Even with increased competition for market share from direct writers, online aggregators and other disruptors, independent insurance agents continue to hold their own. Independent insurance agents remain vitally important to the industry because of the professional insurance counsel they provide and the relationships they cultivate with consumers and in the communities where they live and work. Despite talk of the demise of the independent agency system, its future is bright, and it is up to us in the insurance industry to be sure the next generation of consumers understands the value of having a relationship with an independent agent.
In addition to explaining all of the nuts and bolts of insurance protection, independent agents cultivate relationships with their clients and work to become trusted advocates for them. Although consumers often feel that it is essential to have a doctor they know and a banker or financial advisor they trust, they sometimes overlook the need for developing a similar relationship with their insurance agent.
As author and motivational speaker Bob Burg says, “All things equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, trust and like.” A relationship with an independent agent is equally as important in helping clients protect their families and property should an unfortunate event happen. Independent agents do more than sell insurance; they help identify exposures, find the insurance carriers that offer the needed coverage at the best premiums, and manage all policies to be sure they are working together for maximum
Although it is true that some insurance coverages can be purchased at the click of a button and consumers can decide to go it alone, there is no substitute for the expertise that comes from choosing to work with an independent agent. In working with a variety of carriers, independent agents are well trained and equipped to handle the unique situations that arise over time and can review coverages to make sure that consumers needs are being met as their lives change.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that local independent agents are often among the first people to respond when there is a loss, working to provide prompt service and to handle all aspects of a claim with insureds. That kind of experience is far superior to going it alone.
Show me an independent agency in virtually any community, and I’ll show you a business that is involved in the local community. Interests may vary from taking part in organizations such as the local chamber of commerce or networking groups to having a seat on hospital and school boards to being actively involved in the local culture and arts scene to coaching or sponsoring sports teams or volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. No matter the vehicle, independent insurance agents are contributing members of their communities. Independent agents care about the areas in which they serve and give of their time and resources to support them. Just listen to agents talk about their city or town and you will know that the people in it are important to them, and their work is more fulfilling for them than simply providing a paycheck.
The challenge in this industry is to show the public the value that we as insurance professionals know goes far beyond merely pricing an insurance policy. It is often said that the world
is changing and advanced technology, online insurance options and a more sophisticated consumer base will make independent agents obsolete; however, the independent agency channel continues to be as strong as ever. Independent agents will continue to be deeply involved in their communities and work to foster strong client relationships, while insurance carriers will continue to support the independent
agency system that serves consumers so well. Above all else, this is a relationship business. Together we can innovate, become more efficient and embrace whatever changes come our way to continue to support this longstanding proven partnership that benefits insureds, independent agentsand insurers.
Rachel Bannister, CPCU, CIC, AIS,
API, AIM, is marketing supervisor at
Patrons Oxford Insurance Company,
headquartered in Auburn, Maine.