How this broker education program builds outperformers

Serious about your career? Take more time on your professional development, says this exec

How this broker education program builds outperformers

Industry insights

By David Saric

This article was produced in partnership with Intact Insurance.

David Saric, of Insurance Business, sat down with Debbie Coull-Cicchini executive vice president, Intact Insurance, West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada to talk about Pathways, Intact’s new broker education program, designed to build insurance industry outperformers. 

Ambitious brokers need comprehensive, flexible and evolving professional development programs that help them thrive in today’s insurance industry.

That was the message brokers delivered to the management team at Intact Insurance when the company’s senior vice presidents sat down with brokerage leaders across the country in late 2021 and 2022 to discuss the talent development and retention challenges the industry was facing post-pandemic, explained Debbie Coull-Cicchini, executive vice president, Intact Insurance, West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

For Intact, helping address this broker challenge meant creating Pathways, a broker education program developed to help brokers reach their targets faster, at all points of their careers.

Learn what you need when you need it

Most of the 80-plus courses that make up Pathways earn brokers continuing education credits in their applicable provincial jurisdiction. They’re delivered through four targeted pathways, organized by business line and experience level: 

  1. Personal Lines Fundamentals, to set up new brokers for success in the industry
  2. Personal Lines Intermediate, to sharpen the technical skills of mid-level personal lines brokers
  3. Commercial Lines Fundamentals, to get brokers ready to handle commercial risks
  4. Commercial Lines Intermediate, to turn high potential brokers into outperforming commercial producers

“If you’re new to personal lines in a brokerage, we recommend that you start with Personal Lines Fundamentals and follow the modules in the sequence suggested,” said Coull-Cicchini.  “That will give you the most robust training, and really let you hit the ground running.”

For more seasoned professionals, she recommended going sequentially through the intermediate modules to dive deeper into specific products, endorsements, wordings and sales strategies.

Although Pathways is a comprehensive, holistic program, each course is also designed as a stand-alone. Both new talent and experienced brokers can design their own learning program one course at a time, depending on what skill they need to elevate.

Build confidence to build business

Designed with input from the industry’s top performers, Pathways is built on the principle that knowledge leads to confidence, which leads to increased mastery and expertise — which leads to outperformance.

“Learning is the key to building confidence, and confidence is definitely one of the keys to success,” said Coull-Cicchini. “Like with sports, the more you play, the better you get at it.

“With insurance, it’s no different. The more you learn and the more familiar you become with the nuances of the industry, its products and of course sales techniques, the better you get at addressing customer concerns, no matter how complex they are.”

Pathways, she stressed, is all about building outperformers. And for high performers, the learning never stops.

“I’ve been in insurance for quite some time, and I’m always learning,” she said. 

Gain insight into newest industry trends

As business evolves and customer demands change, even the most experienced brokers need to keep  learning to stay on top of their game.

“Privacy breach, cyber, telematics — these are all things that didn’t exist or weren’t very relevant 10 years ago,” Coull-Cicchini noted. 

All of them, and more, have a place in the Pathways curriculum. Taking advantage of these courses allows new brokers to gain immediate insight into what’s driving business within insurance today. 

For their more seasoned counterparts, the courses offer an opportunity to refresh their product knowledge and bring in “those two or three nuggets of new information that make all the difference,” as Coull-Cicchini put it, when it comes to positioning themselves as experts in those key areas with their customers.

Choose how you want to learn

One of the strengths of the insurance industry is the diversity of the people who work in it.

“People can start working at a brokerage with post-secondary education in accounting, in business, in auto mechanics, in hospitality — or straight out of high school,” observed Coull-Cicchini. “Insurance offers such tremendous opportunity to people. That diversity of backgrounds means broker education programs must work for a variety of learners and learner styles — and they must offer as much flexibility as possible.”

In response, Pathways offers a mix of self-learning modules brokers can complete at their own time and online instructor-led courses, supplemented with tailored in-person sessions that can be offered either at Intact’s offices or individual brokerages.

“If the topic is a little bit more complex, or if you really want to get into it, it’s great to have colleagues from other brokerages in the course with you,” said Coull-Ciccchini. “That really allows for a rich and helpful dialogue that takes your learning to a whole new level.”

Shaped by broker feedback

Developed and piloted over 2022 and early 2023, Pathways launched to all Intact brokers in June 2023. Since then, more than 2300 Intact brokers have taken advantage of the courses offered through the program. In an average week, 1050 individual brokers start new courses.

Early feedback from the program has been overwhelmingly positive, Coull-Cicchini told Insurance Business.

“Brokers appreciate the variety of courses and flexibility of delivery, and brokerage leaders appreciate the ability to offer their teams practical training that lets them support their customers better,” she shared.

To keep Pathways current and the best-in-industry program that Intact wants it to be, the insurer’s learning and development team is constantly monitoring and updating the courses in response to market changes, emerging trends — and broker feedback.

“As we’ve been having ongoing conversations with brokers about education, we have also found that there’s a need for supporting frontline leaders with coaching on how to nurture better sales on their teams, as well as develop their own negotiation and leadership skills,” Coull-Cicchini said.

This new frontline leader program is currently in development, rounding out Intact’s Pathways offering to brokers.

Explore Pathways with this short quiz.

Intact Insurance is Canada's largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers. Its coast-to-coast presence and its strong relationship with insurance brokers mean the company can provide the outstanding service, comfort and continuity customers deserve. Intact Insurance is a member company of Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC), the largest provider of property and casualty insurance in Canada and a leading provider of specialty insurance in North America.

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