communication / BRO Vector

Communication with executives hasn’t typically been tagged as crucial by the insurance advisors included in Investment Executive’s Insurance Advisors’ Report Card. But it was one of the areas in which firms improved their average ratings notably during this past year.

Performance ratings for both the “Effectiveness in keeping advisors informed” and “Receptiveness to advisor feedback” categories rose significantly (by 0.5 or more) compared with ratings reported in the previous Report Card, conducted in 2019. The effectiveness category was rated 8.8, up from 8.3, while the receptiveness category was rated 8.7, up from 8.0.

Because their importance ratings remained relatively unchanged compared with 2019 (9.0 and 8.9, respectively), the satisfaction gaps (the amount by which the importance of a category exceeds its performance) for the two areas shrank significantly, to 0.2 from 0.7 for effectiveness, and to 0.4 from 0.9 for receptiveness.

One firm that outperformed in both categories was managing general agency (MGA) PPI Management Inc., rated 9.3 for feedback effectiveness, and 9.5 for feedback receptiveness, similar to its results in 2019.

“You don’t want to be caught out by changes in the industry because they’re so fast right now during Covid, but [PPI] moved at an amazing pace for that,” said a PPI advisor in British Columbia.

“I can pick up the phone and call anyone I want, and I know they’re listening to me. Generally speaking, something gets done,” said a PPI advisor in Ontario.

Jim Virtue, president and COO with PPI, said the firm’s 75-person sales team is tasked with ensuring the views of advisors are heard and acted upon.

Virtue also noted PPI’s growing digital focus, saying there’s a group specifically tasked with helping advisors update their businesses. This group is meant to “understand the digital needs and aspirations of advisors,” Virtue said, “so that we make sure we’re providing the assistance that they want.”

IDC Worldsource Insurance Network (IDC WIN), an MGA, also had a strong showing in the feedback categories: 9.3 for keeping advisors informed and 9.4 for receptiveness to feedback. Both results were relatively unchanged from 2019.

“They have a weekly newsletter that helps me know what all the companies are up to … and they have great webinars,” said an IDC WIN advisor in Atlantic Canada.

Phil Marsillo, president of IDC WIN, said the firm keeps an open-door policy, whereby advisors can call or email sales representatives and senior executives. “Advisors can also get in touch with people working in the new business and client-service areas of the company,” Marsillo said. “We will listen and evaluate all suggestions, and see how we can better ourselves in terms of providing service.”

The firm that was rated third-highest in the advisor feedback categories was Hub Financial Inc., one of only two firms that saw both their effectiveness (9.1, up from 8.6) and receptiveness (8.9, up from 8.1) ratings rise significantly over 2019.

A Hub advisor in Quebec called the firm “proactive,” while an advisor in Ontario observed “more hands-on communication with advisors” regarding pandemic support.

The MGA has launched digital business tools, compliance-ready content and advisor training programs in the past year. These additions are all part of “an expansion of the digital and virtual tools that we have offered,” said Terri Botosan, CEO of Hub, “and [we’re] constantly getting feedback on those to make sure we’re hitting the mark.”

As well, the agency hired Michael Doak as vice-president of advisor solutions in May 2020, a new role created to help address the needs of advisors nationally.

The other firm with improved results in the two feedback categories was Sun Life Financial Distributors (Canada) Inc. (SLFD). This dedicated sales agency’s effectiveness rating rose to 8.4 from 7.6, and its receptiveness rating rose to 7.5 from 6.9. Yet, it was also the only agency to receive a feedback rating of less than 8.0 in 2021, and it was among the lowest-rated in those categories.

“The folks that are engaged in some of the decision-making have a closed-ear approach,” said an SLFD advisor in Alberta. Other advisors noted that information is available and executives are active, but “they need to make it clearer what’s important and what’s not,” according to an SLFD advisor in B.C.

Advisors praised SLFD president Rowena Chan for caring about them and having progressive business ideas, but said that executive turnover and management shuffles in the past few years have caused confusion.

“If I wanted something changed, I wouldn’t even know what avenue to [take],” said an SLFD advisor from Atlantic Canada.

Chan, who’s also a senior vice-president with Sun Life Financial, said SLFD solicits advisor opinions through multiple councils and sub-committees — led by both advisors and head office executives — as well as surveys and one-on-one chats.

“We’re bringing more advisors into each of the committees so that they can help give us feedback [and] co-create with us,” Chan said.