Canadian Underwriter

Through the looking glass: What brokers think of their own service

August 24, 2020   by David Gambrill

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There is no shortage of pride when it comes to brokers reflecting on the work they do for their clients, especially given the workload they recently endured.

After Canadians were side-swiped by an economic recession following the novel coronavirus pandemic, brokers plenty of calls from clients requesting premium relief.

One broker told Canadian Underwriter that his brokerage was getting calls from clients saying they could not pay their premiums, but they still didn’t want to lose their insurance coverage. “What do you do with that?” he said.

In all of this, brokers made a lot of policy changes on behalf of their existing clients; no additional premiums — and hence, commissions — were coming in as a result. Brokers “are doing all of this work for negative endorsement activity,” as Graham Haigh, vice president of broker distribution at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, put it recently in a Canadian Underwriter webinar. “Which means [they] are taking cash out of [their] pockets in order to deliver this exceptional service to our mutual policyholders. We certainly recognize that brokers are an essential service to consumers.”

The brokers’ sense of pride shines through in the results of the second part of our 2020 Trusted Advisor Survey. In the survey, which was conducted in the middle of the pandemic, we asked brokers to rate themselves along various dimensions of what essentially makes up the broker value proposition — advice, choice, advocacy. To no one’s surprise, brokers tend to rate themselves very highly in core aspects of their work.

Fully 96% of brokers in our survey agreed with the statement that they were a “trusted advisor” to their clients. And rightly so, as many would argue, based on the circumstances noted above.

A perfectionist might ask what happened to the other 4% of brokers who didn’t feel like they were nearly-perfect trusted advisors. A detailed look at the survey results suggest a few areas in which brokers felt they could tweak the service they provided. One broker who took the survey summed up the overall spirit in which the survey was intended.

“This is not an easy job, by any stretch,” the broker commented. “Just when you think you have a solution, [ABC] market can close it and you have to look for and learn brand new markets. There is very little time on the job to learn and many hours outside of work reading and learning. This is a requirement, in my opinion, in order to be poised to offer advice to your client on a moment’s notice. Soft skills, and life skills in general, are frequently called upon in order to wear as many hats as required in this business. Brokers must be well-rounded in order to rise up to the challenge.”

In the first part of our Trusted Advisor Survey, Canadian Underwriter asked more than 600 personal lines insurance consumers and 160 commercial lines clients what they thought about the services they were getting from their brokers. By and large, consumers gave their brokers high marks on key aspects of the broker value proposition.

In Part 2 of Trusted Advisor series, we asked Canadian P&C insurance brokers to rate themselves on dimensions related to advice, choice and advocacy.

More than 180 brokers across Canada completed the second part of survey. Thirty per cent identified as owners or principals. About one-quarter (26%) said they were producers with no management responsibilities, while 20% said they were producers with some management responsibilities. Most (72%) reported that their brokerage dealt with a mix of personal and commercial lines. Most (24%) of respondents had between 20 to 49 employees at their brokerage. Respondents averaged 21 years of experience as a broker. The average estimated age was about 53 years old. There was a 52% (male) and 48% (female) gender split.


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