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Skills Upgrade

October 2013 Editorial

Over 10 years ago, to transition my own career into publishing, I enrolled in a continuing education program. Most of the courses gave me some formalized training around what I already felt were my core competencies: writing and editing. Coupling these two skill sets with my natural curiosity will be all I need to do to have a fabulous career in the magazine world and I’ll never have to worry about learning anything else, I thought. But as publishing has evolved into digital channels, I have had to learn many new skills, software platforms and methods of problem solving that have little to do with those original skills that I still feel are the defining elements of my professional personality.

I believe a similar form of cognitive dissonance is at play today in the brokerage community, and it is revealed when subjects like data analytics and telematics come up. Telematics, for example, is now another plot thread in the story of how the direct writers are encroaching on broker market share. The in-vehicle devices and apps are the latest weapon these larger, more technically sophisticated companies are using to undermine the broker’s value proposition, goes the argument. Brokers must be aware of this threat to their livelihood and figure out how they can adapt their business to deal with it, say advocates for the broker channel such as The Dominion’s George Cooke.

While this may or may not be true, I sense that the tension this argument creates for brokers comes from the fact that dealing with a technology-based issue like telematics requires skills and expertise that similarly lie outside what brokers believe to be their own core competencies: things like relationship building, understanding and serving their customers properly, negotiation and other people-based skills. My experience of brokers has been that most are not necessarily tech-heads. Consequently, I imagine that their unspoken thought when people start talking about data analytics is, “I have no idea how to do any of this stuff. I don’t even know where to start, who to turn to, or what to ask.”

Acquiring new skills and expertise is rarely quick and never easy. It can be especially difficult for those who are well established in their careers and have performed the same tasks the same way for years. But the paradigm is shifting now. Will you be ready to shift with it?

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Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the October 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Transcontinental Media G.P.