Sara Tatelman
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How board games might help brokers with new clients

I’d known my boyfriend’s extended family for less than 24 hours when I outed myself as being highly risk-averse. We were sitting at a picnic table outside their home in the Dutch countryside, playing an after-dinner game of Regenwormen (the “g” is guttural; the name translates to “earthworms”). Similar to Yahtzee, it involves repeatedly rolling dice to collect points, represented by worms.

Rolling only once or twice rarely wins a player any worms, but too many rolls could cost him both the opportunity to gain points and any points won in previous turns. Ten minutes in, I was in last place but still in the game enough that a lucky roll could save me. Nevertheless, I chose to fold rather than throw again and risk losing my one paltry worm.

“Now we know who keeps their money under their mattress,” my boyfriend teased.

His uncle Hugo, on the other hand, always rolled for broke. “You can tell I play the stock market,” he quipped. By the end of the game, we tied for last place. His wife, who had taken moderate risks throughout the game and only when a gamble was statistically probable to increase her worm count, ended up winning.

I don’t know their postal codes, birthdays or favourite foods, but I do know something of their risk appetites. That probably won’t inspire pithy-yet-personal holiday cards, but is useful information for a broker.

“I would say a typical bond investor would focus on capital preservation,” Hugo later told me. “He’d try to protect the existing stock of Regenwormen; whilst typical equity investors would be willing to take more risk and possibly lose [something] valuable if they saw a good probability of winning more.”

So in a broker’s world, if a client’s a rapid roller like him, maybe they’re comfortable with higher deductibles. If they’re skittish like me, maybe they’re chomping at the bit for the newly available overland flood coverage.

Imagine if brokers played games like Regenwormen when they met new personal lines clients. It doesn’t have to take long to learn the prospective client’s character, and clients might actually enjoy visiting their brokers, or at least not dread it so very much. (One TD study revealed Canadians would rather wait in an airport security line than think about insurance.)

Sure, pulling out a board game goes against the trend towards one-click insurance, but working with a broker has always been about the personal touch. Diagnostic dice games will only make it more fun.