Quebec-based provider has big plans for further national expansion
Quebec-based SSQ Financial Group has reported solid earnings for 2016 as its national expansion gathers pace. The firm saw its insurance business volume increase by 7.9% last year to $2.3 billion, with sales rising by 18.6% to $289.5 million. It represents impressive growth in a highly competitive marketplace, as company CEO Jean-François Chalifoux identifies they key drivers for SSQ’s business.
“We registered outstanding retention rates in group insurance – that was a key factor in our success,” he says. “We also had a record amount of sales with our individual insurance block of business.”
SSQ’s group plans in life and health insurance account for close to 2/3 of its business, so the changing work environment across Canada clearly has major implications for the firm. Chalifoux recognizes this, but states the insurer is already adapting to this environment of more self-employed, contract and part-time workers.
“In the longer run, smaller employers and independent workers will definitely have an impact on plan design,” he says. “That will mean more customization and different distribution models.”
SSQ entered the life insurance business in 2012 when it acquired AXA Life. As such, it is still in its formative stages, although progress has been swift, according to the company’s head.
“We are only five years in the life insurance business, but half of our sales are now coming in Ontario and western Canada,” says Chalifoux. “That’s quite impressive for a smaller, unknown insurance company from Quebec City. We are gaining market share and diversifying our business.”
The firm now has $11 billion in assets under management and serves over 3 million customers across the country. In the group benefits space it prides itself as an insurer that goes the extra mile to limit spiralling drug costs. This in turn allows them to reduce the cost of its plans, but it’s a dedicated process, says Chalifoux.“At SSQ we have a team of pharmacists that review high cost claims,” he reveals. “They study if those drugs are efficient for our plan members. We do fraud detection in other to mitigate the cost and implement an adjudication system that allows us to introduce different drug formularies for our customers. We don’t believe cutting benefits or removing expensive drugs is the way to promote a healthier workplace.”
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