How does an insurance professional follow a four-year stint as the CEO of the largest independent managing general agent (MGA) in Canada? For Nick Kidd (pictured), who left APRIL Canada during the summer of 2018, the first thing on his to-do list was to take a few months off for the first time in his career, spend quality time with his family, and relieve some of the pressure that had built up after a rewarding and diverse career at insurance heavyweights like AXA, Aon, and, eventually, APRIL.
“The first thing I did was almost nothing – just relaxed and reacquainted myself with the family and the world, and then secondly, I started thinking about what on earth I wanted to do next,” he said. “Over my career, I’ve spent a lot of time on the insurance side of the fence, in the UK mainly, I’ve spent some time in personal lines and [on] the broker [side of the] fence in Toronto, and then for the last four years, I’ve been running APRIL as an MGA.
“I’ve worked on insurance from a bunch of different perspectives and insurance is what I know, so whatever I was going to do was going to be part of insurance, but, specifically, what perspective or angle did I want to tackle it from?”
With so much insight on the industry, Kidd had already pinpointed where there was an opportunity to improve insurance, setting his sights on small business insurance in Canada, which needs simplifying, according to the broker. His newest position as the director of business insurance at Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers lets him put those plans into action.
“Mitchell & Whale’s mission is to make insurance not suck, which I think is a great way of putting it and very close to my heart as well,” said Kidd, adding, “Small business insurance sucks for everyone – it sucks for the clients, it sucks for the brokers, and it sucks for the insurance companies. That’s not through any lack of positive will from everyone. It’s complicated, disconnected, crowded, and heterogeneous, unlike auto insurance, which is a massive market selling more or less one product in one way that’s connected to most insurance companies. As soon as you start looking at commercial insurance or small business insurance, now you’re talking about hundreds and thousands of different types of business, different packages, different projects, different coverages within that, so there’s not just one giant $20 billion market to sell one broadly commoditized product to.”
It’s also a world where brokers are not able to meet the basic functions that customers expect from them, which are to search the market, provide advice, and find the best value, in terms of price and coverage needs, and to do this quickly, explained Kidd. Right now, a customer calls up a broker, who gathers information about the business, speaks to their underwriters, and spends a lot of time feeding information into insurer portals to get maybe one or two prices at the end of it all.
“The customer wants a fast, easy solution, and is getting everything but that, unlike car insurance, where you call your broker, and your broker can instantaneously pull up the rates and the offers of every insurance company they’re connected to, and the customer ends that call with more or less a good idea of what it’s going to cost them, what the options are and what the next steps are,” said Kidd. “That’s very often not the case in commercial lines and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Right now, Kidd and the team at Mitchell & Whale are developing a process that will enable brokers to focus on building solutions for certain client types, whereby those brokers can search the market quickly and help the customer compare value based on price and coverage, make the right decisions, and understand what they’re buying. In turn, the customer will leave the transaction with a higher level of satisfaction.
With a blueprint and road map in hand, the team is currently speaking with insurers across Canada to find the right partners for the project, while identifying potential kinks from a customer’s perspective to make the insurance-buying process as transparent and simple as possible. The goal is to bring Version 1.0 of the new approach to small business insurance to the market in the coming months.
“It doesn’t sound like rocket science and it’s not a grand dream. It’s just putting some basics in place that you would think would be there already in the market if you were a customer,” said Kidd.