Software houses must steer clear of ’the one-size-fits-all approach’ to tap into opportunity to ’champion’ smaller brokers and support business growth. Insurance Times explores how brokers and software houses can work together to ensure value for money
While brokers themselves are the backbone of any broking business, the software they use to complete day-to-day tasks provides the framework for completing their work efficiently, supporting their ambition to deliver exceptional service.
From creating documents and storing risk information, to generating invoices and statements, brokers rely on software platforms and their relationships with software houses to effectively complete a host of tasks, record information about clients and stay up to date with changing circumstances and regulatory environments.
The largest brokers often have dedicated technology heads employed to manage everything around the utilisation and implementation of software, but smaller brokers often do not have this capacity. These firms require support, a more tailored product and for software houses to understand their specific needs.
Henry Gallacher, managing director at Birmingham-based broker Cape Insurance, told Insurance Times “it can be difficult to find products that would be tailored to our needs”.
He explained: “Generally, we look for something that allows us to service our clients as quickly, easily and efficiently as possible.
“We need a system that can capture all regulated data requirements and allow anyone in the team to pick up a file and run with it.
“The behind the scenes technical support is key to allowing us to provide all of this, so if we can’t make amendments or solve problems, or implement effective training when we need it, then we wouldn’t want to be investing in that system.”
Gallacher added that software houses should be aware of their range of software products and, crucially, know how these fit in with various sized brokers.
“For a smaller broker, it’s largely about support to get up and running and the training that will be required alongside this,” he explained.
“Then, it’s about being able to capture the correct risk data from day one, which means that - as the company grows and expands - there won’t be a huge backlog of data to be uploaded or inputted later, which frustrates employees and takes valuable time away from servicing clients.”
The advantages of utilising technology platforms and solutions are numerous and apply to brokers large and small – these can include enhanced and streamlined workflows, digital policy admin and easily navigable claims systems. However, smaller brokers may rely more heavily on any advantages that a software system can provide to remain competitive.
Sam Mellett, senior product manager at software house Concirrus, said: “The overwhelming advantage that technology gives brokers is immediate access to deeper, actionable information much faster and more efficiently than ever before.
“If applied correctly, brokers can utilise this information to understand the risk profiles of their customers and ensure the cover is tailored specifically to how [these] customers are operating, relative to their deep business needs.”
Stephen Murphy, senior director of customer experience at software house Applied Systems, explained that the major advantages of software could be split into three categories – internal operations, market access and quoting and customer experience.
However, he added: “Maximising an investment in technology is all about working with your software provider. A broker management system is not the type of technology that can just be thrown over the fence by a provider [for a] broker [to] figure it out.”
Software houses working alongside their broker customers is especially important when the brokers are smaller because there may not be the capacity in-house to train staff how to use new systems.
Murphy explained: “Software providers must take the time to meet one-to-one with their brokers, to implement, train and continually check in. Not only is one-on-one training important, but brokers must have access to educational resources that are consistently updated.”
A symbiotic relationship between software houses and brokers, where brokers explain their needs and technological solutions are provided by the software firms, is important for both parties to nurture.
Software house Zywave’s UK regional manager, Fay Reinhold-Shor, explained: “To ensure we remain relevant to our brokers, Zywave is in continual engagement with clients so that the products we offer are meeting their needs.
”On top of our own market analysis, Zywave holds regular meetings with clients and has a section on the platform where users are able to provide feedback on improvements to the system.
“We regularly engage with brokers to secure feedback, to enable us to make improvements so that our systems better meet their needs.”
A tailored product
The investment needed to implement a new software platform is often considerable and requires an appropriate degree of forward planning to ensure that the true value of the technology is realised once purchased.
Smaller brokers will all have their own individual priorities to consider when exploring technology propositions too, be that ease of scalability, seamlessly linking to other systems or helping to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Graham Goodman, head of marketing and digital at broker network Willis Towers Watson Networks, said: “It’s not the case of one system having it all, so brokers need to think through their list of priorities before starting the process of choosing a platform.
“Even though that platform may be right for now, good planning will help ensure it’s the right system to meet the broker’s needs in a few years’ time too.”
Reinhold-Shor echoed this sentiment. She added: “The most important consideration for brokers when investing in a technology platform is to find one that will scale and grow with the business.”
While the affordability of technology can present an issue for the market’s smaller brokers, price should not always be the main factor to consider.
Gallacher explained: “Each software house has its own pros and cons - including price. While price does appear to range quite a lot, it is not necessarily the biggest factor when deciding [to invest], even for a new broker.
“Realistically, a cheap platform that frustrates your employees and doesn’t service your clients to the standard you want is worthless, whereas a slightly more expensive system is an investment into what will hopefully be a long-standing and successful company.
“Software houses do need to be wary of their pricing, but they need to focus more on listening to the requirements of smaller brokers and ensuring the support and flexibility is there where it can be.”
Once brokers have decided on a product, they should then ensure they are able to extract the maximum value from the efficiencies and capabilities that it provides.
This is not entirely a broker’s responsibility, however, and software houses should work to ensure their products are as useful as possible, especially for their smaller customers.
Goodman said: “All [software houses] could focus their designs more for smaller or regional brokers, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach at the moment.
“There’s a great opportunity for one of the major software houses to be champion of the smaller, regional broker if [it] wanted to.
The software houses Insurance Times spoke to were keen to emphasise that they engaged with smaller brokers to help them through the transition period around software platform implementation.
Mellett noted: “With smaller organisations, we tend to engage directly with the end users, which allows deep conversation into how they are using the platform and what items they would require in the road map.
Murphy added: “I truly believe that if we solve for large brokers then we solve for all. We have broker groups that [include] both small and regional brokers [that] help test our new technologies before they are launched to the market.
“We believe it is critical to have perspective from every size broker, due to each business being so different.”