The troublesome future of brokers: Interview with an InsurTech marketer

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The insurance industry is facing tremendous change and so are the tasks of those working in this field. We talked to Sebastian Heithoff, Marketing Manager at German InsurTech startup – a platform that looks to increase the quality of insurance brokerage and consumer decision making in the digital age.

Hi Sebastian. Your company offers a platform for consumers to rate insurance agents. Can you tell us, in detail, what your service offers?

Hi Alexander, sure, it’s my pleasure. As you just mentioned, our online service is a referral marketing platform for insurance agents, both exclusive intermediaries and brokers. We are aiming at increasing the quality and visibility of insurance consultancy on the internet by featuring profiles that are divided by disciplines and by pointing out key qualifications and completed training programs of the agents. Equally important is positioning the topic of consultancy and brokerage digitally, which is why we actively support our customers with gaining attention and enabling them to be found by their potential customers on the internet. This involves explaining to them the opportunities of using free services like Google My Business, demonstrating the online behavior and digital affinity of younger generations or instructing them on the usage of tools and online networks in detail. We do this by hosting webinars and online seminars which are quite easy to follow and work on. We also do on-site seminars which is mostly interesting for larger insurance companies. A lot is about educating the brokers.

What are the benefits for consumers and your customers, the insurance agencies and consultants?

For consumers (which are not yet our core business) we offer a platform with fine-grained search functions, which only features those brokers, that are not afraid to get rated by their customers, thus conveying competency and trust. They are the ones in the business who focus on service and advise properly. For the brokers, it’s about our holistic approach: we don’t only ensure quality through customer evaluation but add qualifications and opportunities for a range of trainings. All of this, of course, runs towards generating leads via the platform. Large marketing initiatives on our side ensure that consumers get sensitized and that lays the foundation for the win-win situation we want to create.

What are the greatest difficulties when it comes to digitalization in your field?

For our niche, it’s definitely the biased opinion of many brokers towards digital media and a lack of understanding of the millennial generation. They do not believe in the potentials the digitalization holds for their business and the power the internet has in their field - only because they don’t yet use it in a professional context. The small amount of referrals and impressions of their good work could be exponentiated through platforms like ours. There only needs to be a bit more acceptance.

In an increasingly digital environment, consumers might soon purchase insurance products digitally instead of calling on a consultant. How will this change your business – or do you think consumers will keep relying on actual people to advise on services and products such as insurances?

I just met with some employees of Germany’s insurance industry leader. For them, ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline) customers are still the most important target group and they claim will be for quite some time in the future. As far as I know, less than 25% of insurance products are purchased online, despite the amount of products offered. There certainly is a wealth of insurance services to be purchased on websites and via apps without the need to be advised on anything in the process. For topics like pension schemes, disability insurance or let alone business insurance you quickly enter an area where consultancy is needed again. We do believe that brokers cannot become obsolete in our industry, although we think that perhaps insurances purchased online will make up a third or more within the next few years. There will, by chance, be much fewer brokers in the future.

There is great consensus among experts that the insurance industry will be subject to a process of unbundling. With mostly micro-insurances offered digitally, where is the place of the consultant?

Many brokers will arguably become more of a troubleshooter who is being called on when digital solutions fail to offer what is requested. Still, we cannot ignore how important it is for some people to talk to a real person – especially for insurances, who try to sell security and a feeling of safety, which a machine cannot evoke in the same way a person can.

What’s your prediction for the future of the insurance industry – how will people approach the topic in, say, ten years?

Technology will have transformed consumer behavior in a way we cannot really imagine today. Much more data will be aggregated and cleverly used, users will be even more informed – but so will insurance companies. Still, companies and corporates won’t be able to stand the way they do today, following patterns that already now cease to work. Thousands of jobs will be cut from the insurance industry. I am thinking of thousands and thousands of people working in administration and processing which will soon be done by software.

How important is gathering personal information and knowing the customer for you?

For our core service, it’s not terribly important to know a lot about the consumers using the platform. For advertising and marketing on the other hand, it is very important of course. As a modern marketer I have high demands regarding my ROI and I only choose formats that allow for detailed measuring and analysis. Conversion rates and impressions mostly suffice, personal data is not really needed given our target groups.

Any other advice for digital marketers in finance and insurance?

Don’t waste money on SEA. AdWords will get you buried in worthless clicks and there are many better ways to spend your budget. Keep an eye on your ROI and try to be relevant. Content isn’t king, relevance is. If you can manage to communicate relevantly and distinctively, you will most probably be successful.
Sebastian Heithoff, Marketing Manager at

*Image Credit: Markus Spiske, via*