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The Future of Independent Brokers: Serendipity and Social Media

When it comes down to tricky things, such as the future of the independent insurance distribution system, serendipity is an occasional, but wonderful friend.

A few days ago, Greg Purdy, managing partner of Pathway Partners Ltd., posed a provocative question on the LinkedIn group he manages, Canadian Insurance Broker Strategy Group: “Consumer choice – currently it looks like, buy over the phone, in person, or digital. Direct writers are harnessing digital, where is the broker channel going with this?”

Before we could respond, serendipity took hold and led us to an article with a cheeky title:

If You Work in Insurance, This Should Be the Only Article You Read on the Future of Social Media

This article, authored by Ryan Hanley, a 30 year old independent agent in New York, answers Greg’s question not only with content, but with context.

Concerning the immediate present and future, Hanley fundamentally disagrees with the notion that insurance is a commodity that consumers generally, and Millennials specifically,  will buy on price alone.  Further, he believes that technology will allow him to destroy this notion.

With regard to the belief that technology has rendered the independent agent obsolete in the mind of younger consumers, Hanley is blunt:

“The problem is not that Millennials do not relate to Independent Agents… The real issue is that Independent Agents do not relate to Millennials.  Too many of us are sitting in our agencies ignoring the Internet, marketing as if it’s 1979, and selling with the same tired pitch we’ve always used….

“The reason your independent agency is struggling to attract Millennials is because you are either unaware, unable or unwilling to provide the type of relationship that Millennials seek.  That my friend, is a YOU problem, (an US problem really), not a Millennials problem.”

Hanley posits that competing with direct marketers on the basis of price alone (using on-line quotation tools) is a fool’s game.  Independent agents need to compete on the basis of a single statement:  “WE CARE!”  And this caring needs to be established before the sale is made.  And this is where Social Media comes in.

Hanley goes on to recommend approaches and tools (including several that he has put into the public domain) to help. However, the most important point is that Hanley actually believes in his solution and is not afraid to put it into action.  What some of us old school cats (Hanley’s words) would call, “putting your money where your mouth is.”

Hanley clearly has the passion and the energy (independent agent by day, social media evangelist by night) to answer Greg’s question with both words and actions. We recently posted on other agents such as Angelyn Truetel, who are aggressively using social media for marketing and are openly sharing results with all who will listen.  Also, the use of social media in insurance is a key theme at the 2012 Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference.

For those of us who believe in the independent system, we can only hope that Ryan and Angelyn have lots of fellow travelers.

 

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