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Why should brokers invest in insurer relationships?

As a broker, it is essential to have strong market relationships with insurers. Whilst this may be a long-held belief, in the era of digital trading, hybrid working and ever- increasing regulation, is this really still the case?

Having spent much of my career on the insurer side, the benefits of building relationships with brokers are clear. Many roles are focused solely on it. Having a good handle on the people you are trading with and ensuring they have a full understanding of product benefits makes sense. In addition, having a good level of trust and clear escalation points to fix issues quickly makes sense and there are many parallels to other industries where suppliers need strong account management capabilities. There is value from both a governance standpoint as well as the more regularly quoted trading relationship perspective.

On the flip side, why should brokers make time for insurers? There’s enough difficulty tracking down clients, re-keying into various portals and chasing terms. Is there still value in prioritising relationships? In short, my view is that there is even more to be gained than ever before.

As a broker, providing high quality advice is essential and to do that you need to have a deep understanding of your marketplace. There is no better way to learn this than hearing it directly from insurers, spending the time reviewing their products and asking questions. If you are mainly operating in the world of digital trading then arguably it’s even more important. These products are becoming increasingly commoditised and, in order to have a view on which product you are selecting and why, you must know the detail – the quality of your advice is your USP.

In addition, building a strong relationship with specific underwriters/insurers allows you to build a trading relationship. The foundations of this are transparency and trust around the presentation of the risk and then service and flexibility in return. This has not changed and in my view will not change. However, what has changed is the ability to make this happen as easily.

It is now far more difficult to organise insurers to come in and meet the team or walk the floor when many brokers across the land are adopting hybrid working practices – there may only be a small percentage of relevant people available. In addition, most of the training is being done virtually which doesn’t achieve the same engagement or knowledge recall. So, what can be done to preserve the fundamental relationships between insurers and brokers?

It is certainly possible to build relationships over the phone but far more difficult via email so reach for the phone wherever possible. Dedicate specific time to face to face interactions, perhaps consider hosting multiple insurers on one day to maximise engagement within your team when you’re all in the office. Finally, if you really must do a group webinar then try to treat is as a face to face – turn your webcam on, emails off and concentrate on absorbing as much information as possible!

Insurance is, after all, a people business. In our increasingly remote, virtual and digitised world, let’s all do what we can to bring people and relationships back to the centre of what we do.

(Originally published in the CII Broking Newsletter)