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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

Obstacles ahead in a shifting broker market

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What kind of year are you having? At Zywave, we talk to hundreds of brokers each month, large and small, across the country. As a company, it allows us to see what is working, what is not, and what is propelling some to new levels. To verify the themes we see and even better understand the market, we recently conducted a survey of more than 900 brokers, both customers and noncustomers, and the results offered a lot of insight.

See also: Broker trends, an infographic

The changing market

One thing we’ve seen over the years working with insurance brokers is that the market is shifting. Simply delivering an insurance policy isn’t cutting it anymore; to differentiate and satisfy the needs of today’s clients, brokers need to offer more.

The survey bore that out, when asked what differentiates them:

  • 74 percent of respondents said “our customers view us as trusted advisors rather than insurance salespersons”
  • 64 percent said “consultative rather than product-focused sales process”

Of the consultative services benefits agencies are offering, more are moving to a fee-based pricing model. This is an area where the market is just starting to shift; we hear it in our conversations. A small percentage of brokers are fully comfortable charging fees, while most are either testing the waters, thinking about it, or not ready to take the plunge. Of those surveyed:

  • 47 percent of respondents don’t charge any fees
  • 35 percent charge fees less than 10 percent of the time
  • 2 percent of brokers charge fees all the time

Some things stay the same

One area that hasn’t changed is how brokers get new business. Typically, when a broker is asked how they get new business, the standard answer is referrals – and the survey showed that. When asked their top strategies for acquiring new business, the overwhelming response was referrals, followed by cold calling and centers of influence.

The part I find interesting is that when asked if they have a formal referral program, 70 percent said they did not. If there is one takeaway from the survey that brokers should focus on, it is in this area. The top strategy for acquiring business at an agency doesn’t have a formal process around it. There’s nothing wrong with working off referrals, but it’s a much more potent strategy with an agency-wide process in place.

Obstacles to growth

Another theme I found interesting emerged when looking at obstacles to growth and areas agencies planned to invest. When asked their main obstacles to growth, the majority of respondents said recruiting producers and employees. When asked what they wanted to improve at their agency, the highest response was producer production. Where are agencies most likely to invest in the next 12 months to improve growth? Most respondents said producer and employee training.

Clearly, producer recruiting and training is a serious concern for agencies today, and it’s a safe bet many of you out there are facing similar challenges. The problem based on conversations I’ve had is that owners and sales managers want to invest in newer producers and/or improve producer production, without investing in the training necessary to get there. I’m very encouraged to see that 45 percent of survey respondents plan to invest in producer training, because I believe it is critical to agency success. Though it feels like a significant up-front cost, the long-term benefits are well worth it for the agency.

As the industry changes, brokers are adjusting to new realities and some are capitalizing on the opportunity. This survey points to the challenges ahead and shows how brokers plan to overcome and drive themselves to greater success.

Now would be a good time to take stock of your own situation, spend some time strategizing and executing your plan. If done well, this could be the best year of your agency’s history.   


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