I guess you could call any period a “time of change” but we do appear to be going through the most rapidly shifting and unpredictable periods in living memory – and at times like these it’s relatively easy for a good broker to demonstrate the expertise, the support and the peace of mind they bring to their clients. But, with everything from technology and regulation to our future relationship with the EU in a state of flux, it’s the ideal opportunity to take this a step further and deliver something truly outstanding.
We regularly look objectively at the brokers we regard as “leading”. Those brokers clearly share a number of attributes and behaviours that set them apart from the pack. It goes beyond just having an in-depth knowledge of the insurance market (though that undoubtedly always helps), they also know their clients really, really well. That stems from putting their clients at the centre of everything they do. That’s not just lip-service. They really are alive to any of changes that are happening to their clients’ businesses. Anything from a new acquisition or a product launch to a change in regulation can affect a client’s risk and insurance requirements, so it pays to scrutinise what they do and listen intently.
On that note speaking to them regularly is obviously essential but there’s also plenty of information and insight from other sources. We’ve noted good brokers harvesting client information from multiple social media feeds, not just reviewing the internet. Automatic feeds help inform the client, but also provide information on the client and provide means to assess what’s happening in the relevant business sector to enrich the next conversation. We have seen some bigger brokers using technology to power up this insight too, with big data helping to transform broker businesses.
Analytics and data driven decisions in the broking space aren’t everywhere but without doubt we are hearing of more widespread use in the prospecting of business, risk assessment and placement… and it’s easy to see why. By holding client details in a digital format, identifying trends that can translate into proactive support is that little bit more simple and provides the broking edge. For instance, if you’re aware that some of your manufacturing clients are stockpiling materials due to Brexit and currency uncertainty, it’s sensible to check whether other manufacturers are doing the same - and advising on the relevant required insurance covers of course.
Likewise, if a client goes into a new area of business or wants to relocate their operations, that proactive advice – based on the captured experience of similar clients – enables them to be readily apprised of how it might affect their risk exposures. Providing that expertise can only ensure greater certainty, peace of mind and transform the relationship to that of trusted adviser.
Another common trait we observed among leading brokers: their hunger for knowledge and organisational advancement. They’re well read, they know the trade publications for their clients’ business sectors as well as the insurance press, they study and opine on the latest technical material from insurers and professional bodies – and they point things out to insurers. This passion for knowledge and professionalism sometimes translates to them being a chartered broker, which we like. We absolutely recognise that investing in training and development is a great way to get the edge over the competition.
Combining that insurance expertise with great client insight can surely only lead to better advice: knowing exactly which insurance products offer their clients the most appropriate cover; selecting those with the wordings and limits that best suit their needs; knowing which insurers are best placed to provide cover, with those that are stable and secure providing the certainty of long-term commitment in these uncertain times. Beyond that we recognise that a full risk and insurance broking service is not always possible but without doubt leading brokers do also support their clients with risk management advice.
A loss can be particularly damaging in uncertain or volatile times, so helping to identify and reduce risks is a key way to support these businesses and turn them into lifelong connections. And, while a leading broker will help to reduce risk as much as possible, claims happen. Informed support in the hour of need is essential. We hear that “24/7 response” often but we also see and hear real evidence of brokers who will take that call and respond at all hours.
Putting the client at the centre of everything that they do. Knowledge and extra insight, proactively deployed. Smart use of data and technology. A desire for professional progress. Recognising that insurance is only part of the overall service and having the means to address other client concerns. At times of great uncertainty that is how good brokers are Always Leading.
Nick Hobbs, director of broker markets, Allianz Insurance