slate clean and redesigning everything. We’re rolling out new technologies to help us minimize the equipment footprint but not sacrifice the service to our clients,” says Faraone.  

One of the company’s most cogent uses of technological innovation has been how it has selected a new cutting-edge broker management system. By adopting TechCanary, a solution based on Salesforce’s platform, PBL Insurance is breaking away from the confines of traditional insurance technology software. In using a cloud-based, analytics-driven system, Faraone says it’s reducing administrative burdens while simultaneously enhancing the visibility of its operations.

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“We are the first Canadian company to move to the TechCanary platform,” notes Faraone. “You could say there's a lot of eyes on us to see how the solution is being rolled out in the Canadian market.” With such a wide range of clientele and data, Faraone believes that the platform will help the company meet its customers’ needs and see what else it can do for them as an organization. “It means that we don’t have a one-way path for our clients, we can have a four-lane highway,” he notes.

Shifting away from costly, hardware-defined private networking solutions, PBL Insurance has also implanted a new software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN). This gives PBL the ability to leverage efficiencies and create a more reliable network. It also gives the broker the option to use data optimization and analytics while leveraging a breakthrough in routing efficiencies, enhancing performance and reliability with the flexibility and affordability of a cloud service.

“With our new network being rolled out, we've also put a lot of new contracts in place and we've implemented a new managed service provider (MSP),” Faraone says. “This is helping us roll out our network and enhance our user experience internally. The experience that our internal staff has been used to versus where they are today has been a complete 180-degree turnaround.”

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Cloud technology has been a major trend in the insurance industry. Aside from its ability to lower costs and boost productivity through mobile working, it also offers a business continuity plan and security. Not one to stay in the shadows, PBL Insurance is embracing cloud technology through its new broker management system and colocation site.

“We are moving towards the cloud more and more every day,” Faraone says. “There's no downtime and there's no lag, so efficiency is huge with this roll out. It’s ensuring that slow technology isn’t being used as a scapegoat. Our new broker management system also uses cloud technology which means our Account Executives can log into our system from anywhere and do business right on the spot.

“We also have a very good system where we back up everything on our network nightly and then we move it to a colocation site which has its own back-up there. Then we move it to the cloud,” he continues. “It may sound like there's a back-up of a back-up, but it's very important to make sure that we know where all of our data is and that it's accessible to us at a drop of a hat.

“It’s promoting efficiency and productivity, but it will also change the customer experience,” he continues. “By using cloud technologies like TechCanary, our customer will be able to get faster quotes and faster service while we tie everything together.”

With cutting-edge technologies being rolled out every day, technology partnerships have become critical to any digital transformation. Faraone believes that the company’s alliance with technology innovators like MicroAge is helping to drive new ways of thinking. “MicroAge is a global company which provides insights with network engineers,” Faraone explains. “We collaborate to work on developing and understanding the latest technologies to see how we can implement them here at PBL Insurance. We have continuous improvement sessions on how we can cut a little here, add a little there. This ensures that we run in a very lean but efficient way.”

Behind any successful transformation is the right team and a culture that fosters innovation. With this in mind, PBL Insurance strives to engage staff by asking for opinions on the direction they’d like to see the company go.  “When we decided to change broker management systems there were a lot of discussions, not just at the top but among all users about who is going be impacted by it. It's changing the complete way our staff do work on a day-to-day basis,” comments Faraone. “The system was received very well. I think the fact that we are evolving our technology and our way of doing business is helping to attract top talent to the company because they want to be part of this journey.”

With over 200 employees and 10 offices spread throughout the province, PBL prides itself on being uniquely Ontario based. Driving efficiency and productivity with its new digital tools, Faraone says that this transformation is not just reducing costs and administrative burden, it’s also freeing up more time so that it can give its clients the personable and responsive service they expect.

“We have a one-on-one direct relationship with our clients,” notes Faraone. “I think that's where we differ from other brokers. With 10 strategic office locations throughout the province, we have the ability to service our clients locally, and we take pride in servicing communities big and small in Ontario.  Our brokers, our Account Executives and our staff treat our clients and customers as if they are one of their own.”

Technology and customer service go hand in hand at PBL Insurance, and as the industry shifts under the influence of the technological revolution it seems the company is ready for any dynamic changes that may come its way. 

“In five or 10 years, I expect PBL Insurance will be the top broker in Ontario, building partnerships yearly with other brokerages in the industry,” predicts Faraone. “I believe we will be a leader in innovation and that we will be an example to other brokerages on how they can leverage the latest technology to their advantage. It's not always about spending the most money and getting the latest and greatest, it's about understanding and fine-tuning technology to your company's needs.”

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