The international broker in times of crisis

inside | April 20th, 2020

The role of the insurance broker is to help in selecting the most appropriate guarantees to meet the needs of his policyholders, but also and above all, and this is so often forgotten, to be there at their side when a problem, an accident or a crisis occurs.

Indeed, it is not a question of just “selling” a contract and then leaving the insured to deal with the insurer. On the very opposite, it is about being the mediator between the insured (company, association or NGO) and the insurer.

Our mission is to help, support, explain, advocate, communicate, reassure and negotiate, and more importantly, to ensure that the interests of our policyholders are protected. At times, we must also explain that the impossible cannot be achieved…

At this moment, more than ever, this mission is taking on its full sense, and this is why I would like to share some of the questions I have been faced with this week.

Over the past few days, I believe that we have experienced every side of our job.

Our policyholders are mainly NGOs and companies that are operating all over the world, travelling, working and living there.

At many different levels and in the various countries in which they are based, all of them have been, and are being, confronted with the questions posed by COVID-19.

For many, the questions were initially related to exclusions from their contracts: is the Pandemic being covered; will I be able to be cared for if I am ill?

We can reply to these questions in accordance with the policy, naturally, as each policy has its own particularities.

In the case of health cover for our Expatriates or mission policies that we have set up for our companies or NGOs, this is one of the risks that we do cover.

As from the moment the person is ill, he or she can be taken care of and all the resources necessary for his or her recovery will be put in place.

The challenge is that these measures may not be ordered or given in advance, which is something that many policyholders expect us to do.

A Medical Opinion is necessary to determine what should be made for a person, and this is true in all cases.

Only this Medical Opinion can guide the assistance provider in the measures that will be put in place because from one person to another, according to age, pathologies, the level of the patient’s condition, but also of course the area in which they are located, the course of action to be taken will be very different.

In addition, there are state and regulatory constraints related to COVID-19.

In recent days, States have been shutting down their borders, applying confinement measures, restrictions, curfews, specific communication procedures for reporting the disease, etc. Both the assistance provider and the insurers, regardless of who they are, are subject to these rules and must deal with them.

This is why it is so difficult to reply a priori to such questions as : “if I am infected with COVID-19 in such and such a country in Africa or in the Middle East, how are you intending to repatriate me to France or to my country of origin?

It should also be kept in mind that, depending on the symptoms, the patient’s condition, local structures, medical procedures, etc., repatriation may not always be the most appropriate solution for the patient.

Once those questions have been raised, another one has comeback in force with the passing days, the question of immediate return, free of any illness.

Here again, it is difficult to give a standard answer.

Although the French government has invited its citizens to return, this has primarily concerned both tourists and people in transit.

Expatriates who, by definition, have their residence abroad are a priori meant to stay and live there. It should also be taken into account that in such a situation one may question if it is preferable to return to a country that is itself confined and in which the risk also exists.

In any case, while some policies may provide for cover in the event of forced immobilisation in a country as a consequence of a political situation, a natural disaster or a pandemic, in theory this cover applies when you are prevented from returning, not in the event of a premature return.

Of course, there are some possibilities of “premature return” in business mission policies, but in practice these covers are generally subject to the client’s individual circumstances. A personal event that forces you to return earlier, such as death, hospitalisation of a relative, etc., can be considered as an “early return”.

As we can see, the present situation is quite unique not only in terms of its scale but also in terms of the various situations it generates. It is also new for insurers, which is why some of its aspects

This is where, as a broker, we sometimes have to advocate with the insurer, put forward an understanding, or put forward a cautionary approach. It all relies on the insurer, the policy and the good relationships we have as a broker together with the insurer.

In addition to handling these cases, throughout the week we provided our policyholders with advice and information on the political situation in their country of stay, the structures likely to accommodate them, the behaviour awaited by the State in which they were located and the facilities made available to them by the French Consulates and Embassies.

All this is practical and useful information to help them deal with the situation, find their way and know what to do.

We are there for them.

And there again, at the end of a week and a weekend of confinement, we remain attentive to all your questions, we reply to your e-mails and your calls.

This will be the case until the end of the crisis and beyond, because that’s how I conceive my job.

Gaëlle Baldet-Ladan, CEO of Geodesk