Executive vice-president and lead, group insurance, Beneva

Éric Trudel is executive vice-president and lead, group insurance, at Beneva, the company born out of the coming together of La Capitale and SSQ Insurance. He has spent nearly three decades in group insurance, working in pricing, group sales, corporate actuarial, compliance, marketing and strategy. In his current role, Éric is committed to building collaborative partnerships with plan sponsors and advisors. As he puts it: “We don’t want to be an insurer that just pays claims. We want to focus on prevention and on the whole spectrum of health.”


What strengths did La Capitale and SSQ Insurance bring to Beneva?

The coming together was quite a natural one. Both organizations had mutualist roots and similar workplace cultures, and while La Capitale stood out in the property and casualty insurance market, SSQ Insurance was a leader in group insurance. So, coming together made perfect sense.

We have now formed the largest mutualist-based group of insurance companies in Canada. On the group insurance side, we are the fourth-largest group insurance provider in Canada. We can position ourselves as a real alternative to the big three in the group insurance market, with the scale to invest in both very efficient tools to process transactions and our partnerships with plan sponsors and advisors.

How is Beneva ensuring a smooth integration of workforces and a seamless experience for clients?

From the beginning, we formed an integration team that remains separate from the operational teams. The integration team focuses on everything that is required to combine the two companies. That freed up the operational teams to continue to focus on delivering the outstanding client experience we’re recognized for in group insurance. The integration team’s work is happening mostly behind the scenes so plan sponsors and members see only the advantages of the integration, such as new features that are helping them manage plans more effectively.

Another important factor is that we do not need to integrate in a hurry, so we are taking the time to do things correctly. We will be fully merged in a few years, but we have the flexibility to do it right while remaining fully operational.

Finally, employee experience is a top priority at Beneva. We truly believe that it is key for them to then provide a delightful experience to our clients. So, we are ensuring a smooth transition by ensuring that our employees’ experience is great, and we measure it with tools like Officevibe. That allows us to react quickly if we realize that their experience is not as expected in some aspects.

What can plan sponsors and plan members expect from the new, merged organization?

We have an ambition to provide the best insurance experience in Canada, and we want it to be based on unmatched simplicity. So, we want advisors, plan sponsors and plan members to see that it’s very simple to do business with us. We’re doing that through the relationships we have, supported by elements such as digital services, online tools and first contact resolution. We put people at the heart of our business.

What’s keeping plan sponsors up at night?

In my opinion, the main concern for plan sponsors is the employee shortage. That was true before the pandemic, and it’s even more clearly a concern now. Many employers are looking to hire and retain talent, and a group benefits package is an area where a plan sponsor can differentiate itself.

Our job as the plan carrier is to help the plan sponsor shine and set itself apart from the competition. Part of that is providing top-notch group implementation. When we look at what our clients appreciate from us, group implementation is an area where we definitely stand out. That’s very important because when plan sponsors switch a group from one insurance carrier to another, they want extremely smooth onboarding of their plan members. That’s something we do very well, and we want more and more plan sponsors to try us. They will see the Beneva difference!

The other thing that is undoubtedly keeping many plan sponsors up at night is the mental health of their employees or members. At Beneva, we are on a mission to help prevent anxiety for all Canadians. We act to create meaningful change, equip people with tools to prevent and manage anxiety, and develop innovative research programs to understand how we can bring Canadians more peace of mind. We have developed a health-continuum approach led by the national teams that targets the whole health spectrum, including both physical and mental health. And, further demonstrating our commitment to help prevent anxiety, we recently co-sponsored the Relief Research Chair in Mental Health, Self-Management, and Work at the Université Laval. That chair will concentrate on researching tools to manage mental health. We want to be able to provide our plan members with those tools and thus help our plan sponsors keep their employees at work in good physical and mental health.

What changes have you seen since you started in the industry?

The biggest change I have witnessed in group insurance since I began working in the industry in 1993, fresh from an actuarial degree, is the shift from essentially just reimbursing claims to the much broader role of being a true health partner. Basically, we must manage claims correctly, but these days, we have to do much more than that. When we talk with our plan sponsors, we can see that they’re looking for a group insurer that will help them improve the wellbeing of their employees, in addition to reimbursing claims.

The second-biggest shift I have witnessed is in drug management and, again, the shift is from simply paying drug claims to the broader role of helping plan members efficiently manage their health conditions. We now have a team of pharmacists, technicians and nurses dedicated to working with our plan members to better manage their use of drugs, particularly high-cost drugs. To play that broader role, we also use partnerships with Insuretechs such as BiogeniQ to optimize therapeutics through optional pharmacogenetic testing. These tests can help attending physicians identify the drug treatment that will be most efficient according to the plan member’s DNA. Another example is our partnership with MedHelper to provide an app that reminds plan members when they need to take their medication, with the goal of improving medication adherence, especially for those with multiple prescriptions.

We see ourselves as an aggregator of solutions to help plan members better manage their health. That benefits the plan members and the plan sponsor. As a result, while reimbursing claims is still essential, it’s now only a part of our much broader and important role.

Those shifts have made the job of a group insurer so much more interesting and rewarding than it was 30 years ago. Every day, we contribute to improving the health of our members, and that’s the best reward we can have.