Any business - no matter what it does, where it’s located or how it operates - is only ever as good as it’s people. And, in a sector where there’s such a strong emphasis placed on relationship building and trust, securing and retaining the best talent is arguably more important to insurance than most sectors.
The ongoing training and development of your people in house can be an expensive undertaking and not one that every organisation can pull off successfully. Indeed, historically, it was common for brokers to secure talent by recruiting from insurers, where structured training and development has always been part and parcel of the job.
However, as many insurers closed their local offices, consolidating them into regional centres, that regular supply of local talent from insurers has almost dried up. This has created a growing problem for brokers across the country, especially when twinned with experienced team members growing salary expectations encouraging some to move brokerage.
Of course, many brokers can, and do, provide excellent training and development and that’s evident in the interactions AXA has with brokers every day. But in this close relationship business, AXA has always considered the delivery of relevant training and development to broker teams as a key element of strengthening our long-term trading partnership.
That tradition continues to this day in the shape of AXA’s Broker Learning Zone. In the past, much of the training and development offered to brokers came in the form of traditional small group, office-based training days. While this form of training remains, and is getting back up to speed after the lockdowns, today it forms only one small element of the wide range of training available to brokers from AXA.
“We’ve been delivering online training for several years now and the uptake has been strong, but it really accelerated during the pandemic,” says Ken Wright, Head of Broker Development at AXA Commercial.
Ken explains that the training AXA delivers online is of the same quality as traditional face-to-face training and has been developed in conjunction with subject experts from inside and outside the insurance industry. Bitesize self-learn modules cover more than technical topics, with an array of learnings exploring sales, wellbeing and leadership. These are available for all broker teams to access, without any complicated registration or costs.
“The way we provide training is constantly evolving to the needs of our brokers. Early into Covid-19 we pivoted from live webinars, to creating more and more on demand bite size modules to better suit the learner and their working schedule.”
He adds that while face-to-face training will always be a core element of the training programme, even that needs to evolve.
“In the hybrid way of working there will be fewer opportunities to sit next to the wise owl to learn from them on the job. So, we must innovate that experience and share virtually. We also need to raise the bar, particularly when this involves travel to the training,” says Ken.
“You’ve got to be more aware of the need to compete for peoples’ time, and the expense and inconvenience of travel, so the rewards for attending in person need to be greater. If you expect people to travel to sit in a dusty classroom and go through slide after slide, they won’t come, or worse, not really connect to the learning material. In short, to compete you need to make it a memorable experience.”
To that end, AXA Commercial has started pulling together a range of experiential training events. These aim to bring brokers closer to the reality of the risks they’re engaging with for their clients, and to provide a deeper understanding of why underwriters react to certain risks in the way they do.
“We want to create new shared learning experiences for deeper topic understanding away from the traditional classroom. Over the coming months and into 2023 we’ll be immersing brokers in a range of experiences. These include being a passenger in full driverless car mode and hearing direct from Thatcham about the speed of technology development within the automotive industry, to seeing first-hand the devastation of flammable liquids, to the underwriting question sets we commonly ask for particular trades.”
Ken’s convinced that in a hybrid working world, training and development have never been more important, particularly as the incoming generation of brokers are far more demanding of brokerages, expecting to be supported throughout their career. If those expectations aren’t met, they’re confident enough to leave and find a firm that will provide it.
“The training and development on offer should not be an afterthought in an interview” he says.
“What a brokerage can offer should inspire candidates to compete effectively in the current employment market. If you’re not confidently talking about developing new starters, someone else probably will.”
To help brokerages attract and retain that early talent, AXA Commercial is developing a structured induction programme for launch in early 2023 for those entering the insurance market. This will act as an entry level to the depth of on demand modules that already exist across the AXA Broker Learning Zone. Through their broker partnerships they’re engaging with new starters and their team leaders to listen and understand their needs.
“Broker feedback is coming through loud and clear that development of people has never been more important, and the competition for talent, either new to broking or with experience, has never been fiercer” Ken says.
“And AXA’s commitment to help brokers develop their people has never been stronger, with further initiatives in design. It’s why we’ll continue investing in our broker training programmes and keep evolving through broker engagement to ensure they’re accessible, memorable and most of all relevant to the day job.”