Brokers should look at ways of improving their offerings to clients, says Peter O'Neill.

Gone are the days when brokers could wait for business to come knocking.

Driving business forward has never been easy, but today's pressures are taking their toll. Customers are more demanding, pleasing the regulator has become a fulltime job and competition is anything but easy.

Those who want to succeed in such an environment will have to adapt their business strategy to make sure they deliver better services to customers while keeping costs to a minimum. Not to mention ensuring that every aspect of their business is fully compliant.

Getting the right price is of course paramount. But it is not the only factor to consider. Brokers and insurers need to understand better their clients' requirements and tailor competitive products to suit these.

Some business can, undoubtedly, be transitional - basic cover, at the cheapest price. In these instances the onus is on insurers to work in partnership with brokers to help them to identify the best solution for their clients, andto help them reduce operational costs.

In certain instances where there is a high volume of business, typically in the SME area, the use of technology is also crucial, as it helps brokers realise efficiency by speeding up processes. Compliance issues, including contract certainty, also become easier to deal with when brokers have access to genuine full-cycle systems.

Having a fully transactional online platform means that brokers can be more effective, reduce costs and transact more business in less time.

But embracing technology may well represent a cultural change where brokers will have to be creative about how they run their business and find new ways to deal with new technologies and procedures.

And, although some are still reluctant to really go with the flow, standing still is not an option.

In addition to the use of technology and instead of looking at insurance as standalone policies, the industry also needs to look at the whole package of benefits that can be offered, such as risk management and helpline services.

This is something QBE is already doing with great success. It is a win-win situation. Brokers improve their offerings to clients, who have access to other services rather than just an insurance policy, and insurance companies mitigate their risks.

For example, for certain products QBE looks to work with law firms to provide helplines to aid insureds to mitigate a wide range of risks. This is not only an attempt to try to resolve issues which could give rise to claims. Helplines are also equipped to give general business advice to customers.

The benefits are clear, if you give customers the tools to manage and reduce their risks, you are more likely to keep them as you will be able to improve business efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately cut down on premiums.

This approach obviously makes perfect sense, but the industry still has a lot of catching up to do. Not all insurers are offering as much as they could and many composites do not offer any added-value at all with their policies.

The market would benefit greatly if such practices became embedded within the industry. Brokers have a key role to play in helping their clients understand the range of services available to them and the benefits they could access through different products.

The old dynamic of supply and demand is no longer applicable in a market whose requirements are becoming more complex by the day.

With larger risks, for example, brokers really need to show their clients they understand their businesses. In turn, insurance companies have to come up with innovative solutions such as creating tailormade products with added value - which give brokers a competitive edge.

Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the market place and their rights. So brokers should take the advice they often dish out to their own clients - make sure you manage your professional risks well. Seriously.

Brokers ahead of the game have already devised business models to manage change effectively. At the end of the day, the more forward-looking brokers will be able to increase their share of the market and/or remain profitable.