Canadian Underwriter

Brokers enduring short-term pain for post-pandemic gain

April 28, 2020   by Adam Malik

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Insurance brokers are facing short-term increased workloads for little — and even negative — reward during the COVID-19 pandemic. But these efforts are laying the groundwork for future prosperity, whether that be in terms of money, trust and recruitment, P&C industry professionals observe.

For Joseph Carnevale, president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO), the pandemic has been an opportunity to prove to clients what brokers have said all along — a broker’s role is to help Canadians when times get tough.

“I think this particular pandemic has provided us the opportunity to live that and demonstrate that,” Carnevale said last Wednesday during Canadian Underwriter’s webinar, COVID-19: Business Continuity In The Digital Age. “In many cases, the calls we’re getting as brokers across the country aren’t related to specific claims. By in large, they’re related to: ‘I need some advice, what can I do to reduce what I’m paying in premiums? What can I do to better reflect my current usage on my vehicle or can I park it? What can I do to better reflect what my business is actually doing now? I’ve been shut down, what can I do?’

Brokers have also been proactive in speaking to their clients to let them know of their options. Calling clients before they call you adds to that level of trust, said Carnevale, who is also partner and managing director of sales at Brokers Trust Insurance Group Inc. “We are the advisor. And more so than words, we’re living it, we’re breathing it, we’re doing it, we’re acting on that.”

All of this extra work doesn’t generate new business or income, as  Graham Haigh, vice president of broker distribution at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, pointed out during the webinar. He applauded brokers for going the extra mile “for negative endorsement activity, which means that you’re taking cash out of your pocket in order to deliver this exceptional service.”

Taking phone calls and helping customers on calls that generate no new commission revenue means brokers “are not getting compensated the way you should for that, so that’s a great service you’re providing policyholders.”

Steve Whitelaw, vice president of industry and partner relations at Applied Systems, said he hopes that people — especially the younger generation — appreciate the hard work brokers have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how essential brokers are to the lives of Canadians. That, in turn, he said, could help get more people interested in working in the industry.

“Insurance has always been that boring thing your grandfather did, but there’s no way you were getting into it,” Whitelaw said, poking fun at the stereotype of how people used to view a career in insurance. Nowadays, he said, Millennials want to work for a purpose-focused enterprise and organizations with progressive values.

“If we haven’t demonstrated those [values in this pandemic], then I don’t know what I’ve witnessed the last little while, because the industry has done that,” said Whitelaw. “So if I’m a Millennial looking for an opportunity, what greater opportunity to jump in than to work in this industry.”

Of course, brokers will have to seize the opportunity by continuing to demonstrate those values as Canadians work through the pandemic crisis, as Carnevale pointed out.

“I honestly believe you will have clients saying, ‘You know what? For years, I relied on you. For years, I came to you for advice and support and for policies. When I needed you, you were there. For that, you get rewarded with [me] being there [as a loyal client],’” Carnevale said. “I think more and more, people will start to understand and appreciate that these are the values you get when you’re dealing with a broker. It’s not just about a premium. It’s not just about a policy in the mail or an email. It’s about the support, the advice.”

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