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Customer relationship management offered by life assurer to broker network - e-commerce solution for brokers Back  
Hibernian Life CGU recently launched a service which allows internet access for brokers to administrative details on customers, a platform which is capable of being implemented for other life assurers too. Vincent Nolan believes that this will be ‘an e-commerce solution for brokers who want to survive the challenge of direct writers’.
Technology is having a profound effect on all aspects of business strategies and direction. In the distribution of life, pensions and investment services technology will be the mainstay of the successful 21st century broker.

Pensions and investment customers of the new millennium are more sophisticated, more discerning and know what they want - they want it better, more cost effectively, tailored to their specific requirements and they want it now! The accepted practices of today will cause the demise of the broker as we know them unless they adapt and embrace the consumers needs via an entrepreneurial thought process based the effective use of instant technology.

Intense competition between existing players and proposed new entrants in the Life assurance market means that there is effectively a ‘land grab’ for customers. Many players such as the bancassurers have invested considerable sums in technology (the ‘clicks’) to produce instant information to run their business (the ‘mortar’). Economies of scale have meant that they can deal with their customer base extremely cost effectively.

All industry trends from abroad (Australia, England and the USA) clearly indicate that people desire and need independent advice and expertise to steer them through the ‘information overload’ which in commonplace in the life industry today.

Broker well placed
In the light of the massive shift from deposit based investments to a wide range of structured leveraged equity based investments the independent broker is well positioned to give valuable impartial informed advice to their clients on what vehicle best suits their needs. The broker in fact is the only person who can give this impartial advice as the alternatives are usually direct agents/bancassurers selling single company products structured for the mass market and not individuals specific needs. However to do this there needs to be a significant change in the relationship between traditional life companies and the broker distribution channels. This can only be delivered through technology.

The independent broker has to find a way to efficiently get relevant information to communicate with their clients in a cost effective manner. In other words, integrate information technology with their business quickly and view the development of the internet as the ideal service instrument.

The perfect solution would be the provision of a powerful database tool which would allow the broker to compete in the information age by identifying, attracting and retaining their most valuable customers for profitable growth and culling the customers which are a drain on their most precious resource: time. Hibernian/CGU has called its new service a ‘Broker Office Support System’.

Elements of BOSS
Using internet technology, BOSS can be a full Customer Relationship Management system to help brokers manage their business and provide better proactive service to their customers. The BOSS system could be like having four dedicated business managers running a broker’s business:

• Client Manager
Allows a broker to see their client’s up to date overall financial position at the touch of a button and can provide functionality to manage proposals, pension and investment policies and mortgages.

• Office Manager
This manager will track all aspects of managing a broker office e.g. commission; sales; pipeline & billing and allow you to value their time. This will be the most critical factor in light of the impending introduction of commission disclosure.

• Marketing Manager
The Marketing Manager would analyze and segment customers according to their needs in terms of products and services thus reducing the broker’s time in prospecting.

• Communications Manager
The Communications Manager produces correspondence linked to individual customers providing standard letters and documents at the click of a button.

This means that the broker will be able to access on-line customer fund values, cover levels, premium details and policy inception dates in real time. Brokers can provide instant information to customers without the traditional delays associated with lengthy phone or postal enquiries.

For many years brokers have been slowed down by the ‘paper iceberg’ and time wasted accessing information on their customers from the life providers. A new system based on the above principles would streamline the way brokers do business, simply by being able to access timely information.

The above may seem like a pipe dream. However in order for the consumer to receive impartial and professional advice it is imperative that the traditional life industry wake up to the fact that the broker is a key link in the distribution of complex pension and investment products. It is therefore imperative for both to co-exist in a competitive market place a strong and fair partnership must be forged between the faceless manufacturers and the independent broker market place. If this does not occur the industry will face increasingly more competition from the new age companies which will enter the Irish market with a strategy based on value-added service tailored to individual’s specific needs.

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