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Why recruitment experts say brokers need to change their image


December 3, 2019   by Greg Meckbach


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Finding it harder to recruit young people? Try explaining what insurance brokerage employees actually do, panelists advised brokers at a recent conference.

“People who don’t work in the insurance industry have a distorted view of what it’s like to be in insurance sales,” said Peter Morris, president of Robertson Morris Consulting.

“They think that in order to be good at sales you have to be that back-slapping, ‘Sign here’ type of person and that’s just not true. I think to the extent that we can communicate that it can be very rewarding, satisfying work – I think to the extent that we can get that message out, it would be so much easier to bring people in,” Morris said during Recruiting Top Talent & Managing the Future Workforce, a panel discussion at Canadian Underwriter’s recent Top Broker Summit.

From left: David Gambrill, Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Underwriter; Peter Morris, president, Robertson Morris Consulting; Kristin Coulombe, senior vice president, human resources, Navacord; and Trevor Buttrum, manager of career connections at the Insurance Institute of Canada. Photo by Adam Malik.

“Just the images of the industry for recruits – I think we can do a better job,” said Morris, whose services include advising brokerages on recruiting and mergers and acquisitions.

“There isn’t enough experienced talent to fill your needs,” said co-panelist Trevor Buttrum, manager of Career Connections at the Insurance Institute of Canada.

The inflow of young workers into the property and casualty insurance industry remains weak relative to the expected outflow of older workers, the Conference Board of Canada said in Demographics of the P&C Insurance Industry in Canada, a report commissioned by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

As more workers in the Baby Boom generation (who were born between 1946 and 1967) retire, competition for labour will increase, the Conference Board said in the report, which was based on a survey of employees and HR professionals as well as an analysis of data from 48 organizations employing about 35% of the industry’s workers in 2017.

When choosing a career, many young people tend to look at the characteristics of the job rather than the industry itself, Buttrum suggested during Top Broker Summit. The characteristics today’s recent grads tend to look for include reward, challenge and stability of employment.

Brokerages tend to be small and sales can be financially rewarding, said Morris.

“I can be close to home. That idea of Toronto – not having to face the commute can be quite an advantage.”

The industry needs to do a better job of getting the word out to young people that roles in brokerages include providing expert advice, said Kristin Coulombe, senior vice president of human resources at brokerage firm Navacord.

Tell young people they have a potential of earning high income if they can build long-lasting relationships with clients by advising them on how to mitigate risk, suggested Coulombe.

“There is an array of service levels that you can have on the operations side of the business from servicing the accounts to leadership,” she said.

“This might be for larger brokerages, but more and more, you are also seeing IT, HR, marketing – so those are the types of roles that are traditional in brokerages. Some of the things I see emerging with new roles in brokerages are content marketers, brand ambassadors, social media managers –  a greater emphasis on talent acquisition specialists,” said Coulombe.

Top Broker Summit was held Nov. 25 at the Ritz-Carlton across the road from Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall.


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4 Comments » for Why recruitment experts say brokers need to change their image
  1. Frank Cain says:

    When I began my career in insurance in 1952, it was with the Century Insurance company at the N/W corner of Bay and Adelaide, Toronto. How far back is 1952? Bay and Richmond were two-way Streets. But it was far enough back to have provided 18 years for me in the company end of the business and when I entered the brokerage field (actually Agent) right after in 1970, it wasn’t long before I realized how very fortunate I was to have had those first years of company experience. And to anyone wanting to enter the insurance business, my advice would be to start with an insurance company because that’s where your knowledge, experience and talents are eventually going to rest as a producing underwriter.

    One thing is clear, you will never forget your experience with a company for as long as you remain in the business. You will have a much better idea of work flow, claims processes, underwriting strategies (granted as variegated among companies as a description of purple) and how various departments look at an application when it reaches a desk. It will teach you as a broker that the insurer will not have to send memos requesting basic and fundamental information that was omitted from the application. You may find they will not have to do that to your work but the message that it will bring home is that time is money and that there is more than that cost to time and trouble. And what you undoubtedly will carry with you is the respect you will have for the company’s 85% part of the premium dollar apart from your brokerage’s 15%.

    I once heard the expression that any job is 90% routine and that the remaining 10% can be used to perfect it. If you’re careful, that principle can be applied to the insurance business. If you first learn the routines of a professional risk bearer, your work as a broker should easier to grasp and perfect.

    • william hazelton says:

      Interesting point of view. You made a very valid point. Far to many people in most industries lack the big picture view of how their respective industries work. Congratulations on the long career.

  2. Ehsan Rasul says:

    Brokers can only blame themselves for the current demise of the broker channel and the image we have portrayed to the public especially over the last decade or so.
    Brokers forgot who we are and why we exist as a broker. What’s the fundamental reason that people use broker channel for their insurance needs. We forgot about training and Mentoring new and young brokers, instead we teach them softwares and systems. We transformed our young brokers into data entry agents instead of an ethical professional. We began to copy call centres and direct writers to generate more revenue, and in the process we lost our unique identity and purpose.Broker channel and brokers are endangered species now and gradually losing market share and space to direct writers an call centers because we lost our niche and unique proposition. It is still time to wake up and get back to basics of being a broker and teach our young brokers to exist, otherwise in next decade we will be extinct.

  3. Glenna Ritchie says:

    Just leaving the insurance industry after 36 years of service. I wouldn’t recommend a young person persue a career in insurance. The employees in the brokerages are over worked and underpaid. With all the mergers going on now, the focus is not on the employees. Ribo needs to oversee the lack of management in the multi branch brokerages. The insurance industry should go back to review what it takes to retain an employee to make their job more enjoyable. Strongest asset is your employee and the industry doesn’t get it.

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