Canadian Underwriter

How COVID accelerated broker tech by 4-5 years

October 21, 2020   by David Gambrill

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COVID-19 has been good for the broker channel, in the sense that it has accelerated digital growth at brokerages by at least four to five years, a digital broker told the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) virtual convention Wednesday.

Faced with “the ultimate stress test” in having to master digital platforms quickly, brokerages saw wins in digital signatures, videoconferencing, VOIP phone technology (which can now collect data on how clients are feeling during the call), and lead management technology, says Jeff Roy, CEO of the digital brokerage Excalibur Insurance.

“If you want to use a wrecking ball analogy, there were a lot of people who were complacent and hadn’t really been talking about going digital, but really didn’t have that push,” said Roy, a keynote speaker at the 2020 IBAO Convention session, Technology Roundup | Applications in Ontario Brokerages. “The wrecking ball of COVID has accelerated [digital adoption] by the industry.

“I think it’s been a good kick in the pants, as much as it has been difficult for all of us in the industry. It has accelerated technology. Some would say by as much as four to five years, which is incredible.”

When the World Health Organization (WHO) made the global pandemic official on Mar. 11, 2020, many brokerages started sending their employees to work from home to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. The move forced many brokerages to figure out how to digitize their business processes in a hurry.

“It’s been the ultimate stress test,” Roy said. “We’re fairly technologically advanced at Excalibur, and a lot of things we had weren’t good enough. [COVID] brought to the surface some things we had to get better at. It’s required our team to do an operational analysis of how we do things, how we can improve it, and, to use the analogy, figure out how to build the plane while it’s in flight.”

DocuSign, a digital signature technology, saw its business grow by four times during the pandemic, Roy observed. “Their Number 1 competitor was paper. And through COVID, they accelerated their growth and adapted to it.”

For the most part, prior to the pandemic, brokerages reported more than 70% of clients and account managers using digital signatures, Roy said. That number increased after COVID.

So did use of videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams, which brokers took up quickly to stay in touch with their clients.

At Excalibur Insurance, changing to a cloud telephony phone system offered by Croo led to significant savings, Roy reported. Before Croo, Roy said his office was paying out a total of $36,000 in phone bills over four offices; the new system reduced the phone bills to $10,000.

“We’re looking at a $26,000 cost savings on phone,” Roy said. “It’s got the ability to handle calls between offices, it allows a receptionist to re-route calls. We can scale it, and most importantly, it’s got some A.I. built into it….

“We can start analyzing calls for sentiment, to see whether our people on the phone with their clients are happy or sad. We can start analyzing that stuff, which will give us a ton of data we didn’t have. Something really cool that happened out of COVID.”

Lead management solutions are also in vogue during the pandemic. These systems direct sales leads to the right person in the organization to handle them.

“We had to be able to route leads to the right person, not knowing where they were [i.e. because they were all working from home],” said Roy. “We had to have a system automatically channel 50-60 leads a day to the right person. Having our excellent sales team responding was critical. You will see [more] people adopt lead management systems during COVID.”


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