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What insurance support do smaller brokers need?

axa roundtable group shot

Four takeaways from a roundtable discussion at Broker Expo 2021.

Attendees

Stuart Applegate: Managing director, Margins Insurance • Nicolae Caminschi: Business partner, eCovers Insurance Broker • Lea Cheesbrough: Managing director, Movo Partnership • Janthana Kaenprakhamroy: CEO, Tapoly • Mike McNulty: Managing director, Stephensons Risk Management • Stephen Peters: Director- UK retail, HW Wood • Julie Price: Managing director, Julie Price Insurance • Alan Roe: Account director, James Hallam • Richard Storey: Managing director, STP Rik Solutions • Mike Williams: Director, Sherwin Insurance Services Ltd. • Gary Williamson: Managing director, Knightsbridge Risk Solutions

In today’s competitive business environment, the fortunes of smaller brokers depend on developing and maintaining strong relationships with their insurer partners in order to deliver prompt and personalised service to customers.

Among the hubbub of Broker Expo 2021, Axa Insurance and a selected panel of broker representatives gathered to discuss what smaller brokers are looking for in terms of insurance support within the industry.

Here we outline four themes that emerged from the discussion.

Brokers felt abandoned at the onset of the pandemic

When the pandemic first hit, brokers needed to understand what they could do to alleviate Covid-19 risks and took action to protect their staff such as implementing working from home procedures and incorporating PPE as standard in offices.

At the same time they were dealing with a significant rise in call volume from customers looking for a high level of service at a frightening and unprecedented time. Some brokers faced long delays or were unable to reach insurers. Panellists suggested there had been ‘little to zero’ chance of getting a call back under the circumstances.

Brokers expressed their frustration with the lack of attention from their primary business suppliers. One panellist commented: “We make the choices that are in the best interest of our customers, but insurers don’t want to talk to small businesses. It shouldn’t be this hard to be noticed by the insurer because we’re here to work with them. It hasn’t been great, in fact, it has been [extremely] hard.”

“In the early days of the pandemic it was difficult for everybody. It was difficult for brokers, but we had to stand up, because we deal with the customers. The trouble for the insurers is they don’t consider brokers to be their customers. That’s my fundamental issue,” said another panellist.

axa roundtable 1

Brokers want insurers to help them develop their staff

There was a consensus that insurers should be more involved in the development and education of broker staff. The panellists agreed that insurers should play a key role in the knowledge journey for all brokers. They suggested that the lack of communication can compromise their ability to work together and provide the most efficient service for the consumer.

One panellist bemoaned the absence of insurance professionals from training programmes. “How many insurance professionals that brokers interact with take part in these training webinars? None. In the old days, professionals providing the training would [consist of] half broker and half insurance [participants]. I now realise the reason we did this is for the training, but it was all about the relationships and connections gained as a result of this collaboration.”

The roundtable attendees believed that face-to-face meetings and webinar-based training would play an important role in the future. By providing the same training to both broker and insurance staff on key issues such as business insurance risks, you reduce the potential for error at later stages of the customer journey.

Brokers need better communication from insurers

Brokers expect a productive trading relationship with insurers. Panellists highlighted there being major communication issues between brokers and insurers alike.  While digitalisation and process automation has delivered many benefits for the insurance sector over the past decade, participants noted that this can sometimes be to the detriment of personal interaction and service efficiency. Brokers prefer a human connection where they can have a conversation to directly discuss the risk with another individual.

“The industry has become a fast-paced environment. [If it takes] too long to get a quote back to a potential customer, they will take their business elsewhere,” said one panellist.

“I’d rather deal direct − we’ve got to have very clear paths of the product and value. I go through the [website form] drop-downs and think, ‘All my risks don’t seem to fit – that can’t be right!’ I’m having to ring up to get the right information and we get told to ‘Put it there and we’ll endorse it’. In the time it takes to figure this out, my client has gone elsewhere.”

axa roundtable 2

Insurers need to support broker start-ups

The assembled participants commented how many insurers pick and choose the brokers they work with, favouring larger firms rather than smaller brokers with a more diversified clientele.

It was argued, in some cases, these preferred brokers were less focused on new business and less agile than smaller-scale start-ups.

“We’ve just become a part of [a leading insurer broker club] in the last few weeks, and it has been welcomed by our business. Having experienced it for the first time, the cynical part of me thinks insurers should support every broker in this way,” one panellist commented.

“Why do insurers have to wait until brokers are hitting a certain height to do business with them? The industry is in a position right now where we need to encourage start-ups. We need to keep people coming to the market. We need to know that in ten years’ time there [will still be] an independent broking market − there’s so much acquisition.”

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