Vice-president of distribution strategy, Canada Life

Brady Aarssen,

Canada Life

In his role as vice-president of distribution strategy at Canada Life, Brady Aarssen brings a mix of sales, leadership, strategy and transformation experiences spanning the value chain. He says his varied background, combined with a deep understanding of parallel geographies and industries, helps him anticipate how stakeholders will perceive and react to change. His team’s ability to adapt themes and concepts from other markets plays a key role in defining Canada Life’s group strategy.


What excites you about how the landscape of distribution is evolving?

First, there’s the rate of change. Our industry experienced a tipping point around 2015. Since then, the rate of change in product innovation, distribution, technology and adoption has accelerated at an unprecedented speed. Moments of change create opportunity and the impetus for people to adapt to change. At the same time, it’s important to set a steady course that balances the anxiety associated with change and avoids over-indexing any one element. For example, aspects of fintech/insurtech have a lot of merit, but in some cases aren’t realistic at scale. So, finding a balance between innovation and execution is key.

Second, plan sponsors and members are increasingly able to create more customized experiences. At Canada Life, we’re innovating in areas such as student debt and registered education savings plans (RESPs) on the retirement side, and telemedicine, flex arrangements and unique plan designs on the benefits side. It will be critical for us to communicate to plan sponsors our new capabilities and opportunities to personalize plans. It’s incumbent on us as insurers to cascade education on these changing dynamics through to different audiences.

What does the acquisition of ClaimSecure in September 2021 mean for Canada Life?

By insurance industry standards, ClaimSecure has a brand new claim system. In 2019, it was overhauled and rebuilt with excellent functionality and features. It’s rules-based, which allows for a high degree of customization. It’s cloud-based, which allows for white labelling and portability across providers. And as the saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Through a variety of analytics and reporting capabilities, fraud prevention tools and more, the platform can deliver excellent insight and evaluation tools for advisors and consultants.

This innovative feature set will allow us to reach into new segments of the market. For instance, ClaimSecure has a big presence in the third-party administrator/third-party payor (TPA/TPP) market, which is growing two or three times faster than the market at large in the Canadian benefits space. We’ll be able to tap into ClaimSecure’s good relationships in this market segment and strengthen our presence there. In addition, ClaimSecure is a very strong player in the administrative services only (ASO) and healthcare spending account (HCSA) space, so we’ll be able to partner with them to create new ASO and HCSA solutions.

ClaimSecure has a great team and they’ve built a $1 billion+ business in terms of claims revenue, with 1.2 million plan members. We’re excited to collaborate with all the talent there. Canada Life will be able to layer different insurance products and features into the ClaimSecure offering. We’ll also be able to broaden our offerings to sponsors, advisors and consultants by leveraging the fact that ClaimSecure is both a claims payment company and a pharmacy benefit manager. Meanwhile, with the largest client based market share in Canada and a massive distribution network, Canada Life will be able to bring some of ClaimSecure’s solutions to a much broader distribution audience.

What can plan sponsors expect from the acquisition in the short and long term?

We hope to unveil new product options focused on cost containment by the end of the first quarter of 2022 – through both the Canada Life and ClaimSecure ecosystem. Over the longer term, we’ll keep ClaimSecure as a separate and independent brand. That means sponsors will have access to two very different value propositions that will continue to receive targeted investment to support them. In the end, what sponsors and the market at large can expect is that ClaimSecure will be a leading outsourced provider not just for Canada Life but also for other insurers, TPAs and sponsors looking for more control over their benefits plan. This will lead to differing distribution models we haven’t historically used within Canada Life and will allow us to play various roles across the value chain from comprehensive to bespoke.

In what other ways is Canada Life setting itself apart in a competitive industry?

We’ve spent a lot of time, money, strategy and effort over the past few years to become what we believe is the leading insurer in Canada in terms of technology. That manifests itself in a fully online enrollment experience and a truly integrated benefit and retirement experience for members. It has also led to product innovation in areas such as student debt, RESPs, financial wellness products and telemedicine. We’re eager to continue to be a leader in technology in Canada.

Also, distribution is bound to become more dynamic in the years ahead, and we’re ready to capitalize on that opportunity. There will be two competing dynamics at play. First, sponsors and advisors will have increased access to different product combinations as the market looks to break apart pieces of the value chain. So, on one hand, you’ll see alternatives to the traditional one-size-fits-all model. Conversely, providers will present vastly improved holistic solution sets rather than specializing in specific areas, leading to increasingly tailored and informed member and sponsor experiences across an integrated benefits and retirement platform.

All of this may make it more difficult to create apples-to-apples comparisons between offerings, services and experiences. It may be harder for sponsors and advisors to navigate a differentiated world. But there will also be new opportunities and the potential for better outcomes for advisors, members and sponsors, which is our obligation as providers in the market – so change, while daunting, is worth it.