Advice from the CEO...
Even during a pandemic, people still need insurance. Cars are still on the road, houses are still subject to the same amount of risk, businesses still face uncertainty toward loss, theft and hazards and your life and income still need to be protected.
No matter the state of the economy, insurance will always be necessary – which makes a career in insurance an enduring, recession-proof, pandemic-proof profession.
Before we get started: Let us talk briefly about the differences between captive and Independent insurance agents.
What is a Captive Insurance Agent? Captive insurance agents are contracted to work for one insurance company and can only sell that company's policies. Captive insurance carriers include Farmer’s, State Farm, Allstate, etc…· What is an Independent Insurance Agent? Independent agents are contracted to work with a variety of insurance companies and can sell policies from multiple providers. The independent markets include, but not limited to; Safeco, Travelers, Hartford, Progressive, Nationwide, Liberty, and Foremost.
What’s better? Captive or independent? Obviously, it is hard to be impartial as this article is being written from the perspective of a Captive agent that went independent. But these considerations play a definite role in our overall assessment: higher compensation, more carrier choices (to win more deals); and the ability to build & own a business that can last generations.
How do you start an independent agency or become an Independent insurance agent? Let’s dive into the 3 absolutely necessities of starting an agency.
Licensing: You will need to get licensed.
Assuming you are new to the industry, your first task will be to get licensed in the state where you intend to conduct business. Although each state is different, you can expect to complete upwards of 40 hours of coursework to be eligible to take the licensing course. Course costs range between $250-$600 dependent upon the service. You will need licenses for property and casualty, life and health and disability if you choose to offer those policies to your clients.
Insurance: Yes, you will need insurance.
Before you can sell insurance or receive carrier appointments, you will need to provide evidence that you are insured. Insurance coverage that protects the agent from liability is called Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance. The Error portion of the policy protects you if you make errors when writing the policy where the omissions could be a mistake on your part to advise the client of certain coverages of renewal periods.
Appointments: Pick your carriers, or rather, will the carriers pick YOU?
Which Carriers do you need to compete? And how do you approach them? One of the greatest competitive advantages the independent insurance agent has is his/her ability to represent an unlimited amount of insurance carriers. However, being an independent agent carries a great responsibility. Certainly, the agent is responsible to his customers, but he is also responsible to the carriers he represents. The independent agent has the power to contractually bind the carriers he represents to customers. Without the close control a carrier enjoys with a captive agent, the independent carrier must be thoroughly convinced about the trustworthiness of the independent agent before providing an appointment.
Carriers will ask a prospective independent agent what their vision is. They will want to know about your involvement in the community. They will investigate your character and reputation. They will examine your experience in the industry, and they will be very focused on your future. Is there a structured business plan? Have they researched the market? Have the calculations and projections been made, and can they back them up with facts?
Whether you are a captive agent with years of experience going independent or a new agent seeking a career in insurance, if you request and receive a preferred carrier appointment (Travelers, Hartford, Safeco, Progressive, etc.,) you will have to produce to maintain the appointment. Production is just part of the equation; however, carriers make money on policies that are written, which are profitable (meaning not a lot of claims actively) and second policies that retain on the books with them.
What additional steps lie ahead in your quest to become an independent agent?
Beyond the top 3 we discussed, there is much more to investing in your business and creating your strategy.
2. E&O Insurance
4. Business Plan Strategy - Carriers want to know how you will market, grow, retain, and be profitable.
5. Agency Management System – carriers want to know how you will keep track of clients, policies, and communications?
6. Multi-rater – method to simplify your agency and shop multiple competitive bids?
7. Marketing/Lead Generation – how will you target your market?
8. Analytics – how will you analyze your customers to better understand your business?
9. Accounting – You are a business owner now. You have to track every dollar.
10. Compliance – how do you ensure you’re prepared for an audit?
11. Training – where will you receive the necessary training for carrier systems, your systems, and as important, the products you will sell?
12. And, you also have to run the business…
The biggest challenge with becoming an independent insurance agent or starting an independent insurance agency is you are often all alone to figure things out.
Most people start their own business because they believe they can do it better than the person they are currently working for, they are entrepreneurs, or just very skilled at their trade and this convinces them that they will continue to be successful.
Being entrepreneurial or skilled in your trade is only half the battle with business ownership. If you are an exceptional salesperson and you can focus all your time selling, chances are you will be successful. Unfortunately, as a business owner, your time is divided into areas that are non-revenue generating as well. Doing your accounting, teaching yourself new concepts, setting up your network, tracking your sales, establishing partnerships and other business activities do not bring your business more money, but they are necessary.
There are options to minimize your pain managing your insurance agency, becoming more efficient, getting established faster and putting more money in your pocket.
Pacific Crest Services is an alliance of insurance agents established in 2004. The core of our business philosophy is helping insurance agents with all aspects of business operations, training, development, support, and strategy to allow them to build their insurance practices beyond even their expectations. We help take care of all your business concerns so you can focus on what’s important – growing your business.
To learn more about becoming an independent agent with an alliance of agents like you, visit: www.pacificcrestservices.com/becomeanagent