Canadian Underwriter

IBAO president anticipates ‘bright future for brokers who are willing to change’

March 29, 2016   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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The insurance industry may not be known for technological innovation, but there is a future for brokers who are willing to change, speakers said Tuesday during the annual general meeting of the Insurance Brokers of Toronto Region.

Blue glowing hardware with particles“The only thing that’s consistent in the insurance industry is change,” said Frank Silla, incoming IBTR president and personal lines manager of Paisley-Manor Insurance Brokers Inc. “While most people in industries shy away from change, we as brokers embrace it and thrive in it. To name a few changes that have happened in the last few years, we have company portals we have had to deal with, we have had overland flood, cyber liability, identity theft, constant auto reforms once again coming in June.”

Silla made his remarks after the formal portion of the IBTR’s annual general meeting at Le Parc Banquet Facility north of Toronto in Markham. Silla takes over as IBTR president from Nick Homiak, vice president of Consolidated Insurance Brokers Ltd.

The guest speaker at Tuesday’s lunch meeting was Doug Heaman, president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

“I don’t think that the insurance industry in its current format is known for its innovation,” Heaman told an audience of about 45.

Quoting statistics from the Centre for the Study of Insurance Operations, Heaman said 57% of Ontario brokers are active on social media and 43% have a mobile website, while a total of 89% of brokers have a website.

“That means 11% don’t have a website,” Heaman said. “That was a staggering stat for me, but obviously you can survive without one.”

Heaman (pictured left) also suggested the “trend” of mergers and acquisitions of brokerages will continue and brokers will need to take advantage of technology in order to compete.

“It’s not good enough to innovate,” Heaman warned. “You’re going to have to execute as well. As we talk about innovation, it seems impossible to me that insurance companies are able to move more quickly and effectively than brokers in the digital and direct-to-consumer space. Perhaps brokers don’t need to be concerned about this, and maybe you feel comfortable waiting for carriers to develop technology for you, but carriers have legacy systems, they have problems that they’re going to have to overcome that are going to hold them back, as brokers we have [broker management systems] that are holding us back.”

Broker management systems, Heaman added, “are not currently designed to give us the [customer relationship management] capabilities we need to compete in the digital space to do e-mail campaigns, attract sales, to do all of the things that are going to be required.”

So both carriers and brokers “face challenges” in the technology space, he added.

“I believe there is a bright future for brokers who are willing to change, evolve, find a niche, continue to extol the benefits of advocacy, advice and relationships,” Heaman said. “Technology will not replace relationships. Embracing technology and the ever evolving customer demands will present challenges but brokers by and large are an entrepreneurial bunch.”

Upcoming IBTR activities include a seminar April 25 on errors and omissions for brokers, plus a golf tournament June 8, Silla noted at the AGM.