Why Carriers Partner with Agency Networks
If you’re an independent agent who is thinking about joining a network, you probably want to know what networks can offer you. Access to the top 10 carriers is often the highest priority on an agency’s wish list. So, it stands to reason that you should look for a network with the power to attract top carriers.
What do carriers want? Carriers turn to networks for six main reasons: access, reach, quality, collaboration, agility and organic new business growth. As it turns out, what’s good for the carrier is also good for the agency. Let’s take a closer look.
If you’re an independent agent struggling to gain access to top carriers, it might surprise you to learn that carriers can also struggle to gain access to independent agents.
Yes, insurers often have high production requirements that can become a barrier for agents trying to utilize more than one market to do the best thing for each customer. At the same time, carriers that use independent agents absolutely depend on those agents for sales. As a result, they’re hungry for top-notch agents who can sell their products wisely and efficiently.
A great network connects carriers with quality agents who may not usually be part of their distribution network. It’s a win-win.
Reach is all about casting a wider net. You can’t make sales to prospects who don’t know about you. Well, it’s the same for carriers.
Carriers can’t have a presence in every city of every size in every state. Independent agents provide carriers an opportunity to be represented in a wider number of agencies so that they can effectively penetrate the market. Also, consider how independent agents can be the “tip of the spear” in regions that are experiencing dramatic growth.
Carriers can use networks to gain access and expansion in towns, cities and other areas where they wouldn’t otherwise have a presence. This enables carriers to expand their reach, and conversely helps the agents who are selling the carrier’s products. With the assistance of the specialized carrier training to guide them through the process, as well as local mentorship from their network, these agents can write for and gain access to markets where they may have had limited prior experience.
“There are many traits and characteristics required to become a successful agent,” says Gerald Ladner, vice president – strategic agency partnerships and external affairs at State Auto Insurance.
“The insurance industry evolves like every other industry. Changes occur all the time, and it is essential to stay up to date on policies and state regulations and meet continuing education requirements. Great agents commit to the discipline of keeping current and understanding all aspects of the products they sell, as well as how they fit into a customer’s risk management needs. They also must anticipate new trends and opportunities,” he explains.
Carrier production requirements might be frustrating, but carriers use them because they want to work with agents who have what it takes to succeed and who will represent the carrier well in the marketplace. More specifically, they want agents who write smart business, and have the business acumen, knowledge, and cross-selling capabilities needed to get ahead. Creating carrier production requirements is one way to achieve quality. Working with networks is another.
Network agents have access to a wealth of training from both carrier and local network mentorship, allowing them to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. The guidance and coaching from experienced leaders at the network means that agents who work with networks tend to operate at a higher level to generate higher quality business for carriers, which can be positive for both agents and carriers.
Networks are continuously taking the pulse of the industry to see what’s happening now and to predict what might happen next. To do this, they need information from many sources, including carriers.
While networks definitely benefit from the carrier’s influence and connections, carriers also benefit from the insights that the network offers.
Agents are another key part of the puzzle. They’re the feet on the street — the ones actually making sales and dealing with clients and their needs each and every day.
When agents have a problem, the network can reach out to the carrier for a solution. Networks act as a conduit between carriers and agents, facilitating an efficient process that produces real results.
Rodney Ledford, vice president, national partners, for small business at Chubb, says Chubb started working with a network because they wanted to see how they could benefit from a strategic partnership. “It’s really just been a great partnership with a lot of collaboration.”
“With crisis comes opportunity,” says Joan Woodward, founder and president of the Traveler’s Institute, Traveler’s thought leadership and public policy platform. She explains the market has been changing rapidly, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “There’s this real window to take advantage of right now. It’s a good time to get out there and thrive,” she says.
The insurance industry can move slowly at times, which is a problem when carriers need to rapidly expand into a new niche or geographical area. Time wasted is opportunity lost.
By working with a network, carriers gain the agility needed to expand and pivot fast. Agents benefit from this, too. If a new niche market emerges, an agency has a much better chance of getting in on the opportunity through its network access to products and services.
“At times, it seems like chaos, and the proliferation of change may be overwhelming,” Woodward says. “But I really do believe there are great opportunities for agents here. It’s critical that they seek out resources that can help them stay updated on shifts in our industry — both what’s impacting us now and what’s ahead in the coming years,” she adds.
Marc Behrhorst, national relationship executive for Safeco and Liberty Mutual, agrees that agents need to adapt. “You can either accept and adapt or you can get run over,” he says. “Investing in the business and looking at the ways to diversify are definitely good efforts for agencies to consider.”
By providing agencies with market access, training and coaching, an effective network can help agencies achieve organic new business growth of 20% or more.
Agents aren’t the only ones who are hungry for this growth. Carriers want it, too. As they roll out national growth plans, a network partner can help them execute.
As Ledford explains, “When you’re expanding countrywide, different geographies have different product needs, CAT exposures and competitive environments.”
A national network with a ready and capable distribution force can help carriers penetrate new markets quickly.
If you want to find the best network, look for one that attracts the top 10 carriers by providing access, reach, quality, collaboration, agility and organic new business growth. If the network is good for carriers, there’s a good chance that it will be a good partnership for your agency as well. It’s a win-win.
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