In the face of all the consolidation in the insurance marketplace, independent brokers need a leg up to thrive and prosper, according to Aly Kanji (pictured), president and CEO of InsureLine.
“Small, independent brokers are challenged in trying to compete against what I call these super brokers that have size, they have scale and they have resources, and our goal is try to build a community of independent brokers who can leverage that ‘unity of the whole’ to create scale in order to compete head-to-head with these super brokers,” he said.
Last year, InsureLine opened its first location in British Columbia, and has since signed up Don Cherry to be the face of the company and all of its franchises. Kanji reflected on what it took to become an entrepreneur in the insurance industry and juggle the responsibilities that come with the corner office.
“Sometimes, I think you have to be a little bit nuts to run your own business because there are a lot of challenges that come with it,” he told Insurance Business. “You have to wear many hats and that’s probably the biggest challenge – everything from sales to marketing to being IT support to being the cleaner in the office – so it takes time for you to build up the base, and build up the resources and the wherewithal to have people looking after the different aspects.”
The rewards are well worth the hurdles. Kanji was named a Young Gun by Insurance Business Canada in 2016, and also received the Rising Star Award from Salute BC in 2013. InsureLine has likewise reached several important milestones.
“I’m proud of the developments that we’ve had to date. In particular, we’ve built our own CRM, we’ve built our own BMS, and we’ve really built a robust platform for an independent brokerage to grow their business,” he said.
Kanji is also a director for the Insurance Brokers Association of BC, and is familiar with the broader challenges bearing down on brokers in the province. It’s hard to have a conversation about BC’s insurance industry without bringing up auto insurance and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s troubles in recent years.
“Premiums have been kept artificially low across the country by government regulation and then you have the cost of cars, which has increased significantly over the last 20 years,” said Kanji. “Most recently, I think you have an increase in the frequency of claims largely due to distracted driving and at the same time, you have an increase in the severity of claims, largely due to the cost of repair of vehicles due to the technology.”
Technology does, however, have the opportunity to be the industry’s saving grace, if everyone jumps on board and pushes for change.
“We need to do, as an industry, a better job of getting everyone to play in the same sandbox when it comes to technology standards, and that requires, I think, a will to collaborate among not only all insurers, but also the regulators and technology vendors,” explained Kanji. “It still blows my mind that I can go to a bank machine in any remote corner of the planet and withdraw cash from my bank account, but a broker today still can’t instantly deliver an insurance policy to a client, and in my view that’s a problem.”