Brokers won’t fail if they’re not “the next Sonnet”: Insurance Jack COO

“Consumers don’t care about size and budget, they want a great experience.”

Brokers concerned about competing with direct insurance channels and disruptors need not be hindered by small teams and limited budgets if they’re driven to succeed in a changing marketplace.

Insurance Jack is proof of that, InsurTechQC conference delegates heard in Quebec City on Monday. Speaking about Insurance Jack’s success story, Adam Hare, COO of the online insurance brokerage based in Oshawa, Ontario, said brokers who are willing to do what it takes to succeed, needn’t be concerned for their future.

He started Insurance Jack with only three employees and no external financial backing. “Our entire startup investment budget for brand development, website and quoter [technology] was under $50,000,” he said.

Today, a little over a year later, Insurance Jack has generated $1 million in gross written premiums, over 3,000 new business inquiries and around 300 clients.

“We’re still a small team,” said Hare, a former Canadian Insurance Top Broker Top 10 under 40 finalist. “We work shifts and use online tools to offer a 24 hour service to our clients, with a five minute response time,” he said.

“Size and budget don’t matter to the client. You need to perform. You need to give them just as good a customer experience than any sector offers them, and even better service than any competitor could.”

Hare said he was surprized at how much attention technology is getting. “It’s all we talk about. Sure, you’re website and technology can be amazing, but if you don’t have the right team to execute, you have nothing. You need to invest in employee training and personal development – create a culture where people love what they do.”

Hare, who quit his senior-level job at a major record label to pursue the venture, said that when he first started as an insurance marketing director at his father’s brokerage, Petley-Hare Limited, he was seen “as the kid on Facebook all day”. “There was no such role in most insurance brokerages. I wanted to change that.”

After a year at Petley-Hare, he realized that the brokerage was doing well, but that their marketing efforts were not set up for the future. “Our customers were changing, but we weren’t. So the opportunity I had was to decide: do we turn the bricks-and-mortar business into a digital company? Or start something new and fresh for the customer who prefers a digital experience?”

Hare recognized the need for an online insurance quoter that’s fast – customers get up to 15 quotes in 10 seconds on the site – and that offers convenient self-service offerings in real time, like making policy changes online.

“It’s still a traditional insurance model, but we’ve changed the experience of acquiring and service.”

Lessons learned

Hare said more brokerages needed to adopt an “outside in” versus an “inside out” approach to doing business from a customer’s perspective.

“It’s a huge concern. Before we even had a business plan, we said we needed to look at what the customer would want. They wanted a great insurance experience.”

Hare said the industry needs to pay more attention to developing and improving the entire customer journey, “from seeking to testing, to buying and service, to renewals’.

“You won’t fail if you’re not the next Sonnet or Insurance Jack. Find what you’re really good at, and develop that, do that really well,” he said.

Hare encouraged brokers to invest in lead management and marketing automation software, and to “create a brand beyond just a logo”.

“Invest in mobile. Eighty percent of our communications is done through text, because that’s what our customers prefer.”

A proactive rather than reactive approach would go a long way in adapting to change, he added. “Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you’re just collecting a pay check, there’s no way you’ll succeed.”

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