Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

Independent insurance agents always find a way

Opinion

Independent insurance agents and brokers aren't going away. The best of them continue to evolve, adapt and succeed. (Photo: iStock)
Independent insurance agents and brokers aren't going away. The best of them continue to evolve, adapt and succeed. (Photo: iStock)

I love independent insurance agents and brokers.

OK, love is a strong word. I’ve been hanging around with these people for 30 years, and I know them very well.

1. They’re resilient

Count all the once-formidable Property & Casualty carriers that have gone out of business — their agents have outlived them. Continental, The Home, Connecticut General, St. Paul, Commercial Union, Fireman's Fund, USF&G … I could go on, but I’ll pause there.

Related: Insurance agents are retiring. Can millennials fill the void?

2. They’re adaptable

Go ahead, throw something at them. Hard market, soft market, coastal property, mold, pollution, liability crisis. What else? Famine, pestilence, locusts (that's happened — ask crop insurance agents).

With 2,200 admitted P&C carriers in the U.S. — plus the E&S business and those “offshore carriers,” independent agents always find a way to a product. How do they do it? Anyone who can decipher a CGL policy is a winner in my book. Moreover, witness the smart agencies that have taken on Life, Health and employee benefits — locking in commercial accounts. They’re cleaning up.

Related: NU Agency of the Year Award, Town & Country Insurance: Writing it right

3. They’re excellent at sales

Marketing? Not so much. They do need to get much more aggressive there, but if you’re on the phone or across the desk from a customer service rep or producer, the chances are high that you’ll be cutting a deposit check. Smooth as silk.

4. They evolve

Every wonder how general agents, managing general agents, managing general underwriters, wholesalers and program administrators originated back in the day? You guessed it: Because they own their renewals, their businesses and thus their destinies, agents found new ways to fill gaps and make a buck. As carriers pulled back from underwriting, policy issuance, claims and more in certain lines of business, they said, “Give it to Mikey. He’ll eat it!” Agents were more than happy to be Mikey, and still are.

Related: NU Agency of the Year Award, Curabba Agency: Classic values, new tactics

5. They keep reproducing

That's right. Check the numbers. There are still tens of thousands of them around the U.S., more than any captive agency force and with plenty of talent to cover all the hamlets, towns and cities around the country.

Sure, there are a lot of aggregators gobbling up traditional firms, many of which are run by some principals who lack the energy, wherewithal or imagination to make the tough, required business decisions. And the stronger, larger agents and brokers are getting stronger and larger by buying weaker players.

But I believe the millennials are just getting started in the independent agent channel. They’re not counting brick & mortar locations — they’re counting online offices. I’ve met a lot of these new(er) agents. They’re growing fast. They’re smart at digital marketing and creating a new customer experience — one, actually, that baby boomer agencies should relish.

Related: NU Agency of the Year Award, G&N Insurance: Earning success, one bobblehead at a time

6. They really care

You can't overestimate how much these people are committed to their customers and communities. They’re authentically part of the fabric of America.

Say what you want about the insurance industry. It has some issues, yes. But don't mess with my friends, the independent agents. Or I will hurt you.

Related: NU Agency of the Year Award, Cobb-Hall Insurance: The relationship business

Peter van Aartrijk is CEO of Fairfax, Va.-based insurance marketing firm www.Aartrijk.com. He can be reached at peter@aartrijk.com

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