Canadian Underwriter

Re-imagine your brokerage office (think retail)

April 5, 2018   by David Gambrill

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Brokers need to reinvent how they provide face-to-face advice to their clients, changing their physical office model to reflect a more modern approach inspired by a quick and easy online experience.

“Brokers need to start thinking about it in terms of retail,” Paul Jackson, chief marketing and distribution officer at Gore Mutual Insurance Company, told Canadian Underwriter in an interview Tuesday.

“If you have a suite on the 14th floor of an office building, that’s not conducive to a retail experience for individuals and small businesses,” Jackson says. “But if you have a storefront in a plaza or in a small community on the main street, and you are presenting a value proposition in that storefront that is based on the digitized experience — where customers can go on your website, or go into your store and get a similar sort of experience — that is really going to change the way the insurance industry interacts with its customers.”

Jackson rejects a binary notion of the insurance sale based on what he sees as two widespread false myths:

  • everyone wants to buy their insurance through self-service online;
  • meeting a broker face-to-face in an office for advice is a dull experience geared more towards filling out paperwork than providing a good customer experience.

“What we want to help brokers start to think about is, ‘How do you create that fast and efficient online experience, with that same sort of feel, in the advice-based scenario?’ Jackson said. “I think the advice-based channel can be very modern, very customer-oriented, and very efficient.”

How might insurance become more like an exciting retail experience?

Inspiration could be drawn from the retail experiences offered by Apple or Rogers stores, or by the way Scotiabank has been reconceiving bank service without the roped poles, lineups, and clerks behind the counters.

Imagine, for example, walking into a brokerage storefront, next to a boutique shop or a café, and having a licensed insurance broker offering you a cappuccino and going over your insurance options with you on a tablet. No desks separating the brokers from the clients, just some open spaces with some round tables and stools to sit.

Such a retail version of the “future broker” may not be suitable for some insurance clients, Jackson said. For larger corporate commercial clients, a large tower office may be more appropriate for those types of complex transactions.

But for brokers dealing with individuals who need home or car insurance, as well as those who work with small business clients, the point is to make the process of providing advice fun and friendly.

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