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A Moment in Time
Brett Boadway, Chief Operating Officer, IBAO
Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario
1 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700
Toronto, ON M4P 3A1
416.488.7422 | 800.268.8845
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Copyright © 2020 by Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
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No doubt 2020 will be a marquee moment in broker history, a marquee moment for our various communities and for the world at large.   When IBAO turns 200, I imagine (and hope) the leaders of our association will look back for a true account of this moment in time. Nothing else captures the day–to–day life of Ontario’s broker community like a magazine does. So, this  one’s for the history books—a chronicle of life as an Ontario Broker during the pandemic.   
A Quick Pivot to Remote Work
On March 13, 2020, an idea that brokerages may have to coordinate work–from–home policies started to percolate. By March 20th, almost all brokers across Ontario were working remotely. It was an aggressive and quick pivot, but not only were brokers able to make it happen with minimal interruption for their clients, they got a feel for what else might be possible. 
Community Support, As Always
It was very easy for brokers to fulfill the role they were built to play in their communities. Your established ideas, beliefs and principles triggered endless examples of immediate philanthropy efforts and advocacy for your staff and customers. You experienced sleepless nights as you considered the financial options for the local business owners and families next door. These feelings were universal across the  profession, driven by ingrained community leadership and a genuine compassion for those you serve. 
Industry Communication and a Minor Case of Whiplash
Abrupt, rapid back–and–forth relief strategies were revealed by stakeholders one by one. Brokers white knuckled the wheel and navigated the bumpy road. Save 75% on auto premiums! Just kidding! Here’s the relief plan…nope! Here’s the second plan! Wait! Here’s the third workflow change this week! The pandemic evolved quickly,  and no one can fault the industry for adapting as required. But brokers were significantly impacted as every small flick of the wrist from every insurer caused much larger motion at the end of their supply chain. 
Grateful For (or Accelerating Efforts to be)  Paperless
Those brokerages who had made investments in paperless solutions pre–pandemic  rode a smoother wave. Contactless payment solutions, policy documents and communication tools were never more appreciated. For those who hadn’t quite made the switch to paperless, COVID presented a bold statement on why they needed to be. In many ways, a timeline on making the required investment was made for them.  COVID also reignited the urgency for industry tech solutions. Attention future readers: is COVID the trigger that gets us there? We want to know!
Policyholder Communications Reevaluated & Revealed
While the pandemic may be temporary, consumer memory isn’t. Client questions surged and you reacted with empathy and professionalism. Brokerages pumped out messages of support and advice. Consumers were legitimately grateful that you answered their calls and provided the service they needed. And hey, the next time someone tells you your small to mid sized business is held to the same experience standard as a large tech company, ask them how much they enjoyed their last call with  their cell phone provider. In times of crisis, an accessible expert sure feels good.
Not only were brokers able to make it happen with minimal interruption for their clients, they got a feel for what else might be possible.
Business Interruption, Vacancy Wordings, Pandemic Clauses, Oh My!
Technical policy wordings got intimate, real fast. For those that worked through this, you’ll never forget the lessons. Call me if you want to write the textbook.
Recruiting Gets Tricky but Provides an Opportunity 
As RIBO complied with social isolation mandates and temporarily halted licensing opportunities, many brokerages (all acting as an essential service) were faced with talent supply drought. But looking ahead, recruiting becomes a real opportunity. If done well, the post COVID–19 world offers the chance to attract a wave of contemporary talent to the broker channel. Brokerages willing to position themselves as attractive work environments for creative and innovative talent (who may have lost work elsewhere) could capitalize on the availability and inevitable supply.
Broker Resilience
Industry headlines continue to cast doubt on  the future of the brokerage channel. Will  brokers survive?!? For more than 40 years these calls have been made but have yet to present themselves as reality. Currently, there’s no evidence that consumers are shopping outside the broker network. There’s no doubt digital lives will expand after COVID and many industries, including ours, will have to play catchup. But local lives  will also expand, and local support will become even more prized. The local broker able  to respond to consumer’s digital preferences is  unstoppable.