By Michael Tiagwad, President & CEO of Conner Strong & Buckelew
We’re witnessing an exciting time in the insurance brokerage industry today.
Despite being over 100 years old, the brokerage space isn’t known for innovation. But after 35 years in this business, I am starting to notice a change. More than ever before, new technologies and innovative ideas are raising efficiency, driving superior solutions, and ultimately delivering a better experience to customers. At Conner Strong & Buckelew, we’re focused on leading this change. We understand that future generations will drive this positive shift, which is why we’re committed to developing young talent in ways that foster new ideas and innovation – not just for our business, but for our clients and the industry at large.
We’re doing this in numerous ways. Every year, we welcome dozens of college students from neighboring universities into our internship program to work and learn alongside our teams. We trust these interns with real responsibilities and projects that make them feel connected to our business and empowered to share new perspectives. Throughout its 20-plus-year history, I’ve actively pushed to grow this program into an important talent pipeline for our business that has helped attract some of the brightest minds to our industry. I’m proud to say we now have at least 30 full-time employees that started as interns, including five individuals that have been so successful they have risen to partner-level positions.
Our Innovation Challenge is another example of how we encourage our employees to go above and beyond. Every year, our staff is challenged to devise new ideas that will advance our business goals and push the brokerage industry forward. Breakout teams are formed to bring these ideas to life before they’re presented to a council of senior leaders, including myself, who vote to select three winners. The best ideas are then implemented into our operations, many of which come from our younger employees. I’ve seen some of our company’s best and most innovative ideas emerge from this contest, including the exploration of blockchain technology, the adoption of cloud-connected wearable devices that can detect an array of hazards for our clients in the workplace, and the use of data analytics, which has become a priority for us, our insureds, and our carrier partners.
We’ve also recently created the role of InsurTech Solutions Manager and named one of our younger, high potential professionals to the position. This individual leads Labs By Conner Strong, our firm’s innovation hub focused on making our culture more innovative and inclusive, driving innovation in our industry, and enhancing the customer experience. The InsurTech Solutions Manager also engages our employees to explore and implement insurtech solutions that advance our business and industry. I’ve also tasked this leader with supporting our relationships with external partners in the insurtech community, as well as the company’s initiatives with BrokerTech Ventures.
Our InsurTech Solutions Manager is also working on an outreach program with a nearby university. In this program, students will work on a group project where they select a BrokerTech Ventures start-up to research and devise ways to improve. In doing so, they’ll gain insight into running a disruptive business that connects them to our exciting industry.
To maintain its longevity, our industry will need to evolve in ways that improve our business and ultimately the services we provide our clients. We’re excited about what we’re seeing with the young talent at our firm and across the industry and look forward to watching how they shape the future.