Challenge Accepted

DAVID ELLIOTT—President, Elliott Insurance Services

GERRY DE LAURO—President, Personal Insurance, HUB International

MICHELLE MCBETH—President, Birkett–Hassard Insurance Brokers

The world as we knew it in February is a far different world than the one we find ourselves in today. No one could’ve predicted how quickly we’d need to evolve and adapt to working from our dining room tables or makeshift desks in our living rooms. Three leaders  share  what it’s been like for their brokerages  and teams  confronting  the challenges head–on.


DE: Truthfully, I was surprised by how well the transition to working from home was. Three years ago, something of this magnitude would have been a logistical nightmare but overnight we went from a traditional office to a work–from–home business. We were lucky management had the foresight to put the  necessary tech in place over the past  two years to allow our team to work remotely as part of our disaster plan. We were even luckier to have such an amazing, positive team that addressed the challenges and made the change as seamless as possible.

GD: The shift to working from home was a bit clunky at first but I’m really proud of how well our teams have adapted to their new environment. We started planning for this reality  early March and accelerated as the situation pivoted, knowing the safety of our employees was top priority. We had a few hiccups as we tested the capabilities of our systems—not surprising considering how fast we had to move. Our team has had to navigate a multitude of auto relief measures that have come out fast and furious.  It’s  been a challenge for sure, but the team has handled it very well, educating themselves on the new measures while helping clients who need  assistance.

MM: I’m so proud of our team for overcoming the challenges of working from home and the positive response we’ve gotten to the quick change in the way we do business. We were a traditional brick–and–mortar office with little experience in remote work. With the support of our amazing IT provider and the willingness of staff to work through  hurdles, it made for a relatively easy transition. We host frequent individual and group video meetings to address any concerns and ensure everyone feels supported.


DE: Our email marketing program has gone from a neat tool to essential tech. With changes happening daily, it’s been invaluable in  ensuring clients stay updated on company specific information.  It’s also led to a massive amount of client emails and calls to our account managers, and some very long days. Though we can’t meet our clients physically, we’re more connected than ever.

GD: Staying connected is important as we know  our clients look to us as their insurance advisors. We’ve proactively reached out by phone, email and text. Clients appreciate  the updates and check–ins. Claims are still a part of life—our claims teams are helping to get many of our clients back on track. We’ve  also hosted informational webinars for both  Personal and Commercial clients which have been very well attended.

MM: Keeping the communication lines open and advising clients of the ever–changing landscape has provided an opportunity to connect with our customers in a positive way. Being able to segment our client base and provide information unique to their  circumstances brings clarity on what’s  relevant. Keeping messaging clear and individualized has been a huge help for  managing the inquiries brought on by various media releases.


DE: Our office has a very strong, family–like culture. We’re a very cohesive team and support each other extremely well. It’s difficult to keep that culture when everyone’s in a different location, especially with the increased workload, changes and stresses  COVID-19 has presented. We’ve gone from a team that converses in person to a team that connects over group chat and phone calls. Though it’s going well, it’s not the same.

GD: The biggest challenge has been adjusting to the mindset of being 100% remote and  working out of my kitchen. I’d rarely worked  remotely, but have started to settle into  the new routine. I’m happy with how my family of four is adapting. Having kids close by has been a good learning experience. They see how long my days can often go and I get insight into their days. I’m missing the collaboration that comes from working with people in person, but I’m doing my best to use all the available  platforms. We have a great team and I’m so impressed with how we’ve pivoted to support our clients and each other virtually.

MM: Managing the array, volume and frequency of stakeholder updates and communicating them to our clients has been a challenge. With information evolving daily, it’s difficult to ensure we’re explaining to each customer the relief measures available and then  managing the processing of those changes. Regular communication and compassion for our team and customers has been imperative.


DE: I see two major opportunities: better legacy processes and showing our value as brokers. As an industry we’ve been slow to adapt to a changing world. Many of our documents still require a physical signature—we can’t seem to shake this dependence on paper. But we’re seeing companies start to accept eSignatures on more documents  to reduce or eliminate paper flow. This pandemic is forcing us to focus on workflow efficiencies and streamline procedures and the customer experience.

The second opportunity is showing clients our value. As brokers we can step in as a knowledge source to advise. Helping clients stay informed and offering information tailored to their specific situation clearly demonstrates our value and strengthens  broker–client relationships.

GD: The greatest opportunity is demonstrating  value through empathy, professionalism  and expertise. Brokers are the best equipped to provide advice, advocacy and choice,  especially in an environment as fluid as this one. This has become more evident these past few weeks as many of our clients have called looking for help—real help that only a person can provide by listening and taking action.  People will remember those who reached out and helped them through this crisis.  I can say with confidence that we’ve been there for our clients.

MM: Suggesting solutions to the current situation and what will be required going forward is an opportunity for brokers and customers alike. It’s opened our collective eyes to new realities and ways we can provide risk management solutions in the future. It’s a moment to show the compassion and care we have for the public’s well being, especially when so many are feeling vulnerable.


DE: We’re dusting off webcams for virtual meetings and saving a ton on travel expenses.

GD: Staying connected is a focus—there’s so much information coming out on a daily basis, it can be overwhelming. My leadership team and I have an open text chat where we share information, fun pics and jokes. I host a weekly virtual coffee chat with a small group of frontline staff who’ve helped me better understand how things are for them and for their clients. I’m grateful for the many check–ins—it means a lot when you receive those same personal touches back from clients, peers and insurance partners.

MM: The fantastic thing about our industry is the support we as brokers provide one another. I’m blessed to have a brilliant group of peers who meet weekly to discuss best practices,  tips and tricks, sharing experiences and challenges. As brokerage owners, we too can feel isolated, so the gift of sharing amongst peers is invaluable both personally and professionally. I’d also like to thank the IBAO for their updates, sage advice and advocacy—the support means a lot.

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