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Carl O’Shea began his career in insurance in Wellington in 1984. He joined Crombie Lockwood in 1987 as one of its founders and has been CEO since 2007.
In this article he talks about what it takes to be a good insurance broker, how the role is evolving, and challenges facing the insurance broking industry in New Zealand.
Broadly I believe there are three strengths a good broker will have.
The ability to communicate effectively with clients and understand their business is key. Brokers must listen and ask questions.
That first conversation is so important – looking at the occupation, the risks and financial capability of the business. To provide good service a broker will regularly be in touch, checking in with business owners as the business grows and changes and new risks emerge.
When it comes to premiums it’s important for brokers to be able to explain why there’s movement – regular open and honest dialogue is needed.
There’s not always a one size fits all insurance solution, and businesses can have different risks, needs and backgrounds. Things can change for a business or a sector over time. A good broker will have expert knowledge of insurance policies and products, and be able to find a solution tailored to the needs of each business.
They should be able to explain insurance and explain the relevant policies in a language clients can understand.
The best brokers really understand the sectors they operate in; and will often end up specialising in an industry in which they have a lot of passion and knowledge, such as transport, construction etc.
A good broker will focus on building a strong relationship with their client. It’s important that the client discloses all aspects of the business to the broker.
Good long term relationships and trust are built from quality advice and the experience clients have when they deal with their broker.
Trust grows through day to day interactions, and in particular when clients are going through the process of a claim. The broker can add value to the client by managing the claim on their behalf.
Technology is definitely having a significant impact on the role of the broker – as it is for our clients.
Today brokers have much faster and easier access to data and insights, which means they are able to provide better quality advice than ever before.
Technology is also changing how the insurance industry communicates with clients because there are so many more channels available for brokers and clients to use. Face to face communication and phone are still incredibly important – but online, video calls, chat etc mean brokers are able to be flexible and mobile – and talk to their clients through their channel of choice.
We’re also seeing more opportunities for efficiencies delivered through improved IT systems, which can free up brokers from paperwork. This enables the broker to focus more on advice and risk discussions exactly where they add the most value for the client.
The challenges facing the businesses we work with are changing.
Broker advice is becoming even more important to ensure clients are protected against increasingly complex and emerging risks such as cyber and weather related events as a result of climate change.
I believe New Zealand is right up there globally, in terms of the quality of advice and insurance solutions we can offer to clients.
However, not all business owners understand the role of an insurance broker and the value they can provide.
There are misconceptions that brokers are simply intermediaries and administrators there to get the best price; they are in fact advisers to a business like an accountant or lawyer.
I believe good insurance advice is becoming more important than ever, as businesses face many new challenges.