Social media may be the future of the industry but, as young brokers at the latest Insurance Times/Aviva IT Pack event in Birmingham learned, the personal touch never goes out of style
Relationships between brokers and insurers were put under the spotlight at the latest IT Pack event in Birmingham last month.
Hosted by Aviva and Insurance Times, the event brought young brokers together to discuss how building successful relationships in the industry is evolving in light of insurer structural changes, a hyper-competitive market and advances in technology.
Aviva head of trading Midlands Jo Thoy said that the insurer was placing an increased importance on broker relationships and aimed to preserve face-to-face contact in its internal restructure.
“We need to communicate to brokers that we have a really clear strategic view of the changes we are making,” Thoy said. “It is a challenging time for us and we need to ensure we have honest conversations with brokers.”
The young brokers heard that internal processes at Aviva were being improved to allow more effective working relationships with brokers.
Set-up for the future
Long-term, strategic relationships are now a key focus, said Aviva sales manager Midlands Raoul Suthers.
“We’ve made improvements in building meaningful relationships with brokers in the Midlands and understanding how they want to service their clients. This requires a real openness and honesty from both sides,” said Suthers.
How to source new business in a competitive environment formed another discussion point.
JCB Insurance Services senior account handler Anna Fallows said that gaining a client’s trust in the brand was key, but building personal relationships must remain a priority.
“The corporate brand is your foot in the door, but selling yourself is crucial. You are the face of the brand,” she said.
The impact of social media on relationships and new business opportunities was also high on the event agenda.
Inspire Insurance Services commercial account executive Neil Mackey said that social media was an important part of the client relationship.
“I’ve picked up a lot of good quality business through social networks like LinkedIn. I might meet a client but then not see them for another six months; with LinkedIn I can keep up to date with their personal and professional achievements and I can reconnect with them through the website,” he added.
Mackey predicted that the use of the social media in the insurance industry would become more prolific.
“Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will always be big players but I can see many more social media websites being introduced. If we were having this discussion in five years’ time there might be a list of eight or nine big social media websites.”
The IT Pack events are hosted by Insurance Times and Aviva as part of a search to find the rising stars of the broking industry.
At the Birmingham event the judges picked two winners from the pack, awarding the top spots to Inspire Insurance Services’ Mackey and Firth & Scott commercial account handler Stevie Ridgley.
The judges also gave special mention to Fallows for her input on the day.
Q&A: Richard Waltier, Jobson James
Jobson James director Richard Waltier thinks the insurance industry has been smeared unjustly by the behaviour of the banks and the financial crisis
What are the biggest challenges facing the insurance industry today?
The economy has had a huge impact on the insurance sector, and to a large extent that has been positive. The insurance industry has been slow in coming into the modern age, but the current economic climate has really sharpened the sector as a whole. Brand and reputation is also an issue for the industry. The financial crisis and its effect on banking has rolled over into insurance and has given the industry a bad name; we need to counteract that by speaking more positively about what we do. Another concern is the potential shortage of talent in the industry. I would like to see more talented young people coming directly into the insurance world.
What is Jobson James’s strategy for growth?
As a business we’re looking to grow aggressively. I don’t think the right answer is to do that through acquisitions; I think organic growth is the solution but it needs to be targeted. You can’t be all things to all people and you need to know where you can deliver value. If you understand the issues in those sectors, then you can offer successful bespoke solutions.
Another concern is the potential shortage of talent … I’d like to see more talented young people coming directly into the insurance world’
Richard Waltier, Jobson James
How will you handle the introduction of mandatory commission disclosure and its effect on client relationships?
Nothing will change in our organisation. It doesn’t matter how small the client is, we will tell them how much we earn. Some of our competitors might be worried about this, but we are not scared of communicating with our clients and as an industry it is important that we’re seen to be doing this. You need to be able to demonstrate the value you are delivering.
How do you see relationships evolving with the move to e-trading?
E-trading has its place and we shouldn’t be scared of it. It is an important development and we need to embrace it as a solution to the problems it can solve. However, I believe face-to-face contact is still vital. We need to develop a lot of specialist, technical knowledge and a big part of that is understanding your client and developing a strong relationship with them.