In order to deliver their clients the highest level of customer service, independent insurance agents need insurance carrier access to provide the widest variety of pricing and insurance coverage options. Especially when it comes to marketing hard-to-place risks, independent agents need all the options they can get – and that starts with insurance market access.
Seasoned agents know from experience that gaining insurance carrier access can be a long, difficult process. Access to insurance carriers is not easily earned, and newer or smaller agencies face an uphill climb in cultivating those carrier relationships. Many of them lack the scale or sizable book of business required to get appointed with more insurance carriers.
The best ways to gain access to insurance carriers
If you’re a new or small agency, there are several key questions you should ask yourself before trying to get directly appointed with insurance carriers. Answering them will save you time and trouble down the line as you build your business and make decisions about the type of insurance market access you’ll need for your independent agency.
First, determine which lines of business you’re most eager to do business in. Compile a list of insurance carriers that you know have strength in those lines of business. Prioritize the ones with which you’d most like to get appointed, but keep an open mind. Ensure that the insurance carriers you’d like to be appointed by allow you to have appointments with multiple companies.
Through your research, learn who the business development managers are at the carriers you’re targeting. You can reach out to that person with questions about that carrier’s appointment application, and learn what that carrier’s requirements are for taking on new agents, the company’s current goals, and performance quotas.
Factors in evaluating an agency for carrier appointment
There are many factors taken into consideration by the insurance carrier as it determines whether to appoint an agency. These primarily concern the ability of the agency to deliver enough business to help the insurer meet its profitability goals.
Among the questions asked by a carrier when evaluating an agency for appointment:
- Does the agency have access to the client set the insurer wants to reach?
- What specializations does the agency have that will benefit the carrier?
- Is the agency consistently profitable/does it deliver good risks?
- Does the agency represent too many additional insurance carriers to the point of risking customer overlap in certain lines, in specific geographies?
- What is the agency’s business plan?
- What are the agency’s technological capabilities?
Understand that the process of being reviewed and, if you’re qualified, appointed by a carrier may take much longer than you’d expect. If you do get appointed, carriers have various requirements and/or certifications you’ll have to earn to do business with them.
Additionally, know that the terms you’ll be presented with will most likely not be favorable to you as a new or small agency, as you possess little or no leverage at this stage of the game.
Why do carriers prefer working with larger insurance agencies?
In short, a larger agency will typically deliver an insurance carrier a sizeable amount of business as well as risks that have been thoroughly vetted. Even some of the largest carriers face the same issues of bandwidth as other players in the insurance industry, and they are more inclined to deal with agencies that will deliver positive results than to make long-term investments in start-up or smaller agencies that may or may not pay dividends over time.
Particularly in an environment in which the merger and acquisition market for independent insurance agencies remains healthy, scale matters – especially when it comes to securing insurance carrier access.
Can’t get insurance carrier access & appointments? Try this first
If you lack the level of experience required by many insurance companies to become appointed by them, you can consider earning experience by working as a captive agent, selling for one specific insurer. It’s a good way to build your resume, network within the industry and gain experience serving various types of clients as you build up a client base.
Along the way, retain records that illustrate your profitability as you work for others. Those records will help you make your case later on when you seek appointments as an independent.
How to get appointments with carriers
There are other ways of gaining access to insurance carriers as an independent agent, and these relate to the theory of strength in numbers. Recall that scale and size are of significant help when trying to secure appointments with insurance carriers, and becoming part of a group is an investment that can provide you the insurance market access you need to be successful.
An insurance cluster group can provide your agency access to insurance carriers, insurance products, and commissions that are often reserved for larger agencies, all of which will help deliver your agency growth.
While an insurance cluster can provide your agency insurance market access, clusters are often regionally based – and can provide access to fewer larger insurers than an insurance agency aggregator or an insurance agency network could afford you.
An insurance agency aggregator will typically have a larger national presence than a cluster. While not all insurance networks are created equal, premier aggregators can offer you not only access to a greater number of carriers, but also profit sharing, resources to help take on your invoicing and billing, assistance with agency marketing, technology tools that help your agency make money, and numerous other benefits.
There are a variety of membership requirements for both clusters and agency aggregators, and their fee structures will vary.
Whether you consider joining an insurance aggregator or a cluster, be aware that having expanded insurance market access may be accompanied by greater expectations to produce, depending on the group’s business goals.
Obtaining access to insurance carriers
As an independent agent, securing appointments with insurance carriers can be a lengthy process even for those with a solid book of business and an efficient agency. Knowing your options is key to charting your course to expanded insurance carrier access and the ability to provide the best possible customer service to your clients.