Opinion: Why BDMs are more than just free coffee

Opinion: Why BDMs are more than just free coffee

Opinion: Why BDMs are more than just free coffee

Denver Van Gramberg, Brooklyn Underwriting marketing and distribution manager, gives his thoughts on why business development managers are crucial in insurance.

In the fast-paced environment that is the modern insurance industry, it’s easy to lose focus on what our profession is really about.

The nature of our business is different from many – not least because it has been built on a firm foundation of interaction between people. After all, the birthplace of the insurance industry took place in a coffee shop in London around 1688. Even though the industry has changed in so many ways, we still find ourselves in a position where relationships have never been more important.

This makes it especially concerning that the role of the ‘front person’ in business relationships – the sales and marketing managers (SMMs), the relationship managers (RMs) and the business development managers (BDMs) – are regarded with cynicism or even outright disdain. Indeed, I’ve heard my colleagues described as 'post-boxes', ’brochure delivery managers’ or even just ‘free coffee’. Frankly, I’m not surprised that brokers are disgruntled. I believe their disdain is a symptom of a wider issue. Put simply, too many BDMs are uninformed, poorly trained and do not have the power to improve or even maintain key relationships – and therefore the importance of their roles has been in question.

Given that these roles are the keeper of broker business relationships, ensuring that BDM’s, RM’s and SMM’s are able to make a difference is pivotal to brokerages and insurers alike.

 At the very least, brokers should be able to expect that individuals in these roles can provide the following:

  • Comprehensive information on the product suite of an organisation in clear terms and without puffery or over-deliver.
  • A clear understanding of the appetite of the risks which their organisation is prepared to write.
  • A clear understanding of what does not fall within appetite and why.
  • Thoughtful questions regarding your own business growth model and sales initiatives, as well as the assistance, support and service that will enable you to reach these goals.
  • Solutions to any difficulties that you have encountered as a result of working with your insurance provider.
  • Access to online systems, as well as training and tips for using this technology effectively.
  • Claims examples and policy comparisons for complex areas of insurance.
  • CPD points for presentations.
  • Support to execute any ideas for new products that you or your clients have identified the need for.
  • Fun, engaging and creative ways of building a rapport with you and your staff.


However, it is imperative that the ‘relationship people’ have the proper support from their employers. First and foremost, employers need to provide sufficient training, particularly on relationship management and business development. They need to provide effective guidance on product suites, and technical issues. Most importantly, relationship managers need to be given the power to have a real impact – so that brokers can be sure that concerns are being dealt with and managed, not just flicked onto an underwriter or claims manager.

Only a select few employers have successfully embraced the marketing and development model. I can attest, from my own employer, the enormous benefit to a company and its broking community when this model is truly embraced. If the industry as a whole can make this leap, then I believe we’ll see a major change in attitude for our profession – one that puts people firmly back at the centre of doing business.

  • Robert Cooper 26/06/2013 11:45:58 AM
    I am sure last time I had a Coffee with Denver, I paid. Told you Denver I would use it one day.

    Great article and Denver is certainly a Benchmark for all BDMs. He does a great job.
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  • John duggan - AIS insurance 27/06/2013 10:30:46 AM
    Denver is putting it nicely & only scratching the surface. Fact, Insurers becoming more difficult to deal with period. Reason Insurers seem to be on a never ended internal operational restructure, which include reduction of their service delivery resources. Result insurer service to the Broker not a priority or what we require.
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  • Just An Observer 28/06/2013 6:07:27 PM
    I have been in the industry for longer than I care to remember. But one of the things I can remember is that back in the mid 70's when I started, one of the complaints that brokers had was the poor quality of the "inspectors" that serviced them.

    The points Denver makes are as valid now as they were way back then.

    In fact for the last 35 years one of the things that seems to be consistent is that at least one senior executive comes oput saying that the industry needs to invest in the education / training and career prospects of the younger generation. Yet here again this is effectively just what Denver is saying.

    Unfortunately many insurers seem to have lost the old grey hairs that were Inspectors and who had the experience necessary to deal with some of the requests brokers make.

    The push for young people to be given a chance / promotion seems to have resulted in many being put in situations where they lack the experience, expertise, knowledge, and people skills to service brokers properly.

    I can already hear the young people in the industry howling but just remember I once was a "young turk" and knew everything. Now I realise just how little I did know way back when I first became an Account Executive. Even though I had a Fellowship and supposedly knew everything there was to know about insurance.
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