The pandemic that hit the world in 2020 forced all economic sectors to be innovative and implement new ways to sell their products. In Ecuador, micro and macro companies struggled to adjust to these new technological requirements. These companies had been handling physical forms, premiums, contracts and doing face to face sales, things that neighboring countries were already carrying out digitally. Technological development in Ecuador is not as advanced as in other countries and there were a number of technical failures during this process that prevented us from providing the service that the community expected. It was during this time that the insurance industry had to make the decision to pivot in order to keep up with the demands of the world, and that’s exactly what it did.

Innovation almost always requires us to explore unknown territories. In 2019, Ecuador remained stable according to government reports, but in reality things were different. The changes that Ecuador had suffered in recent years, before the pandemic, in terms of education, health and social security, would begin to take their toll during the pandemic. The changes to academics exponentially affected the preparation of our professionals and education declined in many aspects. In terms of healthcare, Ecuador has high rates of malnutrition and this does not help the overall health of the population. Additionally, safety had been affected by the idea of ​​opening our borders, this being mainly the reason why insecurity is currently one of the most sensitive issues in the country. This micro-analysis of the state of Ecuador in 2019 tells a lot about the aspects of a developing society and with this information one can easily see what we were experiencing before the pandemic even began.

In March 2019, the digital and economic divide was heavily accentuated for the general population. According to INEC, the unemployment rate in 2019 was 3.9%, a figure that would not vary for 2021, in which the INEC reported the following data, “In 2021, the gross employment rate at the national level was 62.5%, at the urban level it was 58.4%, while in the rural area it was 71.7%” (INEC, 2021). Additionally, “the adequate employment rate at the national level was 32.5%, at the urban level 39.8%, and at the rural level 18.7%.” (INEC, 2021) Most people are not satisfied with this data since notoriously the pandemic left a much higher percentage of people without work, people who today live from informal work, or who are on the streets. In Ecuador, the measurement of official data does not always adhere to the truth when there is still an unemployment rate of 3.6% in 2022. Although considered lower than previous years, it still shows economic shortcomings that impede development and progress post-pandemic.

Figure 1. ADEQUATE EMPLOYMENT (INEC, 2022)

Figure 2. GROSS EMPLOYMENT (INEC, 2022)This economic deficit made it difficult for people to pay insurance premiums. Vehicle insurance was hit first once the drop in sales began. Since people were not using their vehicles for work or transportation, many wanted to cancel their policies and request refunds for already paid premiums. In the field of health, the reality was no different. There was a lack of medicine, operating rooms, ICUs, missing people, full morgues, and bodies in garbage bags. Additionally, students were without schools or colleges and Ecuador was in complete chaos due to a virus. This destabilization accentuated the gap between those who had private and public health insurance. Many contracts began to be canceled due to non-payment, but the policies that remained were being used for unimaginable incidents. The insurance companies were receiving very low profits but were required to pay high rates of payment to medical providers.

In regards to travel insurance, these companies were obligated to implement coverage for flights lost due to COVID-19. In countries such as the United Arab Emirates the airlines covered hotels and flights in the case a flight was canceled due to COVID 19. Under health plans in life insurance policies, COVID, and death due to COVID, was covered under endemic diseases. The automation of services and products became a necessity in Ecuador and many companies adopted telework and used online platforms in order to continue working.

The situation in the country was alarming and this led the population into a state of considerable stress and anxiety. Some of the foreigners living in Ecuador chose to return to their countries of origin, hoping to find relief in a reliable medical system. The pandemic left us with 458,504 confirmed cases of infection and 15,900 confirmed deaths, plus an additional 5,660 cases of probable deaths from its contagion.

The technological changes that businesses were forced to undergo due to the pandemic were largely unseen by the mainstream media. Ecuadorian businesses were forced to innovate and improve their web pages, add easy-to-use digital options for consumers, and fully digitize the delivery of policies, the entry of claims, payments, accounts, and signatures. It is probable that these automated processes have existed for many years in the countries where many of our readers come from, but the reality is that today these are still new processes for many businesses in Ecuador. Additionally, technological advancement and digital learning can be complex and the problems we encounter while trying to automate our processes are largely due to the lack of technological infrastructure available in Ecuador, such as a lack of bandwidth. This is the reason for our overall slow transition and common delays in functioning.

The pandemic brought us together and separated us in different ways, but above all it forced us to understand that the future lies in innovation. The creation of marketing strategies that allow you to connect with your buyer and market your product on a large scale are part of the future. Ecuador, and other developing countries, must implement the complete digitalization of their processes as soon as possible. The road is long and we still have to learn a lot from other countries and businesses. For example, Lloyd’s, pioneers in the insurance market and a leader in products and sales systems. We must also evaluate and change our health, travel and vehicle insurance models so that they include greater benefits and better coverage, with consumer-friendly reimbursement systems. We also need to establish systems that connect doctors, clinics and affiliates directly so that communication is simplified and the needs of the consumer are met efficiently. These changes will ensure that Ecuador is known as a destination not only for tourism, but also for technology and innovation.

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