- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Cutting through the noise: What does ‘digital’ even mean?

A lot of brokerages are calling themselves ‘digital’ – it’s time to raise the bar on what that actually means

By Margo Lyons, Head of Broker Engagement, Apollo Insurance Solutions

There’s a lot of noise out there about what makes a digital brokerage. When I investigate what exactly makes a brokerage digital, it’s usually that they have a mobile-optimized website, or that they offer their clients the ability to put in “e-signatures” on “e-docs.” They pat themselves on the back and tell everyone that they’re a digital brokerage, and everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon, throwing awards and accolades at them, and talking about how advanced they are.

I have no idea what an “e-doc” is, but I am willing to bet it doesn’t result in a client being able to buy insurance online. I’m tired of hearing about brokerages that are doing the bare minimum of modernization, without anything that actually benefits the consumer in a real, practical way.

Don’t get me wrong, more brokerages could benefit from doing the bare minimum. Mobile-optimized websites are important, of course. How about having a website at all? But that isn’t digital — it’s the bare minimum. Nobody should be praised for doing the bare minimum.

What does a real digital brokerage look like? I propose a new definition: a digital brokerage is one that sells insurance online, with a turnaround time that is in line with consumer expectations. I know, it sounds crazy, right? If that were the case, someone could go in and buy a straightforward policy in the span of five minutes, the same way they sign up for a bank account. Or, at a minimum, they could speak to a broker who is able to leverage technology to complement their expertise and find the best solution for them in a simple, frictionless process. A true digital brokerage is one that facilitates or fulfills insurance digitally.

Try Googling ‘digital brokerage.’ What comes up first are things like broker management systems, which is fine. Having a powerful BMS is definitely going to help leverage technology. But what’s missing is the consumer’s perspective. There’s very little mention of online fulfillment, of being able to quote, bind, and issue policy documents from the broker’s website. Something I ask brokers is: have you tried purchasing insurance from yourself? It’s extremely important that they find out what those pain points are in their own organization, from the perspective of someone who is looking for insurance.

Think about how clients buy everything else in their life. They go to a website like Amazon, shop and buy products, and get them in a reasonable time. We must be able to meet those expectations in this industry too.

Our vision at Apollo is an industry where computers do the work so people can build relationships. Digital doesn’t mean without people. Everyone’s business needs are different, and insurance can be complicated. The advice and counsel of the broker is incredibly important. What is often missing from the conversation is how technology can increase access to that advice and council, whether that’s through live chat, content, or simply making your phone number as prominent as possible.

Consumers can discuss their business needs, ask any questions they have, and really benefit from that advice and counsel that’s still so important, and will always be important in the insurance industry. A truly digital brokerage will fulfil that consumer expectation that they can quote, bind, and get policy documents in real time while leveraging the broker’s advice and counsel as seamlessly as possible.

Consumer expectations aren’t the only reason why the bar has to be raised.

It’s no secret that there’s a talent shortage in this industry. There are a lot of very highly motivated people that see more opportunity elsewhere, where the game is being played at a higher level. The ones that I speak with don’t believe that insurance has that much to offer them in terms of opportunity to meaningfully contribute and advance the industry. They hear a few stories about how advanced a brokerage is for implementing E-signatures, and they think, “I’d rather do something else.”

This industry is losing these highly motivated, educated people. Those are the people who would be the ones to really push this bar higher. What are we going to do as an industry to keep them? Let’s cut through the noise.

The bar must be raised. In this digital world, we need to start meeting the needs of the digital consumer.

About the Author

Margo is Apollo’s Head of Broker Engagement and the Founder and Chair of the Young Insurance Professionals of BC. She recognizes the opportunities for the insurance industry when brokers are empowered to compete on a new frontier.

About Apollo Exchange

Apollo Exchange is a free eCommerce marketplace that enables brokers to  instantly bind insurance products.

For more information, or to sign up today and start selling insurance online, please visit

Source: Apollo Exchange