The 2016 Fort McMurray Wildfire in Alberta, Canada was one of the most expensive natural disasters in Canadian history, costing an estimated C$3 billion for insurance companies.
More than 88,000 residents had to be completely evacuated from Fort McMurray and surrounding areas on very short notice. Evacuation centers became temporary homes for some residents, while others stayed with their friends and families in nearby towns and cities. Many fled the wildfires with little more than the clothing on their backs, leaving their homes and businesses behind. The need for cash for food, clothing and accommodation was high.
Insurance companies, including RSA/Johnson Insurance, came to the rescue, setting up booths at the evacuation centers to help the residents process their claims.
Traditionally, in catastrophe situations, emergency funds are provided to customers in the form of checks, which are only accessible once they have been deposited and cleared in their bank accounts. But Fort McMurray was a unique situation, as there was uncertainty about when the evacuation orders would be withdrawn. Furthermore, the claimants had no access banks where they could deposit the checks.
RSA’s treasury department understood the situation and our customers’ predicament. The team assessed different payment options to get emergency funds to our customers quicker and easier than in previous catastrophic events. Within a short period of time, we decided that payment through Canada’s Interac e-Transfer system was the best way to go as it was simple, fast and easy for everyone, most importantly, the customer.
To complete an Interact e-transfer, all the field adjusters had to do was to collect the name of the insured, their policy number and email address and send them to the treasury team after authentication. Clients would receive an email with a link through which they could access their bank account online and deposit the funds right away after answering a simple security question.
The feedback from the customers was very positive. They received help when they needed it the most. Directionally, this aligned with RSA’s ambition to provide simple, responsive and consistent customer service in everything we do, and went a long way to winning their loyalty.
Treasury is often perceived to be a backbencher when it comes to customer service, but we managed to change that in our company by employing a simple payment solution to fit the needs of our customers.
Sanjay Popat, CTP is senior treasury consultant for RSA Canada.