The brain drain in the insurance industry, as retirements are expected to reach their peak in the coming five years has reverberations for brokerages across Canada, with leaders struggling to find new hires that may need to be sourced from non-insurance related positions, train them and get them licensed. In some cases, businesses are pilfering employees from each other and, with smaller populations to pick over in many parts of the country, such as the Atlantic provinces, it’s not always possible to fill chairs fast enough.
In Nova Scotia, one team has come up with a more efficient way to train brokers who are both new to the industry as well as those who need to get more training as broker management systems (BMS) and other elements of brokerages evolve. Led by owner Suzanne Maclellan, who is also the owner and president/CEO of Dartmouth-based Founders Insurance Group, Insurance Training and Consulting (ITAC) offers training to insurance professionals that ranges from general licensing and CAIB material to mutual funds licensing and professional development courses.
Catherine Bermundo, who joined ITAC in 2006 and assists the organization in developing online tools, saw the change in professionals’ insurance-related experience firsthand before she came onboard. The composition of one of the first ITAC classes she went to looked a lot different than one that took place a few weeks later.
“The people that were attending had been in the business for at least two years, some of them were owners, and they were taking these classes,” said Bermundo, a CAIB, LLQP, and CIP-designated broker who also hails from Founders Insurance Group, supporting the commercial lines department and helping with administration of the personal lines department. “In a matter of a month, it changed from professionals to new people,” including those who had fallen into the industry and hadn’t had any prior roles in insurance.
The kind of training that ITAC provides isn’t just good for new bodies to the industry. A broker can get licensed and still need a refresher months or years later once they actually get to work, even on basic things like taking payments.
“By the time you actually start doing personal lines or commercial lines, that knowledge is not really there anymore,” said Bermundo. “Everything is learned on the job, and when I started in insurance, everyone I talked to, there were people that just came out of high school and got an insurance job, and made it into a career, and they’re all saying that [you need] at least five years of work before you even start to understand [insurance].”
Offloading that training process on a third party means a brokerage can operate more efficiently. Instead of a new person asking the underwriter or broker sitting next to them tons of questions every day to grasp the job, especially since new coverages or risks frequently come up in insurance and consumer expectations are rapidly changing, ITAC can do that work for them.
“We’re in an age where it’s hard to find experienced people so you have to get new people, but you don’t have the time to train them because your customers are more demanding. Because everything is online, when they email you, they want an email back right away, so it’s really hard for people to take the time and train their employees,” said Bermundo.
Anything that a new hire is asking their seatmate 50 times a day can be made into a video or an online course, for example, which frees everyone up to do their work. Managers can also track who has taken a course, passed a quiz or watched a video through ITAC, which means more accountability. The training company has online, classroom, and on-location options for professionals hoping to buff up their industry knowledge, but the team also works with brokerages to develop customized training to streamline individual onboarding processes.
“If it’s for a brokerage and they want training specific for their staff, I work with them and ask, how are you training them now, and I’ll either record it or I’ll take their information and make it into a course, and put it online – that way it’s available for their staff,” explained Bermundo.