When Joseph Carnevale became president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) on January 1, 2020, little did he know he’d soon be steering the ship through one of the most disruptive public health catastrophes society has ever faced. Good thing ‘change management’ is right in Carnevale’s wheelhouse.
“Of course I would be thrown in at a time of complete change,” he laughs. “But that’s fine; I’m comfortable in that environment, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge. In one way, my presidency has been different in that I’ve had zero travel – normally the IBAO president would travel around and meet with the other sister associations across Canada. While that hasn’t happened, you can just imagine the conversations, calls and virtual meetings we’ve had on a regular basis with the IBAO board and our CEO on the goings-on of COVID, premium relief, digitalization and figuring out how we can support brokers throughout all of this. I think the IBAO has stepped up and provided a great service to its members during this time, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of that.”
The association has supported Ontario brokers during the pandemic by providing virtual networking and education opportunities. In October, the IBAO 2021 Virtual Convention attracted more than 1,100 attendees and 40 event sponsors – and while Carnevale admits that everyone is “yearning for the next in-person convention,” he says lots of good has come out of the association’s virtual gatherings.
“The advantages of having virtual events, or aspects of a convention that are virtual, are actually pretty astounding,” he says. “We’re attracting brokers from across Ontario who, for one reason or another, maybe didn’t take the trip out to our past in-person conventions, perhaps because they couldn’t get time out of the office or their personal circumstances prevented them from travelling.
“By offering a virtual convention, we’ve had this amazing opportunity to attract and interact with a whole bunch of brokers that we traditionally haven’t had the chance to interact with. It’s been fantastic, and there’s no doubt that maintaining some aspect of virtual moving forward will continue to open up opportunities for more meaningful interaction with brokers.”
Getting the word out
There were several big themes highlighted during the IBAO 2021 Virtual Convention, the first being diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), which has now reached the top of the insurance agenda. Many organizations are now realizing that effective DE&I will help to bring much-needed talent into the industry.
“Front and centre is our need to attract and retain talent,” Carnevale says. “We’re working hard within the industry, and we’re trying to coordinate this effort as much as possible to attract recent graduates, soon-to-be graduates, high school students and others to the industry and open their eyes to the fact that insurance is something they should consider. We need to coordinate and make a pitch to everyone out there that insurance is the place to be, it’s a great career, and the industry’s always growing and innovating. Honestly, we do something that’s amazing. We help people get back to where they were prior to a claim. You can go home at night and say, ‘I’ve made a difference in someone’s life or in some business's life today.’”
The IBAO has done a lot in recent years to combat the industry’s talent shortage, especially in the broker channel. For example, the association has sponsored the Humber College Insurance Management Program, and it has provided students in the program with the resources and funding needed to sit the RIBO examination. This partnership has been so successful at pumping fresh talent into the broker channel that the IBAO has since expanded the program to other colleges across the province.
Tied to that, the IBAO continues to run education campaigns, mentorship programs and PR focusing on what the industry does, the impact brokers can have on people’s lives and the career opportunities that are available for talented individuals.
“In 2022, we’re going to launch our Ontario brokers campaign,” Carnevale says. “We’ve recognized that a lot of people out there, especially millennials, don’t really understand or appreciate how brokers are different or what the advantages of using a broker are – access to multiple markets, the relationship, the advice. We’ve dedicated a number of resources towards a campaign to the mass public about what brokers do, why they should be using us, and we’re really excited about that … and it dovetails nicely into the recruitment aspect of what we do, too.”
Another key theme at every insurance convention, the IBAO’s included, is digitalization. Earlier this year, the IBAO launched its Going Paperless Project in response to the industry’s shift away from traditional business models. That’s something the association will continue to push through 2022.
“Digital everything is high on the agenda for everyone,” Carnevale says. “What does paperless mean? What other opportunities does it give for brokerages to improve their relationship with clients and be more engaged than they have been maybe in the past? Technology has just opened up the door to so many opportunities for brokerages to entrench that relationship and strengthen it. Insurance companies have figured that out too, and they’re doing their best to do that.
“We’re very aware of the potential competition when it comes to who owns that relationship and who’s really working on growing that relationship, but brokers maintain that they’re our clients – we work hard to make sure we keep them engaged, informed and educated about what’s happening in the industry; what’s happening with insurance products; and opportunities to have better coverage. And certainly, brokers do a great job doing that, and the digital world has provided us great opportunity to strengthen that relationship.”