At a broker meeting I recently attended, the room was filled with growing angst as each firm told stories about being under attack. Whether it was from carriers lowering commissions, competition heating up or from losing producers, there was a feeling of futility and resignation as brokers told their stories. Make no mistake — these are challenging times for the industry. But let me be absolutely clear on one point: There is no better time to be a broker. 

When I started my career as a broker, the medical trend was almost flat, and the biggest value a broker delivered was marketing the insurance plan. It was brutal trying to gain interest from prospects, and it was tough to shake existing relationships. One would persevere by working hard and playing the numbers game. 

Today’s environment offers a brokerage an incredibly rich target environment to grow its agency. With changing buyer expectations, a broker has an unbelievable opportunity to become indispensable to clients and prospects. The first step is for brokers to stop focusing on themselves (their history, their people and service, blah blah) and start creating an amazing client experience. The good news is that technology makes this a lot easier to do.

More than enrollment

At the meeting, a key topic of discussion was enrollment capabilities and the very obvious need for brokers to bring it to the table in order to grow and protect their books. But in today’s world, we need to go much deeper to create an experience that lasts throughout the year. A broker needs an integrated suite of tools to create value and to keep the client engaged. Some of those tools include:

  • Vacation tracking
  • State and federal compliance
  • HR resources
  • Employee benefits statements
  • Summary plan documents
  • Employee education videos
  • Wellness
  • Consumerism
  • Stewardship reports
  • Benchmarking
  • Plan analytics
  • Plan modeling
  • Disease management
  • Underwriting
  • Trending reports
  • Employee handbooks
  • HR hotline
  • Pharmacy benefit services
  • Intranet
  • On and offboarding assistance
  • Online enrollment

The next step to becoming indispensable is execution. A vision without proper execution is simply a hallucination. For a broker to be successful, he or she needs to adopt these strategies and the philosophy of the client experience as his or her own. The broker needs to take pride in the service he or she provides and understand that marketing an insurance plan is only a fraction of what today’s buyer expects.
Yes, these are challenging times. But with challenge comes opportunity. Stop what you are doing and spend a day or two focusing on how you can provide an amazing experience to all of your clients. Get buy-in from every employee, and then focus on execution. We all got into this business to help people — the best part is that we are poised to help now more than ever.  

O’Brien is the CEO of Zywave, Inc., a leading provider of software solutions for insurance brokers. He has been with Zywave since its inception in the 1990s, helping create new technology tools that drive profitable results in a dynamic marketplace. Reach him at or through

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