Brokers

Broker Success in the 21st Century

To succeed, brokers must focus on specialization, leverage technology in client relationships and meet recruiting challenges.
By: | February 4, 2015 • 3 min read

The need for niche expertise and a technical understanding of client exposures are two of the key themes that emerged during a recent panel discussion hosted by A.M. Best.

Panelists on the “Succeeding in the 21st Century Insurance Sales Environment” webinar said brokers need such skills along with a deep understanding of their clients’ businesses to stay competitive.

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“It’s really about developing a specialty or expertise, because the sale is so much more technical today,” said Marya J. Propis, head of distribution management, Lexington.

Advances in technology have increased the speed of business and enhanced analytics and reporting capabilities, which allow companies to more closely track trends and predict the severity of their exposures.

 “Clients today are buying solutions from organizations. It’s not as much of a linear relationship.” — Kevin Kenny, executive VP, head of growth and business development, Wells Fargo Insurance Services

“Clients expect us to have done our research,” said Kevin Kenny, executive VP, head of growth and business development, Wells Fargo Insurance Services “They’re not telling us what they want us to know about them. That’s 60 percent of the work.”

Technology has also changed the nature of relationship-building in the business, but panelists still stressed the need to personalize interactions with clients to distinguish themselves within a wider scheme of industry consolidation.

“Clients today are buying solutions from organizations,” said Kenney. “It’s not as much of a linear relationship.”

Still a “People Business”

“Data allows us to better react to our customers’ needs,” said Patrick Kennedy, regional executive vice president, insurance & risk management, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. “It’s impacting the speed and nature of our interactions, but we’re still a people business.”

According to Stephen Jalkut, chief marketing officer, North America commercial lines, AIG, “you have to be more personal in your interactions” in an era when it’s easier than ever to avoid face-to-face meetings.

“You have to embrace technology in how you communicate with clients and manage your daily sales process.” — Joe Gunn, national partner, Northeast region, Willis

“You have to embrace technology in how you communicate with clients and manage your daily sales process,” said Joe Gunn, national partner, Northeast region, Willis.

Propis seconded that sentiment.

While “no form of automation closes deals,” she said, brokers and salespeople could harness their firm’s analytical platforms to help gain a foothold in the industry, building on the expertise and relationships that their predecessors developed before them.

Recruiting Challenges

Panelists also discussed the need for the industry to get better at recruiting new talent from a variety of sources.

Propis stressed that part of those efforts should be aimed at college students already pursuing risk management degrees because so many of them slip through the cracks.

These students can easily choose to go in a different direction — particularly the finance sector — when they graduate, she said. Insurers and brokers need to reach them before they reach that point and provide them with entrée into the industry, and show them what their career progression could look like.

“The industry needs to band together,” said Kennedy. “We need to do a better job talking about what a great industry we’re in.”

“We have to explain how insurance makes the gears of the global economy turn.” — Stephen Jalkut, chief marketing officer, North America commercial lines, AIG

“We have to explain how insurance makes the gears of the global economy turn,” said Jalkut.

Additionally, Gunn said, liberal arts students and professionals in other sectors, such as technology in particular, should be recruited as well. They are “sources of innovation” who can envision new problem-solving approaches.

He also stressed the need for veterans of the business to serve as mentors.

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New brokers should not be left alone and checked in on after a year or more to evaluate their progress. Those with more experience should be guiding them every step of the way.

Kenny pointed out how industry leaders can attract young people entering the workforce by meeting their primary career goal: to make a difference. He said it will be vital to “allow new people to have an impact on our business.”

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]