Top takeaways from Top Broker Summit 2015



Nearly 200 brokers gathered at the Ritz- Carlton in Toronto for the annual Top Broker Summit this November. Between the twinkly lights decorating the hotel windows, the steak and sushi buffet and the half-glasses of wine at the cocktail reception, there was plenty to distract them from the content. But, in the end, the seven presentations held sway, earning accolades across the Twittersphere and giving brokers a tip or two about the future of their businesses and the industry at large.

Procrastinate later

Broker, baker, billion-dollar-deal-maker—it doesn’t matter. If you don’t do what you’ve promised, your business will suffer.

For the morning keynote address, Mike Lipkin, president of Environics/Lipkin, told delegates that the highest form of quality “is to say what you’re going to do and then go and do it…The biggest challenge facing human beings is to follow through on commitment after the mood in which we make the commitment has expired.”

The importance of reliability was a key theme in this year’s Summit. Closing keynote speaker David Horsager walked us through the eight pillars of trust, one of which is character: “it’s the work of life to do what’s right over what’s easy.”

And if you fail to do what’s right, an apology won’t cut it. “A friend from the Netherlands came to America,” Horsager told us, “and said, ‘One thing I notice that’s different in America is you’ve got a bunch of lying apologizers. You all say you’re sorry, and you don’t mean it.’ Don’t you hear this a lot? ‘I’m sorry I’m late!’ No you’re not! You’re late every time… The only way to build trust is to make and keep a commitment.”

For brokers, building trust is more than providing good policies at competitive rates. That’s simply “the price of entry,” says Lipkin. To gain an edge, you must also help clients mitigate risk, which, he quipped, stands for “revel in sharing knowledge.”

After all, a broker doesn’t own her book of business but rents them day-by-day, says Lipkin. So if you don’t deliver on your value proposition, your competition will ensure your clients don’t stay. And as the water hole gets smaller, the animals get meaner. In a well-insured society, “to stay even flat, you’ve got to be eating someone else’s lunch.”

All in the thumbs

Some people tweet their #claims at insurance companies now. Okay, it’s just one person tweeting to The Guarantee so far, Alister Campbell told delegates at the CEO panel, but it could be the start of a seismic shift to Twitter-based underwriting. Or at least the start of better designed websites.

“We don’t use digital media to stay connected,” says Chris Torbay, creative director of Yield Branding. “We use digital media to avoid talking to people.”

So it’s not that handy to list your office number, cell number and mailing address on your website, but online quoting tools and pop-up chat boxes make it easier to connect with clients on their terms.

People are more likely to be rude online—in a face-to-face conversation, few would walk away mid-sentence. But on the Internet, “after about two minutes and thirty seconds, they want cat videos.” And they’ll leave your carefully crafted insurance blog to find them. So don’t weigh down your website with fifty scrolling pages explaining different liability coverage options, Torbay advises. Just say why you’re the best broker for the job, and make sure your visuals say it, too (he pulled up a few logos to avoid, all of which inadvertently shared too much about human anatomy).

But online quoting tools aren’t going to be enough to stay competitive over the next few decades. “The digital bar has been raised,” Northbridge’s Silvy Wright said at the CEO panel. “That experience has been raised in all kinds of different industries and they’re looking at us and saying what about insurance? And I’m not talking about just an online quoting system… It could be from start to the full cycle of how we deal and how we manage our business.”

That disruption might come from tech titans like Google but could also “be two guys in a garage,” like the Apple and Airbnb founders, warned Wright. “It’s not just the distribution. It’s the carrier as well. We will get disrupted together.”

Trisura CEO Mike George agreed, pointing out that because insurance is a high-cost producer, the industry is particularly vulnerable to low-cost startups where price is the main driver.

Corporate STDs

“Getting hit by a cyber attack is like corporate STDs,” Serge Solski, vice-president of business development at Watsec Cyber Risk Management, said at the lunch presentation. “No one will admit to it.”

In June, the Canadian government passed an amendment to the privacy act PIPEDA that requires companies to report cyber attacks but only if they deem the breach to be significant. “So we might think we don’t hear about this problem and we might think the government is getting all this stuff, but they’re not,” says Solski. “There’s no incentive for a business to put its hand up and say ‘I had this issue happen.’ And why? Would you do business with someone like that? Maybe not.”

The average record lost in a breach costs $250, data from the Ponemon Institute reveals. And in 2014, the average breach cost a company $5.32 million. And, Solski cautions, this doesn’t include long-term losses due to a damaged reputation or class action lawsuits.

Those numbers are alarming but the lack of cyber protection means there’s room to grow. And if you impress one client by providing cyber coverage, you could have a shot at much more of their business.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right?”
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Copyright © 2016 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.