There is one night in the Insurance Business calendar that shines above all others – the annual industry awards.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the seventh annual Insurance Business Canada Awards (IBCA), an event that recognises outstanding brokers, brokerages, insurers, underwriters, MGAs, and risk managers from across Canada for their achievements, leadership, and innovation over the past 12 months.
The energy in Toronto’s glamorous Liberty Grand was electric. Everyone was chatting, hugging, eating, drinking, dancing, and just remembering the old industry adage that ‘insurance really is a people business’. There was such a warm buzz that the over 600 attendees could almost forget that it was -5C and snowing outside, kicking off what’s going to be a long Canadian winter.
My job at the IBCA was to interview award-winners and sponsors – and I’ll take this moment to congratulate all the winners for their fantastic achievements and contributions to the industry – and what stood out to me when chatting to everyone was the immense joy at getting the gang back together.
The Canadian insurance industry seems like a large cohort of friends, and the IBCA – which was virtual for the past two-years due to the COVID-19 pandemic - felt like a band reunited after a brief hiatus, with all the energy that typically accompanies a “come-back tour”.
It really was a great night, and while we only currently host Insurance Business awards in Canada and Australia, I’m sure all of our readers in other countries can attest to just how nice it has been to reconnect and start forging (and strengthening) relationships in-person once again.
In my opinion, the insurance industry cannot overemphasise the importance of in-person meetings, events, and in-office working (a few days a week). Insurance is a financial service that fulfils its obligations through relationships – whether that’s brokers’ relationships with clients, brokers’ relationships with markets, underwriters’ relationships with claims, the list goes on.
What did the award-winning brokers and brokerages have in common at the IBCA? They all have fantastic relationships with clients, markets, and local communities – and they use those relationships to their advantage. They turn those relationships into win-win scenarios for all key stakeholders.
The principals of one brokerage that won an award were visibly shocked to receive the accolade. This was their first time in attendance, as they operate a small, independent firm in the coastal provinces of Atlantic Canada, and they never thought they’d win a national award.
That’s another reason why events like the IBCA are so great. That small, local brokerage was as deserving as the rest. And here’s the thing. For insurance brokers today, service levels, knowledge, access to product and markets are table stakes. Every good brokerage should have those attributes. But not every brokerage has that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ – that differentiating quality that makes it stand out among the pack.
I believe that every insurance professional can achieve that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ if they have the right relationships.
Picture this request from a broker: “Hi underwriter, I need your help. This client of mine really needs coverage. They do have claims history, but we’re working on improving their risk profile, and we just need a little more time. They support their local community and they’re very socially responsible; they just had bad luck last year with X, Y, Z.’
Without a relationship, an underwriter with a huge pile of submissions on his/her desk will likely say: ‘No.’ But with a relationship, the broker can collaborate with the underwriter to find a solution that meets the client’s unique needs. Brokers can only go above and beyond for clients if they treat insurance as a people business – which most do, to be fair.
But relationships come and go. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us developed Zoom or Teams fatigue. There’s something less personal about seeing someone through a screen, and watching their eyes go out of focus as they check their emails during a call. It was hard to maintain true, personal relationships with people on the other side of the country, without meeting them in-person and having quality, uninterrupted time together.
We also know that the industry demographic is changing rapidly. We’ve gone from the Great Resignation (during the pandemic) to the Great Retirement (post-pandemic), so teams and points of contact have changed.
Relationship building in the insurance industry is not a one and done process. It is constant effort and should be part of every insurance professional’s daily goals, especially those with people-facing roles. Attend industry awards, go to conferences, accept lunch invitations, or simply go to the office and work in-person with teammates and colleagues.
Based on the delight that everyone shared to be back together at the IBCA, I think it’s more important than ever for people to reconnect and remember … ‘insurance really is a people business’.