The event speakers offer their advice to brokers on getting the edge

Graham Hearsey, director, Professional Insurance Agents

Brokers can profit by catering for the soaring trend of customers buying insurance online, said Professional Insurance Agents director Graham Hearsey.

“The trend is coming from the client purchaser, not the broker and not the insurer,” Hearsey explained, noting that research carried out by his company showed that one-third of SME customers bought their cover outside office hours.

Hearsey predicted that broker websites will start to include a video link between the broker and the client, allowing the client to ask questions as they buy insurance, but keeping the traditional face-to-face contact that brokers and clients value.

“If a broker wants to get noticed outside their realm, they’ve got to be different,” he said.

In a surprise finding, PIA had also discovered that its claims for business carried out online were lower than for business transacted offline.

However, he noted that the firm had an online client retention rate of around 67% at renewal, compared to about 92% for offline.

Mike Lawton, mid-market division director, RSA

The clever use of technology will help set brokers apart from their competition, RSA mid-market division director Mike Lawton said.

Trading online lets brokers give a better service to customers while reducing their costs, Lawson said, adding that he kept a close eye on aggregators and e-trading to keep RSA abreast of any changes.

“Marketing and e-capability weren’t things a lot of brokers were thinking about five years ago,” Lawton said. “Customers have become more e-savvy.”

Another advantage IT offers brokers is the increased speed of management decisions and production of more accurate documentation, he noted.

Lawton said brokers have to differentiate themselves to insurers as well as customers. He said RSA wanted to work with brokers that were prepared to give a fair share of their business in exchange for top service from RSA.

“Trying to be all things to all men is not going to work; no one has the capacity to do that,” Lawton explained.

He added that RSA was prepared to offer advice and training to selected brokers to help them differentiate.

John Meredith, independent consultant

Differentiation is essentially about achieving competitive advantage to ensure sustainable profits, said John Meredith, an independent consultant.

“Competitive advantage is itself a fairly broad term but is fundamentally anything a business can do to demonstrate tangible benefits to customers. This could embrace quality of service, superior cover, competitive pricing, specific expertise or added-value mechanisms; in most cases, competitive advantage is gained through a combination of such benefits.

“You can have the best service or product in the world but if nobody knows what you do or how you do it then the consequences are obvious.”

The former Lloyd’s broker chief executive said the simplest way to start the process of differentiation is to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

“While businesses inevitably focus on known strengths, the benefits of addressing weaknesses or identifying opportunities should not be overlooked,” he explained.

“Businesses wishing to achieve differentiation will need to recognise that in most cases there are no quick fixes,” he added.