For insurance products and classes of business, there is no shortage of training and education programmes available to brokers and customers. But when it comes to international programmes, it is a very different matter.
International programmes are inherently complex. When you are dealing with multiple countries, the regulations, language, currencies, risk landscape and compulsory requirements all combine to make it an especially complicated area. In addition, the world is constantly changing, sometimes on a day-to-day basis – just look at Brexit as an example – and this simply adds to the complexity of international programmes, and impacts how they are set up, structured, and serviced by global insurers such as Zurich.
Feedback we received from our broker partners suggests that there is a real need for training in the international space, and that is why Zurich established its broker academy. In particular, brokers told us they were looking for education programmes focused on the sort of areas that are not typically part of training programmes, such as international programme structures, or the types of regulations that exist around the world. Brokers have had difficulty in finding training on these sorts of non-product topics, as well as gaining access to relevant materials. And certainly they have found it hard to find training that provides any sort of consistency around these topics.
Consistency is the fundamental key to having a successful international programme – in understanding the fundamental concepts of a programme, and also in communication. And so a consistent educational programme provides a strong foundation on which to build from and ensure a successful international programme.
Growing demand for training
What is driving this need for training around international programmes? It is largely the result of brokers moving into the multinational arena, or having clients starting to step into that space. In particular, it is the international expansion of middle-market companies, and their brokers. There are more and more companies going overseas and having multinational exposures, and the broking pool that is servicing those clients is much larger than ever before. For brokers and clients that have never previously been involved in the multinational area, there are two options: either try and hire staff with multinational experience, or look to training programmes (or a combination of the two).
As a result, requests from brokers for training around international topics have increased over the last three or four years, in our experience. And not just from brokers but also from corporates that have not had much experience of international programmes or that are running their first programme.
Another big driver is that brokers are increasingly focused on fostering talent, looking at young professional programmes, and identifying the next generation of leaders. And with many brokers targeting companies that are starting to enter the multinational world, there is a growing demand for training and education for these young professionals. International is an area where many brokers want their future business leaders to be well-versed in.
The demand for training is not just coming from one region – it has come from around the globe: from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the US. It is more to do with the fact that there are more clients and more brokers getting involved with international business.
We have tried to take a new approach, using new technology and a combination of virtual working, face-to-face discussions, presentations, simulations and homework. By putting in a number of different elements and training styles, the aim is to make it a comprehensive and stimulating course, to keep it fresh and make it more interesting than the traditional training programme.
Rather than just having a global insurer telling clients and brokers how they should structure their programme, it is much more about having a discussion and opening the topic out. We have already seen that this inclusive approach leads to brokers coming up with innovative and inventive ways of dealing with specific issues. Brokers and clients will have their own perspective on the topic, and so having a broad discussion-based approach can be far more productive than a typical lecture-based approach.
The core of any training needs to be the focus on the fundamental concepts of international programmes, such as structuring options, tools, and so on. Above all, the focus should be on international collaboration and communication as this is a key driver in terms of implementing an international programme. It is important to address upfront the issues of working with different cultures, countries and languages as part of working as an inter-cultural team.
The value and necessity of this new training concept for international programmes has been confirmed by the participants’ feedback; in fact, one of the brokers stated that the programme is “a great way to discover an area of insurance that is generally unknown”.
An important benefit for all parties – the broker, the client and the insurer – is a greater understanding of the mechanics of establishing an international programme. For example, helping the broker and client to understand why we, as an insurer, are asking certain questions or wanting particular information or data from operations around the world.
Through training and education, the process of explaining why certain requests are made, and how that information can help to create a successful international programme, becomes easier and leads to a greater understanding of the international programme concept.
If a carrier is simply asking for information without explanation, or without the client understanding the reasons behind that request, then it can lead to misunderstandings or delays.
Transparency, understanding and consistency are certainly goals of the academy concept and should be an important factor in training being offered by carriers such as Zurich. Taking a little bit of extra time to explain why questions are being asked, how programmes are structured and what is required from the client can go a long way to keeping the relationship working and moving forward.
Contributed by Bonnie Jones, International Programs Academy, commercial insurance, Zurich Insurance, and Jonathan Newbery, head of broker strategy and execution at Zurich Insurance.