Canadian Underwriter

How to digitize traditional brokerages without breaking the bank

February 28, 2023   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Robot assistant for a digital insurance brokerage

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Many brokerages adopted technology sooner than planned because of the pandemic. And now acceptance of remote work is pushing brokerages to accelerate — or in some cases, start implementing — digital strategies.

It’s easy to make a case for digitizing a brokerage. You get faster policy processing, operational efficiencies, and quicker customer service. But, for some, the costs can seem daunting or prohibitive.

“It’s not like you are being asked to do a long-term investment for service that you will never see in return,” said Surex co-founder and CEO Lance Miller. “Digital processes are faster, they’re more reliable. Whatever you invest in, it’s a pretty quick payback, even within a year. You’re pretty cost-neutral on it.”

Miller, who’s led both traditional and digital brokerage models, said digitizing from scratch can be easier than converting a traditional brokerage to a digital one.

“There’s the project of digitizing the information. But then there’s also the project of getting your staff to actually use digital workflows rather than traditional workflows,” he added, “which also requires an adjustment period.”

These days, no brokerage operates without a website or email, observed Adam Mitchell, CEO at Mitch Insurance. He noted the term digitization can mean different things to different brokerages and advised brokers not to see it as switching from one functioning piece of technology to another. Rather, think about it as adding functionality to your business.

Digitizing a brokerage doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. When you’re ready to upgrade and update your processes, be methodical about which ones need to improve.

It’s preferable to digitize your brokerage’s sales and lead-generation processes, followed by customer service, said Mitchell.

“If you were to tackle those two things…those are really core to the business,” he added. “Making sure you’re getting leads, converting them, and then servicing clients. It’s really easy to track that sales funnel in a modern lead-management system. Then, once they come on board, we move them over to the service side.”

For example, the price of a good lead-management system, which analyzes incoming leads so they can be converted into new business opportunities, can be inconsequential.

“A lead-management system costs hundreds of dollars a month — it’s the equivalent to selling one more policy,” said Mitchell. “But it will absolutely help you sell more than that, and not waste your marketing dollars.”

Another nearly cost-neutral upgrade is your phone system. “Aside from the cost of rolling over the system, there’s not a lot of expensive raw cost,” he added. “The per-month cost is very similar to whatever you’re [currently] running.”

Such systems let brokers onboard clients digitally through automated welcome emails or auto-fill forms, digital questionnaires and discovery phone calls.

A primary goal of digitizing the sales process is to digitize all the paperwork. This involves “getting rid of traditional filing systems so that [the documents are] readily accessible,” said Miller. “Most of the broker management systems…already have digital document management. So as far as digitizing that goes, it’s there. You don’t need anything extra.

“Getting a service such as DocuSign or Adobe Sign, so that you can send applications or endorsements and get them signed by a customer digitally, [is] pretty affordable and generally on a by-envelope basis, so you just pay [when] you use them.”


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