Working Together in a True Partnership Allowed Us to Uncover and Articulate the Core Motivating Factors of an Agent and Broker Relationship

 

Financial Services

A leading property casualty and insurance company trusted our insight and experience to help them uncover what makes a lasting, positive agent and broker experience. Our industry experience allowed us to have deeper, more meaningful conversations and dialogue throughout the process, which in turn, created a trust-based partnership. Having that partnership allowed us to make adjustments in real-time to uncover the core motivators.

 

Understand.

A leading Property & Casualty Insurance Company wanted to deliver a differentiated experience for its agent/broker partners. The business goal was to deliver an experience that would have a lasting impact on securing higher levels of business placement and retention. Our research goal was to understand what that optimal experience looked like.

 

Design.

In advance of this study our client undertook an extensive internal touchpoint mapping exercise. Internal stakeholders helped create a multi-phased linear map that articulated assumed needs and preferences at each phase of the map. Our initial charge was to use the touchpoint map as a reference to guide our discussions. We also had the charge to be as inclusive and broad as possible during our discussions. All told, we talked, in-person, with nearly 150 brokerage owners, sales agents, and support reps. We talked with those who represent both large and medium brokerages in 6 markets nationally. Our reach was truly representative of our audience.

 

Execute.

What became obvious during our initial discussions with agents is that they see their carrier interaction differently than the linear touchpoint map that was developed as our guide. For agents, relationship and engagement is not a defined stage; rather, it is the field on which all interaction takes place. Using this foundational insight as our new guide–and with the full support of our client–we incorporated a model that continually modified and adjusted our discussion approach based on the insights we gained. At the heart of our revised approach was the recognition that we were now focused on customer journey, not touchpoint mapping.

 

Analyze & Advise.

The core insight that guided our recommendations is that Underwriters are the face of a carrier. Their efforts strongly shape agent perceptions and are the key to agent placement, retention, and growth. When agents feel underwriters are not in partnership with them, the entire relationship can turn adversarial. Ultimately, our recommendation on how to deliver a superior underwriting experience served as the basis for our client’s development of a differentiated brand experience.

Knowing When to Pivot During the Course of an Interview Allowed our Financial Services Industry Veterans to Uncover Influential Target Audiences

 

Financial Services

Knowing the industry and being able to pivot and probe in real-time allowed us to make important changes during the research. We were able to more effectively test, inform and refine ideas conceived of in a conference room so they reflected the real-world of not only marketing and selling software products but of building partnerships with new customers.

 

Understand.

A major financial services company wanted a deeper understanding of who their potential target audience would be for a new software product. They needed to understand their pain points, needs and what their decision-making process looks like. The client needed a partner to be able to see beyond the standard purchase journey research. They were looking for a partner that would translate their needs to a new audience.

 

Design.

This research was designed to be flexible and responsive to what we heard as the project unfolded. By leveraging our relationship with the recruiter, through regular communications with the client, and because of our commitment to having conversations versus typical interviews, we were able to find the purchase influencers. Once the audience was defined, we were able to dig deeper to reveal the influence model and the specifics of the software purchase process.

 

Execute.

Our intentionally iterative approach tested the client’s initial presumptions while refining and focusing both the recruiting and probing to get a complete and accurate picture. Specifically, an early pivot in recruiting directed the research to a particular role in the purchase process – the key influencer who is trusted and tasked by all sides to collate the information and make specific software purchase recommendations.

 

Analyze & Advise.

In the end, we delivered the client’s two must-haves – a detailed software purchase journey and specific personas for their target audience. More than that, however, our commitment to seeing beyond the nuts and bolts of standard purchase journeys revealed insights into meaningful ways to engage their customers in a partnership – ways to build marketing strategies for the long term.

Anonymity Creates Safe Space for Discussing Non-Traditional Lending Experiences

 

Financial Services

Kip Brown combined his curiosity of human motivation with his financial services experience to fully interpret what small business owners think about non-traditional lending options and what a government agency can do to make the lending experience a more positive one.

 

Understand.

A governmental agency had an interest in understanding the financial policies and practices that promote or impede access to credit for small businesses. Of particular interest was a desire to explore small business owners’ understanding and consideration of emerging, non-traditional lending sources. At the heart of this study was the need to intimately understand the unique stresses and problems associated with small business owners’ ability to access credit, and how these challenges impact motivation, preference and choice, especially around non-traditional (online) lending sources.

 

Design.

With over 30 million small businesses in the US, this study required that we talk with a broad and diverse group of small business owners. We also needed to conduct this research within a methodology that allowed for interactivity as well as confidentiality. And, given these business owners’ varied schedules and hours, we needed to provide for as much participation flexibility as possible. To accomplish all of these needs, we recommended the use of online bulletin boards. The boards were segmented by current non-traditional online lending use to give us an in-depth understanding of how participants’ use and experience influenced their perceptions and consideration.

 

Execute.

Using our knowledge of the category and the small business segment, we created an open and engaging participation experience for our panel. The online bulletin board platform offered multiple levels of interaction; the Moderator was able to point participants to online resources and offer opportunities for both breakout groups and individual discussions. The synergy it created was very similar to the synergy created in face-to-face focus groups with the added advantage that owners felt safe to openly discuss sensitive personal and business information based on the anonymity the platform provided.

 

Analyze & Advise.

The research helped clarify the reality that non-traditional lending options are both seductive and confusing. This duality, combined with a clearly articulated concern by owners that non-traditional lending options may be less secure than traditional options, gave rise to a series of recommendations that focused on creating higher levels of lender consistency around security, disclosure, and terminology. The end result was a high level of confidence among our client’s stakeholders that user needs had been heard and changes could be made to positively impact the lending experience for small business owners.

What is SWIFT? A Primer for Non-Finance Folk

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been met with sanctions from the West, including exclusion of select Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system. But the concept of SWIFT is unfamiliar to most, and many more know it only at the highest level. As the news in Ukraine continues to unfold, here’s what you need to know about SWIFT, and why it matters.

What is SWIFT?

SWIFT is the Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. In the simplest terms, it’s the telecommunication system financial institutions around the world use to communicate with one another. Each financial institution has a code that transmits along with the transactional information to create a fast, secure connection anywhere in the world. In short, it’s a big part of what makes moving money around the globe happen.

SWIFT is for any international financial transaction. Banks, brokerages, clearing houses, asset managers, corporate treasurers, and more all use SWIFT. SWIFT is not a financial institution itself – it is the communication mechanism on which the thousands of financial institutions relies.

What is the impact of removing Russian banks?

Without SWIFT, transactions are slower and more manual. The inability to use SWIFT means financial transactions become more expensive.

But the excluded Russian banks could also move to an alternative system. SWIFT is the dominant player, but not the only one. In fact, China has its own system, called Cross-Border International Payments System (CIPS), and will likely generate new business from Russia because of the actions to revoke access to SWIFT. This could bifurcate global banking as some nations will favor CIPS and some will favor SWIFT. How that resolves is anyone’s guess.

For now, it means everything will get a little more expensive.

What does this mean to US financial institutions?

From a risk management perspective, banks must consider financial risk but also reputational risk in how they not only act, but in how they message their actions to their customers. It’s imperative financial institutions monitor the pulse of their consumers and assess the reputational impact of their overall decisions on consumer perspective. Time to ask your customers what they think, how they feel, and what they expect from their financial institutions in this time of financial war.

Do you have more questions?

I’m happy to discuss! Feel free to reach out to me at steve.mosshamer@thinkpiecepartners.com.

There are also great resources to read more about the topic:

https://www.swift.com

https://www.cips.com.cn/en/index/index.html

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050515/how-swift-system-works.asp

https://www.businessinsider.in/finance/banks/news/what-is-swift-how-does-it-work-why-is-it-important-and-how-nations-are-using-it-to-punish-russia/articleshow/89886091.cms

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/us/politics/eu-us-swift-russia.html

Small Business Stress

 

Financial Services
Kip Brown combined his curiosity of human motivation with his financial services experience to fully interpret what small business owners think about non-traditional lending options and what a government agency can do to make the lending experience a more positive one.

 

Understand.

A governmental agency had an interest in understanding the financial policies and practices that promote or impede access to credit for small businesses. Of particular interest was a desire to explore small business owners’ understanding and consideration of emerging, non-traditional lending sources. At the heart of this study was the need to intimately understand the unique stresses and problems associated with small business owners’ ability to access credit, and how these challenges impact motivation, preference and choice, especially around non-traditional (online) lending sources.

 

Design.

With over 30 million small businesses in the US, this study required that we talk with a broad and diverse group of small business owners.  We also needed to conduct this research within a methodology that allowed for interactivity as well as confidentiality. And, given these business owners’ varied schedules and hours, we needed to provide for as much participation flexibility as possible. To accomplish all of these needs, we recommended the use of online bulletin boards. The boards were segmented by current non-traditional online lending use to give us an in-depth understanding of how participants’ use and experience influenced their perceptions and consideration.

 

Execute.

Using our knowledge of the category and the small business segment, we created an open and engaging participation experience for our panel. The online bulletin board platform offered multiple levels of interaction; the Moderator was able to point participants to online resources and offer opportunities for both breakout groups and individual discussions. The synergy it created was very similar to the synergy created in face-to-face focus groups with the added advantage that owners felt safe to openly discuss sensitive personal and business information based on the anonymity the platform provided.

 

Analyze & Advise.

The research helped clarify the reality that non-traditional lending options are both seductive and confusing. This duality, combined with a clearly articulated concern by owners that non-traditional lending options may be less secure than traditional options, gave rise to a series of recommendations that focused on creating higher levels of lender consistency around security, disclosure, and terminology. The end result was a high level of confidence among our client’s stakeholders that user needs had been heard and changes could be made to positively impact the lending experience for small business owners.

 

Find us at Forum 2022

Connect with the Thinkpiece finance team at the Financial Brand Forum 2022, hosted at the Aria in Los Vegas, November 13- 16. Let’s talk all things finance, and explore your research needs. Enter to win a fantastic give-away when you stop by our booth #953 to take a quick survey on finance research. We’ll also send you a copy of our report on survey findings at the end of the show.