Michael Brattman: What’s next for the IBAO
From mowing the lawns of his mentor to becoming the president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, Michael Brattman has come a long way. But he’s been all about insurance since he was young.
Growing up in Waterloo, Ont., Brattman learned the importance of drive, relationships and loyalty at an early age, but it wasn’t until he met John McLennan that he realized his future was in insurance.
“He was a mentor to me, and he had a brokerage. He was supportive of me and wanted me to get a broker’s license, get a summer job in insurance,” Brattman recalls, adding that he once mowed McLennan’s grass to get his foot in the door.
“He was always big on engaging people,” Brattman says. “He was always out there, building relationships, interacting with people and [finding] out what was important to them. He was never afraid to ask for the money. It was one of those things that helped me at a young age, just watching him, seeing how it’s done.”
That hustle and need to prove himself served Brattman well as he began to pursue his career. After graduating from Huron College, he began his climb up the ladder, beginning at Manulife Financial as a life and health underwriter in 1989.
After two years with Manulife and a brief stint in Toronto as a project manager for Traders General Insurance, he went on to become the vice president of his mentor’s insurance company, The McLennan Group, in 1992 and stayed there for 15 years.
When McLennan sold the business in 2007, Brattman became the vice president of personal insurance at Cowan Insurance Group and stayed for six years before taking his current position: partner and vice president of personal lines at Erb and Erb Insurance Brokers.
Brattman’s decorated resume earned him a spot on the board at the IBAO, where he eventually moved into the president’s seat.
“I was on the board for two years and put my name forward to be an executive,” he says. “You serve as second vice president, then first vice president. Now I’m the president, and the following year I’ll be chair.”
During his time as president, Brattman plans to keep moving forward while stepping up his game by leading the organization through a tremendous period of change and legislation.
“It’s going to be an exciting year,” he says. “I’m looking at recognizing that things continue to change in the industry and [breaking] it into three categories. The evolving customer, investing in the future – both people and technology – and collaboration are the issues that I’ve been talking to members about.”
He’s already gotten off to a pretty good start in 2015. In January, the IBAO signed a partnership deal with E-SignLive by Silanis, which offers brokers tailored pricing for an electronic signature solution.
“Our partnership with e-SignLive is a secure step in the right direction for our industry when it comes to supporting brokers in servicing clients in today’s electronic environment,” Traci Boland, IBAO’s vice president, said in a press release.
What’s more, Brattman was a big part of the organization’s move to introduce a new telematics program called FleetAdvisor, which has helped fleet managers reduce operational risks and costs, as well as improve vehicle maintenance. It also includes a provision of an overall driving score for every drive to assess and improve fleet safety.
“This will not only enable fleet managers to better control their business risk within their fleets, but also offer our member brokers a value added product to support their commercial clients,” Brattman says. “It’s important we stay on top on that.”
Brattman’s goal as the organization’s president is to strengthen the collaboration between IBAO members as they line up to compete against direct brokers and banks. Being able to establish communication beyond traditional 9-to-5 hours is an example of this, he says.
“Our customers want 24-hour service, [but] traditionally we have been in a model where we haven’t changed the way we’ve sold insurance over the last few decades,” he says. “When you talk about selling insurance, it has to change, but it also has remain the same. We’re still accountable to clients.
“We have to be open to all those avenues,” he continues. “Social media is important now. [Clients] have access to info immediately, so if you don’t respond, they will simply find someone else. They’re that much more knowledgeable as consumers, so we have to be able to handle that.”
That will be all the more important as regulatory changes threaten to impact future growth.
Bill C-15, which deals with anti-fraud and auto insurance rates, is a big one for Brattman. “I think Bill C-15 will be key to determine what the year looks like,” he says. “The government is committed to 15% rate holdback before August 2015. We’ve seen our carriers take a rate decrease and [there is] pressure to take more. I don’t think there’s room for it, so we’ll see if there will be further rate reduction. As much as we’d like our customers to have the lowest possible insurance, at some point there isn’t any more room in terms of losses.”
In recent weeks, Brattman – along with a number of large players in the financial industry – has spoken out against the Liberal government’s Ontario Registered Pension Program, a Liberal government plan that could negatively affect small and medium- sized businesses.
He’s also planning to advocate for regulatory changes like a flood insurance plan that includes protection for sewer backup and storm coverage.
Overall, 2015 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Brattman and the IBAO.
“There’s never a dull moment,” he says. “It should be an exciting year for us. If we can collaborate effectively, we’ll [have] a leg up against the competition.”