Why human interactions are so vital to the broker channel

by Mike Wood16 Dec 2021

AFG’s new strategic partnership manager Christa Malkin has set out her stall to broker partners, explaining how vital it was for aggregators to understand the challenges faced by the broker channel.

Speaking to Australian Broker to celebrate her new appointment, Malkin explained her new role, and where her position, and that of Them Lam, who sits above her in the AFG structure, fit into the way that the aggregator deals with larger broker partners.

“I’m based in Victoria, and I know most of the groups here already having been in the industry for a while, but I also know the NSW groups and we have groups all over the country,” she said.

“My role is to work with Them Lam, our national manager for strategic partnerships, to give them a service differentiation. They have different needs to your standard broker groups: they’re huge businesses, they need to have the right tools to run them, and it’s our role to help them find those.

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“They know how to run a business and they haven’t got to be as successful as they have because they don’t. We’re there to help them with the 1%, to find solutions whether from an aggregation point of view or whether its understanding what is available in the market that can help them go to the next level.

“It’s about working closely with those groups to provide a different service proposition and really understanding their needs. We listen and try to work with them to find the solutions.

Malkin is responsible on the larger scale side, dealing with broker businesses, in a role that seems analogous to that of Joseph Khal, the new head of broker experience who joined in August to deal with individual brokers.

“We’ll work with Joseph,” she said. “His role is to look across the whole broker business to improve the experience for all AFG brokers.”

“My role is to work with our top 30 to 40 groups, enterprise size business, who are able to help us with that broker experience side too – for example, what a business of that size needs from their aggregator, so Joseph can go away and work on with our various departments.

“We work closely together, especially through 2022. We’re in the process of developing a new CRM system and some of our strategic groups have been heavily involved in the development of that. It’s really about developing the tool that suit everyone.”

Both Khal and Malkin represent a commitment from AFG to dealing with brokers on a personal level, and returning to the human interactions that had been absent in recent years.

“It’s a focus of ours,” said Malkin. “Especially after what we’ve all been through, human interaction is important for everyone.”

“Sometimes, it takes a relationship with someone that you trust to recognise blind spots when you’re working in your business everyday – we know what we can offer that our businesses might not have time to look into.

“In us understanding our business, we know what we need to solve and you can’t get that without building human relationships, listening to problems and then working on them. That’s not just strategic partners, that’s across all of our groups.

“Strategic partners is just one part of it, and now that we can go out there will be a lot of face-to-face in 2022. We plan to work our way around the country to spend time in these businesses.”