Insurance Times asked three insurers to put their case for supporting brokers. Here, Chris Garrett explains how Allianz Cornhill helps smaller brokers that are struggling with compliance, technology and competition in a difficult market.

"Insurers? Wonderful bunch, can't speak highly enough of them."

"They do as much as they can, they follow everything through that you ask of them, and it's an extremely good service."

Unfortunately, broker comments such as those are rare. Usually, remarks focus on the lack of service and support and poor contact with decision makers.

But are things really as bad as they seem? For example, according to a recently published Datamonitor Survey, brokers have acknowledged that their insurer partners have been instrumental in helping them cope and adjust to the new FSA requirements.

Major challenge

"Implementing the proper procedures and practices was a major challenge and it is clear that insurers assisted in the transition," reads the report.

A small number of insurers remain as committed as ever to a whole raft of initiatives and with competition so fierce, any right thinking insurer will want to add value by putting something on the table that is different and attractive to brokers.

Not all brokers want or need a traditional business developer calling on them.

In 2005 Allianz Cornhill piloted a telephone account management system (Tams) designed to support smaller brokers who do not have a dedicated business developer.

Service support is offered to these brokers and, as their account grows, they are then passed back to their local Allianz Cornhill branch for a business developer to continue the service. Tams has generated an 81% increase in new business and, most importantly, supported many brokers in growing their businesses. The pilot is now moving into full roll-out stage.

Embracing technology

Technology can help rid the market of its inefficiency and duplication, yet there is still some hesitancy in embracing technology. The Datamonitor survey revealed that 23.7% of brokers did not have a website, with most of those not planning to obtain one.

Of those with websites, only 10.4% receive 5% or more of their premium income from their site, with about a third of sites being non-interactive and producing no income.

Perhaps this is due to a lack of appreciation of the benefits, or perhaps, and far more likely, this is due to a lack of understanding of how to embrace technology.

Insurers can offer invaluable support with IT training.

According to a recent Biba survey, nearly 90% of brokers questioned say their training requirements have increased since FSA regulation and 80% encourage their staff to take CII examinations.

In 2007, Allianz Cornhill will open the doors of its underwriting academy and will offer a series of training modules to its key partner brokers. On completion of modules, CPD points will be awarded.

In early 2005, Allianz Cornhill first introduced breakfast clubs. With sessions designed to fit easily around the working day, support is on hand to discuss the key challenges and hot topics facing brokers in an ever-changing market.

In addition to the offerings above, a number of insurers offer marketing support to intermediaries serious about growing their businesses. This can range from advice on direct mailing and provision of posters for shop windows to more detailed presentations about the fundamentals of marketing a business.

Some insurers offer broker support as a fundamental part of their business and will assist with everything from training and technology needs to marketing support and scholarship funding. However, some brokers feel that incentives such as membership clubs are not worthwhile.

But one thing is for sure, broker support has never received such a focus since the FSA introduced training and competence requirements.

- Chris Garrett is broker partnership manager at Allianz Cornhill Commercial.