As we insurance agency professionals make plans for the future, the saying "what got us here won’t get us there” comes to mind.
We can no longer rely solely on time-tested policies and procedures, technology and familiar personnel strategies to take us into the next decade. As insurance advisors, we all need to begin laying the foundation for the future today so we can remain relevant to our clients and other stakeholders.
In other words, we need to start working on the business rather than just working in the business. As we plan our time and resources in this endeavor, where do we need to be investing?
To be ahead of the game, we need to use our imagination—to be on the vanguard of technology, talent, and products. Many insurance agents rely on insurers to drive innovation, but as the lines between insurers and insurance agencies blur, agents must take the reins before others swoop in and disrupt the model. We all know what Uber did to the taxi industry and how Netflix became the new Blockbuster.
Here are the top three things we should be working on every week in 2020:
1) Technology. The need for significant and discerning investment in the right technology cannot be overemphasized. Massive cyber security breaches have grabbed national headlines in recent years, and the frequency and severity of cyberattacks are getting more intense by the day.
As guardians of our clients’ confidential information, we must understand the data exposure threat, fortify our defenses, and adapt as attacks become more insidious.
Technological advancement also presents enormous opportunity for our industry. In the era of Big Data, client information can be amassed and leveraged to anticipate a client’s needs. More than ever, partnering with the right data scientists, technology and IT firms has become mission critical. The right partnerships will allow us to have the best of both worlds: a personal, local client presence empowered and protected by a robust digital platform.
Investing in technology can help augment the client journey and increase internal efficiencies and productivity.
2) Talent shortage. Staff shortage has become among the top emerging risks organizations face globally, according to Gartner’s Emerging Risk Survey. In April 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6%, the lowest jobless rate since December 1969. Unfortunately for the insurance industry, vying for the attention of this relatively limited talent pool is a challenge as our industry battles a perception as a less-than-trustworthy sector of the economy. It is vital that we as an industry modernize and articulate our value proposition to potential candidates.
We need to start now. We must begin to recruit new talent into our industry to build the next generation of industry professionals and leaders, keeping in mind that it takes two to three years to fully train an account manager or sales professional.
Start with creating a meaningful purpose or mission statement for your organization to attract new talent to your firm. Find a charity or two and make philanthropy part of your value proposition. Purpose driven organizations with a commitment to their communities outperform other organization two to one. Interestingly, next-gen talent wants to align with firms who have a strong purpose and commitment to their communities.
Your purpose statement doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. Think about what you do and how you help your clients focus their passions to achieve their dreams. Begin to share your firm’s purpose with the community, your clients, and your team.
3) Products. Clients crave options that offer tailor-made solutions for their individual risk exposures. Data and technology are helping drive the confluence of propriety product creation with traditional and non-traditional capital sources, but currently, the potential remains untapped.
Insurers’ product pipelines are not aligned with clients’ growing concerns over emerging risks, according to the World Insurance Report from Capgemini. From evolving social and demographic trends to rapidly changing cyber advancements, disruptive environmental patterns to new medical and health concerns for the family and pets—traditional insurance companies and agencies are not nimble enough to respond quickly to new and ever-changing risks.
Think about how slowly we responded to the shared economy, the Internet of Things, and even the emergence of a new hobby—consumers drone piloting. The Parrot AR Drone, a smartphone-controlled quadcopter for consumers, was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2010. Almost a decade has passed, and we still haven’t fully realized the vulnerability of claim costs for drones as it relates to violation of privacy, liability claims, property damage, cyberattacks and even war.
4 Ways to Get Started
1) Schedule time. First, schedule time each week to work on the business rather than just in the business. This goes for all of us, whether we are a relationship manager, sales professional or agency owner. We should all be working together to move our firms and our industry forward.
2) Develop a roadmap. Use your imagination to create a client journey in which you put yourselves in your client’s shoes. Outline the path and steps you think your client should take, the potential pitfalls, and how you want your client to feel. Do you communicate the appropriate information, expectations, and timing to your clients?
3) Prioritize your game plan. Putting pen to paper helps you realize where you are today, your strengths in these areas and where you can improve.
4) Collaborate. Find other industry professionals who are in a similar position as you to leverage resources and share ideas. Use outside service firms to provide 24/7 responsiveness, multiple communication channels for coverage, and customized customer solutions for inspiration.
Invest in your firm’s future, by taking time to create a new roadmap toward a thriving future—because the one that got us here, won’t get us there.
Laura Sherman is a founding partner of Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners & Baldwin Risk Partners.