This article is sponsored by Church Mutual Insurance Company S.I. (a stock insurer)1. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Church Mutual® Broker Relations Supervisor Deena Adams to learn how a senior living operator can tell that a potential insurance broker is looking out for their best interests, the value of automation in senior living insurance and why access to information is the most common request Church Mutual hears from operators.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you draw from most in your role today?
Deena Adams: I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in many areas of the insurance industry and obviously, experience in commercial insurance and in business and organizational skills is invaluable, but what I draw from most is what I have learned on the people side of the business. Taking care of customers, and always looking at how to get better at it, serves our company best.
Our business is all about people, whether it be the customers, the brokers, my co-workers or my team. We need to stay focused on who our customer is because our customers are the company. At Church Mutual, we are always looking to understand how we can improve on the customer experience.
Church Mutual has taken some bold initiatives to support senior housing. How do you describe the company’s philosophy toward the industry?
Adams: We entered this niche specifically to support our faith-based customers, believing that it aligns with servicing the greater good, and it’s grown exponentially from there. With more than 120 years in the business, we believe that this holds true today in the senior living industry. We strive to provide services that best serve the seniors of our country.
You personally work hard to be a champion for brokers. What are the first lessons that you teach brokers about how to work with senior living operators?
Adams: The brokers who we appoint and work with are consummate professionals in the senior living space, which matters, because senior living coverages, placements, risk management and risk mitigation can be extremely complicated and multi-layered. It takes years of experience to really understand the industry and to know what’s important to the customer. We only work with the best. When they come to us, we focus on teaching our Church Mutual specifics: how we like to deliver our products, our philosophies and our message that comes with the importance of coverage knowledge.
You believe deeply in the value of establishing strong relationships between the carrier and the broker and between the broker and the customer, and doing this at the start of the sales process. What would the signs be to a senior living operator that a potential broker is looking out for their best interests?
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Adams: First and foremost, it’s about the experience that a broker has with the carrier they represent. This industry is ever-changing, and a senior living facility needs an expert that understands risk management and mitigation. This expert should be a company that completely understands their business to properly protect their residents, and they need to be aligned with a carrier like Church Mutual that does everything it can to take care of a customer in the event of a claim
Keeping a broker long-term allows that broker to deeply know a customer’s business, to know what their employees are about, what their practices are about and who their customers are. The longer a broker works with a client, the better they get at knowing exactly what type of insurance coverage is needed to keep their operation safe.
What are the biggest ways in which Church Mutual’s services differ from competitors?
Adams: As I mentioned in the beginning, we are always focusing on our customers because they are the company, and our goal is that every layer of the organization strives to act with honor and purpose. Our number one priority is to take care of our customer and to do it in a bold, courageous way.
This takes a lot of work from the inside out. We work with our employees and our brokers to come together to send that message. Senior housing protection is more than just the insurance coverage. It’s the importance of getting the experts behind that and bringing with it a carrier that can help that broker meet the operator’s needs when they have a claim. At Church Mutual we also provide value added services specifically designed to keep seniors safe.
How is Church Mutual utilizing automation in its service offerings?
Adams: As you can imagine, automation is an important initiative for any insurance carrier, and we’re always working to update our systems to provide a technologically sound environment. This will always be a people business, but of course with the technology as it is, the quicker and more accurately you can produce a product for a client, the better. Church Mutual is continually updating systems. We’re specifically working on a system upgrade that will increase service and reduce the time it takes to deliver our products.
We are enhancing our claims system to stay current with all the ways in which we mitigate risk and make that information available to our customers. We are always looking to improve on how we can meet the needs of our customers quickly and more efficiently. We have investment strategies in place with some large goals ahead of us to meet the ever-changing technology needs of this business.
What are the most frequent requests that you receive from brokers and how do those illuminate the benefits to senior living operators of the work with Church Mutual?
Adams: The top three would be information, information, information. [Laughs.] Our brokers are always looking for industry data to help identify trends, so they can improve on their service deliverables. As a service to the broker, we try to stay current and on pace with how we can get them the information that’s out there, the actual data mining, where our customers are and what they need and what the landscape looks like. We then look at how we can deliver on that information once it gets processed and analyzed. We survey and solicit feedback directly from our brokers and account managers through our Producer Council and Account Executive Council. Listening to these leaders helps us to improve their experience and it helps us as a company to improve our products and meet the needs of the ever-changing senior living environment.
But if I had to go beyond “information,” increased communication is vital, not just on product knowledge but company initiatives and what our company is doing for our communities. Church Mutual supports our communities not just in donations and funding but also by getting out there and working within our diverse communities, and our brokers are a big part of this initiative. The reason we have such buy-in from our brokers is because we have promised them our value and we have stuck to that promise.
When we appoint a broker and they become one of our partners, it’s a special relationship for them. We try to keep that promise as we go forward. Ease of doing business is big, because just like in any business, if you’re doing business with someone, the easier the better. Of course, with the technology as it is today, it is a continual quest, “How can we be nimble? How can we be accurate? How can we be user-friendly?” Those are the things that are important to our brokers and we need to meet those needs.
2020 was an unprecedented year, but there are reasons for hope. What are you most hopeful for in the senior housing industry for 2021?
Adams: I’ll start off with the number one thing that I’m most hopeful for: that the COVID issues are mitigated and they cease to become such a large factor in all of our lives. We are very hopeful as an organization, with COVID cases declining and with excellent vaccination rates for residents of senior living communities, the outlook will turn.
As a company, we’ve got great optimism that occupancy rates for our customers will begin rebounding. Many people held off on placing their family or relatives into senior living communities, because of the fear of COVID, so there is demand right now from those seniors who delayed their entry. It has caused not just business interruption but familial disruption, and we are really looking to the future to have the COVID issue mitigated for us so we can move forward and deliver on our promises.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Church Mutual Insurance Company S.I.1 is a dedicated carrier for senior living operators. To learn more about how Church Mutual can get your organization the best coverage, visit churchmutual.com/seniorliving.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.”