Canadian Underwriter

Digital growth demands new broker skill and training

November 15, 2021   by Jeff Buckstein

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The ongoing digital revolution, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue to have a major impact on the way brokers provide services.

Canadian Underwriter’s Trusted Advisor 2021 survey found 80% of business clients and 73% of personal clients said online quoting is the most important digital service they need today. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg for what’s coming.

Going forward clients will want online interaction regarding potential updates or changes to their policies, said David Kerr, a partner in the technology consulting practice of Deloitte Canada in Kitchener, Ont.

For example, in the current environment of skyrocketing housing prices, “there are digital services and information available to brokers that would allow them to analyze their clients’ risk to housing price differentials down to the neighbourhood level,” he explained. “[They’d] be able to provide that information to their clients to have a discussion around appropriate coverage.”

As the need for digital services ramps up, data analytics skills – including the ability to accumulate various sources of online data, analyze which products are most relevant to a particular client and then communicate that data effectively – will become even more important for brokers, said Kerr.

“This should be a base skill set for any new broker now,” he added.

Margo Lyons, vice president of broker distribution for APOLLO Insurance, a Vancouver based insurance technology company, noted brokers are currently operating under a lot of pressure due to the hard market and labour shortages.

“They have such a large workload that it’s time for them to really leverage technology. That will enable them to focus on the client relationship and provide that quality advice and counsel that is so important,” she stressed.

New avenues of customer service can be provided through digital tools. For example, live chat services will increase in response to a larger volume of client questions. That will enable the brokerage industry to service its clients more effectively and efficiently, Lyons predicted.

A stronger demand for digital services will also have a substantive impact on hiring, education and training.

“When we recruit new individuals into the industry we need to be focusing on ‘how do we provide them with a robust skill set in the products that they’re selling,’ and ‘how do we scale that knowledge within the organization to get that person equipped to answer the questions that come in?’” said Lyons.

Brokerage firms should ensure through on-the-job training that their employees have the appropriate digital skills. The industry should also ensure such skills are kept fresh through continuing education programs, she said.

The need for data analytics also potentially enhances the role of younger employees, who grew up with digital technology and are called upon to assist with digitization issues in brokerage firms.

“There are people coming out of schools right now where all they study is data. You need those young people that have the fresh understanding of tooling and techniques that are available,” said Kerr.

Lyons noted even younger employees, who previously worked outside the insurance industry but who are hired in with a good knowledge of how to use technology, can provide an open, curious and creative perspective.

“We need to be empowering those voices within our organizations to improve on our current processes and look at new opportunities for reaching the consumer,” she said.

“I think the most important thing when it comes to implementing new technology into the brokerage firm customer’s journey is to focus on making sure the technology does the heavy lifting, so that the brokers can continue to build the personal relationships,” stressed Lyons.


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