Charlene Lawrence | Broker Success: Magic is in the people & partnerships
In a market challenged by the need to deliver more personalised products and services, faster, backed by advanced technologies to streamline transactions and engagements, partnerships between direct insurers and brokers can help both sides grow into a changing environment.
Over the past fourteen years, I have personally witnessed the value of focusing on establishing meaningful relationships, which ultimately evolve into mutually rewarding partnerships with brokers. By backing their efforts with the capabilities they are able to deliver at scale, they can simultaneously harness brokers’ deep localised knowledge and personal touch to ensure that products and services meet the needs of policy holders.
While this may sound simplistic, the truth is, brokers are people too. All too often in chasing bottom-lines and annual targets, many businesses, including insurance, relate and refer to roles and functions, rather than the people who occupy those same roles and functions. In terms of the relationship between brokers, insurers and policyholders, this creates a disconnect between the products and services that have been created by people, for people.
There will always be a role for brokers in the insurance industry, and if the relationship with brokers is managed effectively, insurers need not suffer too many ‘missed opportunities.’
Given the uncertainty of the past two years, there is an increasing need for people (brokers) who have an acute understanding of people (clients), their lifestyles, their needs and aspirations. While the way in which brokers work and communicate with clients may vary depending on their clients’ needs, brokers play a vital role in informing and educating the market (people) about an industry which is often labelled with ‘so many Ts and Cs and too much fine print’.
Brokers are positioned to offer invaluable feedback which helps improve an insurer’s service offering and and enhance the industry reputation, as a whole. Brokers not only feel the pulse of the market, but are also able to anticipate shifts in market needs which are influenced by our country’s dynamic and, at times, volatile local socio-economic climate. They serve as the insurer’s eyes and ears on the ground and can offer input on what customers need, how existing products could be tweaked or what new products could be developed in the best interests of the customers.
In turn, insurers are positioned to help brokers enhance their service offering while reducing costs. Benefits include economies of scale, Research & Development, product innovation and solid processes, which brokers can use to grow business without sacrificing the flexibility and personal touch that draws clients to a broker.
How Insurers can support brokers
- A centralised call centre. The broker can load the basic information onto the portal and the insurer then completes the underwriting process with the client, supplies the documentation and then undertakes all the subsequent administration, including retention and, of course, claims – or the broker can choose to complete underwriting on their client’s behalf.
- A Broker Portal enables brokers to generate their own quotes by accessing the insurer’s back end directly. It empowers brokers by allowing them access to view policies on their portfolios as well as generate their own portfolio reports immediately rather than requesting from the insurer and waiting for a response. There is considerable flexibility because they can increase or decrease excesses per section, in order to accommodate client requirements.
- Design and optimise processes that eliminate the need for long telephonic conversations between the broker, client and insurer. This saves time and creates efficiencies for the broker and the client.
- Enable the broker to make changes on policies on the client’s behalf. This allows the broker the freedom and control to manage clients, without the insurer speaking directly to the client, while still maintaining all identification and verification protocols – creating efficiencies for the broker and supporting the relationship between the broker and their client.
- Enabling a client retention process where the broker is informed immediately if the insurer is not able to retain the client. This allows the broker the opportunity to discuss and negotiate terms and cover to better suit the client’s needs.
Key elements of the broker-insurer relationship
First and foremost, we believe partners need to have shared values and goals pertaining to mutual clients and potential new clients. For us, we really believe that the magic is in the people, both inside and outside our business. So delivering exceptional service that goes the extra mile, keeping our promise, every single time, is a non-negotiable for our brokers, and for our team.
In addition, we believe it is the insurer’s responsibility to ensure that brokers are adequately furnished with the tools needed for success, and that they have accurate product information. Only then are brokers able to apply their knowledge of insurance principles to provide their clients with sound advice that speaks to their individual personal or business needs.
We also believe that open communication is key; the insurer should take cognisance of feedback from brokers – both good and bad – to improve the partnership, as well as services to clients.
The right partnerships within a suitably supportive ecosystem provide a way for brokers to eliminate a large proportion of the costs involved in servicing clients, thus increasing their margins while, at the same time substantially improving their service offering. They can also now afford to take on more clients, again with a potentially positive impact on their bottom lines.
*Charlene Lawrence is the General Manager: Brokers at MiWay Brokers Insurance.