Humber, IBAO build new talent pipeline for commercial brokers

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Humber College and Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) have teamed up to launch a new program to attract and train prospective commercial insurance brokers.

Scheduled to start Oct. 1, Humber’s new Commercial Account Manager (CAM) program was established to meet the needs of brokers seeking new talent in commercial lines.

IBAO has fielded many calls from brokerage members seeking new recruits, Brett Boadway, CEO of IBAO told CU in an interview.

“A very, very common question we would get [at IBAO] is, ‘Where’s the best place for me to post my job if I’m looking for a commercial broker?’” she said. “And there the answer is, there is no good place.

“The trend I’m seeing among brokers is the realization they have to develop their own talent in-house. We know long-tenured commercial lines brokers tend to be more senior. And most brokers start as personal lines brokers and transition to commercial lines, which means a lot of commercial brokers are hitting retirement all at the exact same time. It’s creating a massive vacuum, a talent shortage.”

Training commercial brokers is different than training personal lines brokers because commercial lines coverages are often customized and nuanced, requiring commercial brokers to make judgment calls.

“Commercial Lines is not a science. It’s an art,” said Boadway. “It’s a lot of learning by doing. It’s specific not just by vertical, but by the business you’re writing. It’s very hard to standardize. So we need a course that’s not just an online, ‘Click-the-buttons-and-learn-the-formula,’ type of thing. It needs to be an immersive course that includes mentors.”

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John McNeil, program coordinator and full-time professor at Humber College’s Insurance Management program, said the course aims to teach students the basic skills in commercial lines.

Related: Can a new college program draw talent to commercial brokerages?

There are two gateways into the program.

The first one is RIBO-specific for people who have never been exposed to the property and casualty insurance industry. It will teach the fundamentals of insurance. Students will be exposed to RIBO’s “best-in-class” preparation materials from IBAO, on the way to getting their RIBO broker licence.

After the first month, they will join students who entered the program through the second gateway, for people already holding a RIBO license. In this two-month track, students learn a variety of skills, including how to use commercial lines technology.

For example, the CAM program partnered with Applied Systems so learners could get a hands-on education about broker management systems (BMS) and how they operate.

“The Applied Systems course provides students with a glimpse of what insurance technology looks like,” McNeil says. “They’re not just becoming book smart. They actually have a chance to work with it. They’re going to get trained by somebody who’s a master trainer.”

Based on feedback from piloting the CAM program, the Applied Systems technology course itself has two pathways. Students already experienced using a BMS will learn more specifics about commercial lines solutions. For beginners, a separate stream will teach how commercial lines business is transacted, as well as how to manage the workflow directly in the technology itself.

Although multiple BMS vendors exist in the market, Boadway said the tech skills learned in the Applied course are transferable should the students move into a brokerage that does not use an Applied Systems BMS. For example, students will benefit “even [by] just [learning] the lingo and the acronyms [associated with the BMS], and just by going through the actions and moving those transactions forward,” she said.

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As befitting the program name, students will also learn the skill of managing multiple commercial insurance accounts in a polished, professional manner.

“It’s not just one account you’re handling, but how do you manage a portfolio through the circadian rhythm of a policy?” McNeil said. “These aren’t small auto policies, some of them are massive. And so how do you prioritize? How do you provide white-gloves treatment to one account while still ensuring another one is serviced properly?”

This is where the unique, ‘bread-and butter’ mentorship aspect of the program looms large, said McNeil. The program ensures students will develop these management skills with the help of experienced commercial lines brokers.

“Since commercial lines is an art, not a science, you can’t build a textbook about commercial lines and have the graduate be successful in the role,” Boadway said.

‘“So we’re baking mentorship into the program. So, for example, say we just talked about garage policies. We would say to students, ‘Go to your mentor. Here are some questions, and your assignment is to come back with a report relaying information of what your mentor told you about their experience.’”


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