Equal-Opportunity Caregiver

The average age of the population is rising, but everyone needs health care, so Andrew Yorke and Manitoba Blue Cross are enhancing their services for both the young and old

An accident here, some good luck there, and a whole lot of hard work landed Andrew Yorke his role as president and CEO of Manitoba Blue Cross. “When I was in sales I just wanted to be the top sales guy,” says Yorke. “I was fortunately able to do that, but I never saw myself as a CEO at all.” Originally from the United Kingdom, Yorke came to Canada with thoughts of joining a marketing team in the consumer packaged goods field, but there were no opportunities. So he ended up in financial services for an insurance company, which in turn lead to a sales role, which led to the Ontario Blue Cross. After helping to grow the Ontario office, Yorke moved over to Manitoba Blue Cross in 2007, where he continues to use his expertise to deliver superior health and wellness benefits to Manitobans.

For sure, I’m a hands-on CEO because we’re a small company. Our entire senior-leadership team is hands-on and very accessible. For example, I have a monthly breakfast with randomly selected people from the company. I meet with my leadership team every two weeks but one on one at least every month. I talk to people throughout the organization regularly. People come and see me. It’s not a hierarchical organization at all, I would say.

When you look at what Manitoba Blue Cross is trying to do in terms of attracting and retaining customers, we are very focused on the customer experience. Probably our strongest quality is our local, personal service, which is becoming a little old-fashioned, but it’s something that our customers still really value. We still have a walk-in customer-service centre. That’s a cost centre for us, but we think it’s one that sets us apart because it makes us accessible to our customers. Our closeness to providers also sets us apart. We’re close to the marketplace in terms of doctors and other people we’re working with to provide care for our clients and customers.

We need newer technology to remain competitive. And we have a large client who is also in need of modernized technology. When we met with them, we discussed what potential synergies we have, and this was an idea that came out. They were looking at replacing their technology for provider claims, and we were looking at replacing our technology for our core claims function. So, could we do this together? Would it reduce costs for both organizations and improve efficiency? We thought so.

Outside the Office

Andrew Yorke is involved in the Manitoba community, working with United Way and various hospital boards and business counsels. Also, bringing 40 years of playing experience, Yorke is an avid drummer. His band plays every Sunday night and is practicing to take part in an industry contest in 2015.

We will be launching this technology in 2015. We’ve been working on it since the end of 2008. It’s been a big project that, in time, will greatly increase our claims-processing efficiencies and secure technology for us at a favourable cost structure. It will secure the future of our organization.

The other opportunity that we have out of that new technology is that we’ll be able to potentially resell that technology elsewhere. So, for other clients who are looking to improve their service offering, we could actually take our technology and resell it to them, and it’ll be a more cost-effective way for them to improve their services rather than starting from scratch. That’s something else we’re looking at as a potential future area of focus.

Along with this new technology, we are also in the process of developing a mobile app. We want to further enhance our customer experience by providing more electronic services to our member base. We recognize that there is a growing demand for convenient on-the-go services.

Right now, if you look at our business today, we work with employees and members of the public who buy our health-care plans. They submit a claim from somewhere, and we pay that claim. What we’re looking at is integrating our business so [that] we’re further involved with the delivery of the benefits service and not just paying the claim. We could actually be a provider of claims. Maybe you buy your glasses from us, or we have our own dental clinic as opposed to outsourcing. We haven’t made any deals yet, but we’re working on it.

The company is in a very competitive, commoditized marketplace, and to differentiate yourself, you have to pick something. We picked this customer-experience plan. Staying as close to clients as we can is a differentiator for us—and staying as close as we can to the evolution of our business. We need to be mindful of where the health-care business is going, especially given the fact that 25 percent of the population of Canada will be over 65 by 2025. So, when you ask me if there is a personal experience or an electronic experience that the client needs to have, we have to understand what the client is looking for first and then make sure we’re well positioned to deliver that, and that’s changing all the time.