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How your brokerage might benefit from partnering with an innovation hub


February 11, 2019   by Jason Contant



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A brokerage in Nova Scotia has partnered with an innovation hub in Atlantic Canada to “up its game” in the digital space.

AA Munro Insurance, which has more than 20 locations in Nova Scotia, has partnered with Volta Labs. This means the brokerage has access to Volta’s space and all their events. The Halifax-based innovation lab has a couple hundred events planned this year, including “lunch-and-learns” and different skills training workshops. Volta offers a number of different programs, including how to help founders attract and secure venture capital sooner, support for women tech leaders, pairing computer science students with companies, and more.

As one example, a group of employees from AA Munro are doing some training with an agency on how to run a YouTube advertising campaign. “We’re starting to get more skills around how to shoot videos and how to edit them on our phones and how to run and monitor the campaigns,” Angus MacCaull, communications analyst with AA Munro, told Canadian Underwriter Monday.

Later this month and in March, AA Munro will be looking at other kinds of digital advertising, such as Google ads, and using social platforms like Facebook and Twitter more effectively.

“We’re already in those spaces, but the idea is to spread more of the know-how and the passion for being visible in that way throughout the brokerage to develop more in-house capacity for all kinds of digital presence,” MacCaull said. “Our folks know a lot about how to go out and get involved in things in person, but they don’t know so much about how to translate that in a meaningful way to online presence.

“Our people just need to know what are the best practices? How do I take good pictures? Where should I post things? What platform should I be on? When can I run different ads and interpret different dashboards and know what to ignore and what to pay attention to?”

Using “customer service technology” was considered a best practice (8-10 out of 10) by 62% of over 400 brokers polled for Canadian Underwriter’s 2018 National Broker Survey. The producers were asked to rate how beneficial their employers’ investments were in certain technology initiatives over the past 24 months. Only 46% of brokers polled considered “digital advertising” a best practice.

For AA Munro, there was a recognition that the brokerage had to translate its community-based model to the internet, MacCaull said. Some of the brokerage’s insurer partners have taken them on tours of innovation hubs (such as Aviva’s Digital Garage in Toronto, and another in Chicago), “and so we decided to get involved with the start-up community in Halifax.”

MacCaull knows that having a digital presence means not necessarily restructuring the entire business right away; it could be implementing eSignatures, a new phone system to digitally route calls or being able to interact in a secure way through text messaging.

“There’s a lot of talk and hype around building things from the ground up to be a totally digital native brokerage, but there’s not been really any standout success model for that yet – either from insurers or brokers,” he said. “You don’t need to go and build a brokerage that’s completely digital tomorrow.”