Canadian Underwriter

Digitization works for smaller brokerages, too

April 8, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Digital transformation using information technologies as cloud computing, business process management and automation to improve efficiency. Concept with hand turning knob to increase data digitization

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As workplace digitization increases, small brokerages can benefit from automating their processes just as much as big ones, said panellists in a Canadian Underwriter webinar Wednesday.  

Across the industry, digital technology adoption has accelerated year-over-year. Canadian brokerages with revenues of $5 million to $9 million had the highest technology adoption score at 50% in 2021, followed by brokerages with revenues of $1.25 million to $2.49 million (46%). Brokerages with revenue under $1.25 million had a 38% adoption rate, according to an Applied Canada digital brokerage survey.  

In terms of employee size, three sizes of brokerages — i.e. brokerages with 25 to 49 employees, 50 to 74 employees, and 75 to 99 employees — all tied for the highest digital adoption rates, at 49% each. Brokerages with nine or fewer employees had a lower adoption rate (37%).  

But “you don’t have to be a large-scale broker” to take advantage of digitization, Steve Whitelaw, vice president and general manager at Applied Systems Canada, said during the webinar. “You can be a small broker to use these tools and take advantage of [automation].”

Over the past three years, one principal at a small, commercial brokerage says her firm has taken many steps to digitize, including upgrading their broker management system, offering online insurance, integrating premium financing, and more.  

In order to suit her brokerage’s professional services niche, “we focused on our communication channels and giving our clients options for how they can communicate with us, and what technologies are available for them to use,” says Andrea Collis, president at Collis Insurance Services Group. ‘We try and handle them all differently as to who they are. Over 50% of what we do is professional services…We try to put technology into place that suited that particular niche.”   

Collis said the brokerage “implemented a software application that allows clients to fill in their applications online…They can attach their supporting documents, financial statements or resumes. We’re able to really cut down on the amount of paperwork that has to go on in completing those documents.”  

Another broker principal says automating their processes allowed them to take on more clients.  

“We’re a new client of Epic,” says Jack Mazakian vice president at Advocis Broker Services, referencing Applied’s broker management software. “I think what we did successfully is that we went even further: we also built an online portal for insurance purchases that is integrated into Epic. That allows us an immense amount of capacity and scale capability, but also efficiency.”  

Mazakian says their newly automated processes make buying insurance more like a “retail experience.”  

“We can grow significantly with it, and not have to grow from an expense perspective of hiring,” he says. “The technology allows us to also be able to focus more on elements that can be a lot more effective in dealing with our customers and spending more time understanding products and explaining to them their needs.”  

Standalone marketing automation technology allows brokers to tailor content to a client’s needs, Whitelaw adds. “The information [is] collected about the customer in-store. Messaging and content can be tailored to their needs. We can track things like open rates, read rates, if there were actions that were taken as a result of the communication. All those can be tracked to see what the real value was.”  


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