Transforming a brokerage is about more than ‘going digital’

Transforming a brokerage is about more than ‘going digital’ | Insurance Business

Transforming a brokerage is about more than ‘going digital’

Ed Meiering has seen every side of the insurance industry, starting out as a broker in his 20s, working in almost every department at Economical in his 30s, and transitioning to business development at Aviva Canada in his 40s, where he helped brokers go through a digital transformation. So, when an opportunity arrived to lead a London-based brokerage that was at the tail-end of an important merger, Meiering jumped at the chance to put his money where his mouth was, and take the 64-year old company on a journey that would set it up for long-term success.

The story of how McConville Omni Insurance Brokers went from being a family-owned brokerage to what Meiering describes as a “marketing-focused brokerage utilizing digital tools” contains several chapters that other brokerages can learn from as they plan their own transformation.

One of the first steps was changing the culture of the company so that its staff could live the brand, says Meiering, who was inspired by business magnate Sir Richard Branson’s saying, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” When Meiering first took over as CEO, there was one personal lines manager and 20-plus direct reports, which meant it was close to impossible to get each person the right coaching and sales training. To address the issue, the brokerage created supervisory roles, where these team members still had a book of business, though it was slightly reduced to accommodate the additional responsibilities of mentoring, training, and coaching.

“The staff, instead of being left more or less on their own, were put in smaller teams where they could tackle problems together, and they could lean on their team when they were away,” explained Meiering. While it took a lot of consideration to determine who the right leaders were and what was the right structure, the end result was a more supportive environment for the McConville Omni team and a change that trickled down to interactions with customers.

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“The customer service you give while on the phone or by email is your brand, so you need happy people on the phone talking to customers. If they’re in an environment where the customer is an abstract thing or an interruption, you’re just never going to wow them with service. How the customer feels at the end of interacting with us is our brand,” said Meiering, adding why a transformation is about more than just ‘going digital.’ “All we would’ve done if we brought in more leads with marketing initially is have more people leave us bad reviews. That’s what is so complicated about it – you have to deal with the culture, the technology and the operational efficiencies before you can attempt marketing at all.”

The next steps in McConville Omni’s journey involved installing technology that made digital marketing and tracking leads easier, and then implementing a focused marketing strategy. Most recently, the brokerage, formerly known as M2O, completed a major rebrand that was accompanied by a new website and an updated online experience that reflects changing customer expectations.

While Meiering’s multi-pronged approach might seem daunting for other brokerages, the CEO says that turning to other insurance professionals and learning from their experiences is a key factor to success, particularly when it comes to marketing in today’s digital world.

“A website is, in a way, a lot like what a billboard on the highway used to be,” he explained. “It’s the same idea of traffic, but it’s now in a different place. When people search Google that is a different kind of traffic. You want them to see your ad and click on it just as you’d want them to call a number on a billboard.

“When it comes to social media, view it as just another community. Many brokers are already involved in their local community rotary clubs, lions clubs, or optimist clubs so joining a social media community is not that different – it just happens online instead of a community hall. Just as they’ve had to step into those rooms for the first time and form relationships, brokers now have to step into the social spaces online, and get their name and brand out there.”

Meiering says that he’s encouraged by all the brokers he’s seen who have an entrepreneurial spirit and can in turn support their peers in the insurance industry, just as he’s found support during McConville Omni’s transformative journey.

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“This was not easy, but we stumbled through it and kept moving forward, using our mistakes as key learnings. I now want to share this story to help other brokers evolve their business, because for us to be a successful brokerage, there has to be a lot of successful brokerages in our communities. If we don’t invest and evolve to keep a dominant market position, carriers will keep investing in their own ways to distribute products,” he told Insurance Business. “It took a lot of courage, it took a lot of big investment, and we had to be willing to have everyone on our team be comfortable with trying things, failing, and then trying again. That’s not for the faint of heart, but that is what makes business fun.”