Thank you to everyone who attended our last webinar for 2022! As always, fret not if you missed out on this webinar. This article will highlight some of the key insights shared at the webinar.
With the theme of the webinar being ’Tech and how it enhances intermediaries’ core value to the client’, we broke the webinar down into three key segments:
- The value an intermediary creates
- Being curious about your clients
- Tech and how it uplays your core value to the client
The value an intermediary creates
The webinar kicked off with the speaker sharing about what clients value most about an intermediary.
It was shared that this is important for intermediaries to recognise – to know where their strength lies – and this will set the tone for the rest of the webinar where the speaker will share about how tech can influence and up play these strengths.
What intermediaries bring to the table
Intermediaries ARE advisors to the policyholder
- Intermediaries provide customers with the necessary information required to make educated purchases/ informed decisions.
- Intermediaries are there to explain what their clients need, and the options available to them.
Intermediaries help clients save time on searching and researching
- Intermediaries act as the person with the knowledge to get the client started.
- Without a wholesome knowledge of the insurance industry, it is hard to even get going to do research OR trust the research you have done; essentially, clients don’t know what they don’t know.
- It was shared that intermediaries are best placed to help on this because they:
- know their clients’ risks
- know the insurers willing to cover those risks
- know the best way to secure that coverage.
Intermediary bring certainty to uncertainty
- Clients: may know what risks they want to cover but do not have a wide overview of the right insurer
- Insurer: may have all the information in the market but are ultimately in a tough position to fully understand the prospective client
- Intermediaries: know the marketplace, know where to get answers to questions and know what information is required on both sides
As a closing point on this topic, the speaker shared the following excerpt of a report by EY and mentioned that insurers are advised to share and value intermediaries – to not ‘threaten agents’ relationships with customers but instead free them to focus on higher-value tasks, such as advising clients, networking or working on new business’…
To accelerate and streamline the shift to digital, insurers should focus on specific administrative tasks that don’t threaten agents’ relationships with customers but instead free them to focus on higher-value tasks, such as advising clients, networking or working on new business. Again, carriers that offer tools that enable agents to work more productively and efficiently will find themselves with stronger distribution networks and relationships. They must make clear to agents that digital tools are meant to be an enhancement for – not a replacement of – agents.
The new age intermediary
Intermediaries’ business is not purely transactional
- Intermediaries’ business model is not built purely on a transactional level with their clients.
- It is a model steeped in intangibles… relationship, market knowledge, understanding of the products and services that is available vis-a-vis the client.
- Technology has the power to complement, enable and support many of the core processes that underpin the intermediaries’ work.
The new age intermediary will ask more questions to understand a business/ client. And then supercharge themselves with technology to free up time to continue doing the above!
The new age intermediary will use tech to enhance relationship with clients
- Tech improves the efficiency of placement – to get a proposal out faster, and get as many quotes simultaneously.
- It will not replace the relationships rather frees up more time to help you better understand the client
- Imagine a world where the quoting process is streamlined and the intermediaries can provide value-added services like requesting for personalised or customised coverage without fear of the complications
The new age intermediary will be curious about the client’s business and think as his advisor not a salesperson… Without the fear of complications in processes.
As a closing point to this topic, the speaker shared that based on a survey report by The RAIN Group, >90% of clients feel a sales meeting is more valuable if you help them better understand their needs.
>90% of clients feel a sales meeting is more valuable if you help them better understand their needs
Advisor vs the order taker
The speaker then went on to share about the difference in levels of relationship an intermediary can have with a client. From the weakest being ‘the order taker’ to the strongest, being an ‘Advisor’.
It was shared that there are 4 stages of relationship an intermediary can have with their clients:
- Stage 1: the order taker
- Stage 2: the vendor
- Stage 3: the value-add salesperson
- Stage 4: the trusted advisor
At stage 4 i.e. ‘the trusted advisor’
- The client views the intermediary as an extension to his or her business
- The client trusts that the intermediary’s advice is all they need
- They will have so much confidence in the advice that they are likely to go with your recommendations without further consulting anyone else.
Clients lean on the ‘trusted advisor’ for expert advice; someone who has their best interest at heart.
The speaker then shared some stats (based on publication by the Insurance Information Institute, a U.S. industry association.) to back up the idea of the importance of the intermediary:
- Across property and casualty, 44.2% of business is transacted through intermediaries
- Diving deeper, specifically for commercial lines, intermediaries accounted for 70.8% of commercial property and casualty net premiums written
As such, the role of the intermediary is imperative IF played well.
The intermediary is the critical link between insurers and the end policyholder. This is so because intermediaries offer advice and key information in connection with the negotiation or sale of insurance. Essentially, intermediaries are players in the ecosystem with broad knowledge of BOTH the product and the marketplace
What this means is that you must have an acute sense of the needs of the client and the product to match them with.
Being curious about your clients
The speaker then went into the second segment of the webinar. This segment was focused on sharing about how intermediaries can start growing their value towards their clients with the core idea to always be ‘curious’ and understanding the client / their business like their own.
Uncovering the needs of your clients
One tangible tip to being curious about clients would be to ask the right questions.
Asking the right questions can help intermediaries better uncover their needs.
At this point, the speaker shared 3 powerful questions that can help.
Magic question 1: How willing are you to change?
- Most powerful question – asking the client their propensity to change
- Example: For a client who already has an existing policy… If the answer you get is a ‘oh actually, it’s best but at a lower price lah’; now you understand it is more a budget issue than a new set of requirements. If the answer you get is a ‘Yes. I don’t think my existing policy can cover the 2 other new restaurants I intend to open…’; here you understand that the client’s needs are driven by business expansion.
- This question helps intermediaries determine the client’s willingness to challenge the status quo. You can now shift the conversation in the direction to emphasise on the client’s potential to change, rather than potential to buy.
Magic question 2: What prompted you to start exploring?
- This question goes deeper than ‘what are your needs?’.
- ‘What are your needs?’ requires the client to list what he thinks is good / suited
- However, this might not actually be the best answer to get.
- What if the client has a lack of understanding of what the possibilities are?
- By asking the client what prompted them to start exploring, you are essentially asking the client to explain the ‘why’ not the ‘how’ or ‘what’ – that is your job!
- From this point, you can then ask more specific questions to fully understand what kind of policies will best work for the client AND NOT what the client thinks is best – intermediaries are the PRO!
Magic questions 3 – 6: Targeted follow-up questions
- Once you have ‘opened the door’, you can now jump into the nitty gritty or the details of what the client needs…
- When you say ‘cover’ what do you imagine this to be?
- Can you share the specifics of your business?
- Do you have an example of what you have in mind?
- What are some policies that you have come across that definitely did not suit you?
Understand the client’s decision making process
To understand the client’s business, the speaker shared it is important to get a good view of the client’s decision making process.
It was shared that there are generally 7 stages to this:
- Stage 1: Identify the decision to be made
- Stage 2: Gather relevant information
- Stage 3: Identify the alternatives
- Stage 4: Weigh the facts
- Stage 5: Choose among alternatives
- Stage 6: Take action
- Stage 7: Review your decision & its consequences
It was then mentioned that the focus for the webinar would be on stages 1, 2 and 5.
Stage 1: Identify the decision to be made
- This is the stage where the client is prompted to think about insurance needs.
- At this stage, the client has consciously or subconsciously come up with a problem statement of which he needs to make a decision to solve.
- This is where intermediaries can help the client uncover the needs in relation to the problem statement.
Stage 2: Gather relevant information
- This stage is where the client does a little bit of self assessment and education.
- The client will likely look to do so on two levels.
- One is on the internal level where they ask themselves a series of questions – things like ‘what would give me a peace of mind?’, ‘what are bare essentials and what are good-to-haves?’
- The other is external. This is where they find external sources to educate themselves.
- In asking the right questions, you are effectively influencing this internal thought process
Stage 5: Choose among alternatives
- Intermediaries should not take this stage as a done deal
- This is the stage where intermediaries can present the power of their knowledge from the questions you have asked…
- Tangibly, this would be the kinds of quotes that you are able to get and how closely they fulfil the needs and why.
Validating how close you are to completing a deal
While it is important to understand what goes on in the head of a client and to uncover as much information as possible, it was shared that it is important for intermediaries to also be able to gauge how close they are to completing a deal.
This can be achieved by asking some internal questions.
Question 1: ‘Why is the client looking to buy from you or your product/service?’
- When intermediaries ask themselves this question, and the answer is along the lines of “Um… well … they just know they need it.”, then the deal is actually more shaky than it seems.
- The answer to this question should be BECAUSE they already have a comprehensive understanding of the client’s needs.
- So when intermediaries ask themselves this question, the answer should be clear… It could be along the lines of ‘because the quote pricing I have offered is the most competitive’ or ‘because the coverage provided in the quote is what my client will feel at peace with’.
Question 2: ‘When is the client looking to start?’
- If firm timelines and expectations with the clients have not been set, then it is easy for the client to see that your time is not very valuable.
- If your answer to this question is something along the lines of… ‘The client needs to begin operations on [X date}, so he will need a policy no later than [Y date]. I have presented his quote options to him on [Z date] and he has mentioned he will confirm in two days’ time.’…then you can be a lot more confident that this is a hot deal.
Question 3: ‘Is the decision maker onboard?’
- It is important to understand who is the ultimate decision maker(s).
- More so when it comes to non-life or commercial insurance, where policies are purchased for a business.
- You might be speaking to one of the bosses or influencers of the business, but it is very valuable to be able to identify the person who will be signing off and have them be involved early on.
- So… when you hear a ‘I think we are good to go’ from the person who will be signing off, it is a lot more solid.
Tech and how it uplays your core value to the client
In this final segment of the webinar, the speaker goes into sharing about how tech can uplay the intermediaries’ core values as shared earlier in the webinar AND also free up more time for intermediaries to continue to be ‘curious’ about their clients and their business.
Bespoke products vs packaged products
- Packaged products are essentially, by design, policies built to cover a generalised representation of the risk rather than the specifics of the policyholder’s business.
- Benefits of packaged products: ‘One size fit all, one system solves all’ – Helps with scaling and ease of sales
- Downside of packaged products: Not everything within this package is required by the client. Some are forced to take up coverage that they obviously do not need, for the purpose of obtaining one that they do.
- Imagine a world where the effort to get your clients exactly what they need vs pushing them packages is the same.
- Customisation can be mentioned in the same breath as scalability and ease of distribution. Technology is here to help unlock this shift; to enable disbursement of bespoke policies.
- Start with having the client’s problem in mind first. Not ‘how can I close him/her’
- When done right: the client will appreciate the extra effort placed in assisting them and that is really the stage you want to be on with your clients; being an advisor!
- A product or service aims to solve a problem for a client and the client in turn, pays for this product or service.
- A successful intermediary should strive to help their clients find the best solution to their problem
- Tech helps you do this more simply – for e.g. sourcing for multiple quotes / working with multiple parties to find the best cover
The speaker then concluded this topic by sharing that tech is here to help with removing administrative pain points and manual, repetitive tasks. It is here to help parties leverage each other’s ‘super-powers’ to scale business together and serve clients better.
With more bandwidth, intermediaries can now become that advisor with a client-first mindset that clients want!
Insurers will place tech in the middle of their relationship with intermediaries
It was then shared that the industry, specifically insurers, are already making tech moves to enable intermediaries to focus on relationship-building with their clients.
The speaker shared the following excerpt from an interview with GIA’s president as one of proof points for reasons for such a move:
But while we are observing a growing preference for purchasing general insurance products digitally, our survey work with YouGov also reaffirmed consumers’ preference for the human touch – purchasing policies from agents and brokers – even among digital natives. Despite operating remotely, general insurance representatives play a critical role in enabling the sector to fulfil its promise of protecting customers, boosting financial literacy, and narrowing protection gaps. To this end, efforts to expand the talent pool and upskill the sector workforce to keep pace with an increasing digital economy should and will continue to be a priority for the sector.
Other case studies were shared…
Article referenced: 2022 insurance industry outlook
- Key insights: Insurers are increasingly dependent on emerging technologies and data sources to drive efficiency, enhance cybersecurity, and expand capabilities across the organization. However, most should also focus on improving the customer experience by both streamlining processes with automation as well as providing customized service where needed and preferred.
- Takeaway: Insurers need to find ways to balance tech adoption with maintaining the human touch
Article referenced: 5 reflections on the insurance industry in 2021
- Key insights: Human connection matters more than ever as customer trust falls. We saw in our Insurance Consumer Study 2021 that the right Human + Machine mix restores consumer trust and better engages them. Though approaches will vary, the Human + Machine combinations will continue to be essential for incumbents and insurtechs alike.
- Takeaway: There needs to be a right mix of human + machine combination
Article referenced: Embracing the Human Side of the Bionic Insurer
- Key insights: …bionic business models that marry humans and technology more closely than ever before, they tend to focus on the delivery and technology aspects. Too often they overlook the human changes, which are the hardest part…A bionic company needs a robust balance of technology and human enablers.
- Takeaway: The needs to be a robust balance of tech and human enablers
The topic was wrapped up with the speaker sharing that insurers are expected to deploy technology to empower intermediaries much more, leading to an even better experience and performance.
Much like how Insurers are looking to automate processes in their back office, a world where the intermediaries can automate processes that take up so much of their time they are unable to prospect or service their clients (the purchasers of insurer’s products) is not that far away.
By combining technology with human intermediaries, insurers can deliver better conversations and higher customer satisfaction.
Why the new age intermediary cannot be replaced
The speaker then started on the topic of how an intermediary who leverages technology is hard to replace.
Because disruption and cutting out the intermediary should not be done for the sake of it
- Insurtech should focus on creating solutions to problems. The aim should not be to disrupt for the sake of it…
- ‘Delivering the proposition better’ or success, for this matter, is ultimately brewed with the same basic ingredients – there’s a risk to be underwritten, someone needs to underwrite this risk, a fee is paid for this underwriting – and the end product is similar; a coverage plan or policy!
- HOWEVER, what can differ is the efficiency with which this success is ‘brewed’ and how the end product is distributed.
Because the intermediaries’ value has been enhanced by technology
- Your business model is not built purely on a transactional level with their clients.
- It is a model steeped in intangibles… relationship, market knowledge, understanding of the products and services that is available vis-a-vis the client.
- The opportunity for the intermediary is to enhance their business by leveraging technology; not fearing it. Technology has the power to complement, enable and support many of the core processes that underpin the intermediaries’ work
Because technology will improve, not replace
- Technology can help to improve the efficiency of placement – to get a proposal out faster, and get as many quotes simultaneously.
- It will not replace the relationships between intermediaries or insurers, rather it helps all parties analyse, structure and ultimately serve the client better, closing a deal faster.
- Technology still needs the guiding hand of the intermediaries, and if leveraged well, will enhance their position within the entire value chain… not diminish it!
The speaker concluded that technology has the power to complement, enable and support many of the core processes that underpin your work. Intermediaries save precious time that they can then use to focus on the core aspects of the business – serving and advising the client!
The new age intermediary who supercharge themselves with technology will not be replaced.
Consulting… not selling
The speaker then closed with the topic of how with tech, intermediaries can now truly consult and not just ‘sell’.
More time can be spent on… Qualification: In terms of either sounding your clients out on help they might need or identifying a problem you have the solution for. Essentially, qualifying that you can bring value to the client.
More time can be spent on… Assessment:
- Spend more time to help the customer explore the possibility or assess the need for a solution.
- Here is where you can really be the advisor their clients need.
- What are past experiences you have had with other clients in similar situations? Were there any learnings you can share? Does it make fiscal sense to purchase a policy based on the client’s business?
- Qualification = help you identify if you are relevant and can bring value
- Assessment = you will be able to tell what kind of value you can bring to your client
More time can be spent on… Solutioning:
- More time can be spent showcasing your value – a value that your clients will not be able to derive on their own.
- An example for General Insurance intermediaries would be your ability to get the best coverage possible for your client’s insurance needs – this does not mean just pricing, but also requirements of the policy.
- In doing so, you have provided an additional tangible value to your clients – not only have you become a single source for your clients to explore their options, you have also used your knowledge and expertise to help distill these options down to the ones that work.
Once again, here’s taking the opportunity to thank all our users who made time for this and we hope to see you again in our next Webinar!