It’s no secret that digital technology is having a bigger impact on the way the insurance industry operates than almost anything else in its history.

For the customer, it has never been easier to research insurance needs, compare insurance products and bind insurance contracts from behind a computer, or even from a smartphone. And that means more and more business owners are opting to forego brokers in favour of purchasing directly online.

For the third year running, Vero surveyed 1500 small- and medium-sized business owners for its SME Index, finding that SME owners are increasingly looking online for their insurance needs, and it’s not just because technology is making it easier to do so. “Generational change is a big part of this story,” the report states. “Unsurprisingly, the new generation of business owners bring a new set of attitudes, ambitions and concerns, and this is impacting the way they approach insurance.

Vero SME index

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“They are digital natives and their comfort in the online world means that they appreciate, and indeed expect, that they should be able to deal with their insurance in this space.”

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It is not just their comfort navigating insurance solutions online that sets apart the new generation of SME decision-maker.

“Attitudinally we find that they are also eager to be involved, confident in their understanding, somewhat cynical and very price conscious,” the report states. “This means that the insurance industry as a whole and brokers in particular need to adapt to new styles of interacting with customers, for example providing more detailed analysis and evaluation of different options, or having more conversations about price and the value of insurance coverage.”

The SME Index also confirmed the absolute supremacy of a strong website when it comes to garnering new SME business. Searching online was ranked as far and away the most popular method of finding a broker, with 60% of respondents using it. Referrals from colleagues, friends and family was the next most highly ranked source, on 39%, with referrals from a business advisor such as an accountant not far behind. Traditional advertising and social media ranked very lowly.

Suncorp Commercial Insurance Broker Distribution National Manager Sam Sanfilippo says the findings mean a broker’s online presence has never been more important.

“Brokerages need to consider investing in their online presence, not only through a strong website, but also using methods such as search engine optimisation to ensure they have a good presence when prospective clients turn to online search to find a broker,” he says.

“At the end of the day, no matter what technology is used in the process, it always comes down to the expertise the broker brings to helping their customer.

“The index indicates that the strong professional expertise that brokers bring is a key reason for looking for and using a broker.

“Expertise is a relevant message brokers should communicate to potential clients.”