A few years ago, when Arthur Rowland was serving as the regional vice president for AIG in Western Canada, he felt he was away from home—and his three young sons—too much. His career was ultimately preventing him from being the father he wanted to be. Then one day, when Rowland returned from a business trip, his youngest son thought he was Dr. Phil. So Rowland made the decision to go out on his own.
Today, Rowland is the president and CEO of Churchill Insurance Brokerage Services Inc., which is celebrating its fourth year of success. A managing general agency (MGA) in British Columbia, the firm, which specializes in life, disability, travel, critical illness, investments, and group benefits insurance, grew 200 percent last year and is on track to do the same this year. Its success, however, did not come by following the typical sales path.
In the beginning, Rowland’s approach was twofold: First was processing and monitoring the business of MGAs and independent brokers. Then, since business from this group would take several months to build up, he also launched a public (or client) operation that offered low-cost term life insurance as an alternative to the group creditor insurance that was being offered by lending organizations.
Unlike the banks’ product, in which the banks themselves were the beneficiaries and owners of the policy, with Churchill’s insurance, which was more affordable, a person’s surviving spouse would be the owner and beneficiary of the policy. The idea was popular, and it took off.
In early 2009, Rowland was approached by Chris Curtis, a computer programmer who had developed a way to drive people to an interactive website where people could have a two-way dialogue. “When he first showed it to me, I thought he had hacked into my computer, but that wasn’t it at all,” Rowland says. “He had connected me to my company website, where he was able to show me information as if I was sitting next to him watching a PowerPoint presentation. I thought it was fantastic.” This was the start of the collaboration between Churchill Insurance and Now Solutions Group.
With this application, Churchill’s sales reps can give their clients the option of either a face-to-face meeting or the online application. Ninety percent of the time, Rowland says, the client chooses the online approach.
“Through the computer screen, I can show any content I want to help aid the sales process,” says Rowland. “Consumers log onto our company’s website, fill in their name and phone number, and submit their details. They get an immediate callback from a sales rep who answers their questions and finds the right product to fit their needs.”
After a quote is given, and if the client wants to apply, the information is filled out in sections, and after each section is completed, the client is required to agree to the information before the system allows them to move on. This continues until the application is complete. “It’s very compliant for regulatory purposes, and all calls are recorded, giving us the opportunity to replicate the entire call and confirmations from the client, in case of an error or discrepancy,” says Rowland.
Using Web-Based Applications for Insurance Sales
Sell your reputation first before selling the insurance
Make it very user-friendly
Limit the number of steps the client has to go through before agreeing to the sale
Be flexible in how you do business, offering both in-person and on the web
Try to make a sale right away; conduct a needs analysis and get to know the client
The process takes about seven minutes, Rowland notes, adding, “I can sit here in the office and do 12 applications a day versus three on the road.”
The company’s web-based business model crossed the tipping point when AIG Canada was acquired by Bank of Montreal (BMO), in 2009, and Churchill was appointed an MGA for the firm. “BMO already had a non-face-to-face application in place, but we showed them how our online system worked and received immediate approval to use it,” Rowland explains.
Now, with the direct-to-consumer business running smoothly, Rowland is concentrating on his MGA business, and sits down with his brokers on a monthly basis. “We give them the support that is not there anymore in the marketplace, because some of these MGAs have 3,000 or 4,000 brokers and can’t really sit down and talk to them,” he says. “We can.”
Churchill’s process is so high quality that Rowland says the firm never has to recruit; brokers refer other brokers, and Churchill also give its brokers leads from its extensive TV, radio, and newspaper marketing campaign.
Today, Churchill Insurance has two offices, in Surrey and North Vancouver, and is licensed to do business across British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Yukon, and Alberta.
“We eventually want to become a household name for all lines of insurance,” says Rowland. And although Rowland has come a long way since his days at AIG, it might not take long for Churchill to achieve that goal.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind going from a secure paycheck every two weeks to having to build up a business,” Rowland says. “But it’s all about perseverance, plugging away, never taking your eye off the ball, and always doing the right thing. My dad always said, ‘Son, there are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.’ I’ve always been told I make things happen.”