Who Owns the Client?

Back in 2008, I made some proposals to my then-employer around using data analytics to support profitable growth. As I worked for a company committed to the broker channel, a major impediment to doing so was the traditional insurer/broker/client relationship and the belief that the broker ‘owned’ the client. I advocated changing the paradigm and moving toward a model of ‘shared ownership’ that would work to the mutual benefit of all parties.

A couple of years later, while reflecting on this same thorny problem I tried to break it down by considering the underlying assumptions in the traditional model. I identified three roles in the relationship: supplier, customer, and agent. I concluded that a policyholder is only ever a customer regardless of whether they are dealing with the broker or the insurer. I further concluded that an insurer can be both a supplier and a customer,  but a broker can only ever be a supplier or an agent – never a customer. I also examined where in the relationship money changed hands, i.e., who paid who.

Based on this analysis, the broker can’t really lay claim to ‘owning’ the customer (policyholder) and nor can the broker claim to be a customer of the insurer. The insurer and broker do, however, share a responsibility to deliver value to the policyholder – that’s what counts, not worrying about esoteric notions of ownership.

Download a PDF file of the analysis here: Who’s the customer