Director's goal: keep Canadians safe and healthy with group insurance products

How group insurance sales director helps people and businesses succeed

Director's goal: keep Canadians safe and healthy with group insurance products
David Tompkins, Director – Sales, Manitoba Blue Cross

When David Tompkins was in school, he wanted to find a career that involved working with people. He thought he might work in politics or diplomacy, and he majored in Political Science – International Relations at the University of British Columbia.

After graduation in 1990, he joined The London Life Insurance Company in the Vancouver group sales division office. After a transfer to the Toronto office, where he worked for two years, he transferred to Winnipeg, MB, in 1992.

“Insurance had absolutely nothing to do with what I took in school,” says Tompkins. “I was educated through London Life training programs in its group division and achieved various certifications such as the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist and CEBS – Fellowship.

Tompkins enjoyed the work in group insurance, especially because of the relationships he built within every level of the business.

“It’s been wonderful over the years to work with a vast array of people in the business,” he says. “You meet people from diverse backgrounds, learn from them, and build partnerships over time. Some of them have become my closest friends. Business happens to involve money, but it’s relationships first and that’s what drives me and makes me enjoy what I do.”

At London Life, Tompkins worked in the Group Sales Division with the company’s general agents on selling group policies. He joined Sun Life in 1996 as an account executive and eventually oversaw the Winnipeg Group Sales Office. He worked with Sun Life for approximately 13 years before accepting an opportunity to run the Group Sales Division for Manitoba Blue Cross, where he works today.

“I’ve had various responsibilities at Manitoba Blue Cross in the Group Sales Department, mostly overseeing group sales and individual sales. In my current role as Director - Sales, I am a member of the company’s Senior Leadership Team. I am responsible for the sales of all products including group, individual, travel, as well as corporate partnerships.”

Tompkins is also Manitoba Blue Cross’ representative on the National Sales Development and Distribution Team for Blue Cross Canada and has worked with the Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute as Chairperson of Manitoba (2007-2008 and 2010-2011) and as a member of the National Board of Directors (2008-2010).

Relationships a key element

Relationships continue to be a key element in Tompkins’ role today. “The underlying part of the job is that we're helping people and helping business. We also focus on the plan members. My current team understands that people rely on us. We are responsible for their physical and mental well-being through the products and services we deliver to them and our communities, and we don’t forget that. It is front and centre in our mission, vision, and value statements.”

As for industry challenges, Tompkins says the pandemic really brought mental health to the forefront. “Companies like ours got to the point where mental health became a main driver of what we do and the products we develop and deliver to the marketplace.”

“When mental health spikes and becomes a crisis we, as provider of products, have a responsibility to adapt to that and get products and services available to members in an easy access format for an affordable price.”

Another industry challenge is the cost of prescription medications and pharmaceuticals. “Unfortunately, there are entries into the pharmaceutical landscape that are just crippling the costs of benefit programs. The biggest entries are drugs and biologics for rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, skin disorders, and depression. Some of the drugs coming into the Canadian landscape can  be extremely high, in the thousands of dollars per year. In fact, there is a drug coming for hemophilia that is $3.5 million per year.

“This is a dangerous trend and presents a challenge because we have obligations to our customers to make sure we manage the costs of their benefit programs. Insurers are pooling, managing formularies, and making arrangements with partners such as pharmacies and other dispensaries to determine better pricing on things like dispensing fees and overall drug costs.”

“Other trends in the group insurance industry are from lingering effects of the pandemic. Members are adapting to hybrid work models and there is an opportunity to better support their overall health with more employee wellness programs. Virtual care also became more popular due to the lockdowns and people have an appetite to continue to access service providers and product suppliers in this way. Accordingly, insurers and other service providers have had to partner with virtual care companies to make sure our customers have continued access to these types of services.”

New national dental program

Another trend that insurers have to become acutely aware of that’s coming soon is the National Dental Program.

“The federal government has set up a dental program that will be a government administered insurance program,” says Tompkins. “The plan was modified in the 2023 budget and will open eligibility to people who are under the age of 18, seniors, and people with disabilities for family incomes of less than $90,000.Insurers, plan sponsors, and advisors will all have to review the impact of this program of the plans they offer members.

Another important trend insurers face impacts retiree health plans, says Tompkins. “As the population ages, we have a big growing bubble of retirees. They are coming off their employer benefit plans and wondering what to do once they are retired. So, the marketplace is trying to adapt to this trend and it has put a strain on plan design.”

“The makeup of the plans will change as the retiree ages. There may be a traditional plan with traditional limits, maximums, catastrophic coverage, or maybe healthcare spending accounts only.

“A large portion of retirees are interested in travel. One issue with travel plans is that when people age, we can't paint everyone with the same brush. Many travel plans have preexisting condition clauses and stability clauses. As insurers, we have to figure out how to provide quality travel benefits to that aging population.”

Every day is something different

Tompkins says these types of challenges and trends are part of what makes him love his work. “Every day is something different. We continue to see how we can evolve, adapt, innovate, and partner with others to make sure we’re doing the best we can for our partners, customers, and communities.”

Working with people is still the top priority for Tompkins. He believes it is important to build connections and relationships to develop trust and respect. When asked what he wants his professional legacy to be, he says he hopes that he is viewed as a leader and partner that built relationships based on trust and demonstrated a strong commitment to meeting people’s expectations.

“I have been fortunate to have worked across the country and experienced different marketplaces to see firsthand how they are unique from each other and where they are similar. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from a variety of backgrounds and really understand the impact our business has played in helping to keep Canadians safe and healthy.”