Over the years I’ve heard many brokers tell stories of the “old days”. Among tales about the tariff books and carbon copy cover notes are those that paint a very vivid picture of what this industry looked like well before I’d joined it.
Stories up to 15 March, 2001, are the most fascinating to me. It was a very significant date in Australian corporate history: the collapse of HIH, which at the time was Australia’s second largest insurer. Very few young brokers will have a true appreciation for what that date meant to the industry and what would unfold over the following years. This was really the beginning of a truly hard market.
It’s no secret that today’s market is soft. Very few occupations that come across a general insurance broker’s desk aren’t able to be placed locally, and for those that aren’t, there’s nearly always a market somewhere in the London heartland.
With very little trouble finding a market for a risk, and with premium levels falling by the day, today’s young brokers aren’t getting the type of grounding they would have done back in 2001: and that’s the type of experience you’d get having to move entire books of business – sometimes very quickly – and where you’d frequently come across a risk that was practically uninsurable.
As a YP, it’s important to appreciate what the industry might look like in the future and try and learn from the lessons of the past. I place a high level of importance on planning ahead for my career, but it’s difficult to know for sure what skills I’m going to need to have in my repertoire when the hard market inevitably returns further down the track.
Very few young brokers will have a true appreciation for what 15 March, 2001 meant to the industry and what would unfold over the following years. This was really the beginning of a truly hard market.
Everywhere you look in today’s insurance media there are articles and stories about the soft market, the rate squeeze, and its impact on the industry and the people working within it. Much of the literature focuses on the impact on potential growth and reinsurance costs, with little of it identifying it as an opportunity to grow and develop the young and very keen broking workforce.
Principals and senior leaders in the industry will already be well aware of the depth of YP talent in the industry and the importance of keeping the YP community engaged and inspired to continue professional development. With a strong national educational framework for brokers already established, it’s easier than ever for Principals to ensure young brokers can learn relevant skills through diploma courses and maintain this knowledge through CPD.
But more than that, I believe that instilling a keen sense of career-long learning in young brokers is essential for brokerages looking to survive in our fast-moving industry, which is already feeling the effects of digital disruption. The more that can be done to foster YPs’ desires to remain at the forefront of education and industry developments, the better equipped they will be to succeed in a changing market, and the more sustainable a broking business will be.
Investing in YP education and training will also help create a sense of belonging and loyalty within your YPs, which is increasingly important as businesses look to retain their top talent and provide them with long-term prospects.
So I’d urge all broker principals to harness the strength of their YPs and continue to invest in their development as a key part of their own business strategy to survive and thrive in the digital age.
In our industry, in which change is often measured in weeks, not years, imagining exactly what insurance might look like in five years is a difficult prospect. Ensuring you have a young, educated and enthusiastic team behind you will give brokerages the best chance at succeeding and being prepared for whatever the market has in store.
Shane Brady is an Account Manager at Sear Insurance Brokers in Victoria and a member of the NIBA Victoria Young Professionals Committee.