Technical expertise and strong product knowledge may seem like the most important skills for any broker but one industry expert has warned that they’re still not enough on their own.

“When it comes to product and technical, it only really represents 10% of your conversation with a customer but you have to know 100% of the components,” says Mark Vilo, head of bank intermediaries at Suncorp. “You need to understand your product set, the policies and the regulations – and you need to be continuously up to date on those – but I think a lot of brokers tend to move away from soft skills.”

Interestingly, Vilo says the issue isn’t confined to incoming or inexperienced brokers – in fact, he suggested more established professionals are often the ones to neglect soft-skills.

“As brokers become more sophisticated and have more longevity in business, often what happens is they believe they know everything and they can’t be taught anything else,” he tells Insurance Business. “But, at the end of the day, this business is a relationship business so you have to be able to grasp the art of conversation.”

Of course, soft skills go far beyond the art of conversation alone and Vilo says brokers also have to grapple with the challenges of running a small business – something which is almost impossible without well-tuned soft-skills.

“As a small business owner, you’ve got the management side to think about as well – you need to be thinking about how to recruit the right person for the role, how to build a meaningful scorecard for those people and how to manage performance,” he tells Insurance Business. “I think often, as a small business owner, you don’t necessarily have those prerequisite skills to be able to do that.”

While soft skills, like good communication or the ability to work well in a team, are sometimes considered part of someone’s personality, Vilo says they’re actually learnable – just like technical expertise.

“Even from my point of view, we are in an environment in our organisation where we are constantly learning and we’re constantly put into challenging situations so we can better deal with our brokers and aggregators and I believe the brokers and aggregators should be continuously learning in all areas too,” he concludes.

Originally published in Insurance Business Mag