The last two years have presented many obstacles affecting nearly every industry. Rising construction costs, labor shortages and increased exposure to catastrophic events including wildfires and storms have all contributed to a hardened insurance market that many independent agents don’t have experience navigating. To help agents address these changed circumstances, SIAA recently invited Colin Lee, president of Cogswell Insurance, David Rice, president of Michigan Agency Partners, Terry Hyland, president of Hyland Insurance and Matt Warye, senior VP and field executive at Liberty Mutual to discuss strategies and solutions for agents navigating this new environment.
Consider the following key insights from SIAA’s Thriving in a Hard Market webinar:
- Get ahead of it: The insurance industry is currently being affected on both a micro and macro level, meaning everyone from commercial property owners to personal auto customers are being impacted. In a hard market, agents need to start the renewal process early and strategize how to properly handle the increased workload and ensure the process is effectively carried through. For example, it may be necessary to do updated replacement cost estimates for commercial property owners, and ample time will be needed to complete that process correctly.
- Educate: Data is a great place to start when it comes to educating clients about their potential exposures in the hardening market. Key indicators such as the Manheim Used Car Value Index, lumber costs and the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics can help clients understand where and why their policies need updating. Take the time to keep up with key indicators that could affect current clients or prospects and ensure they understand what those indicators mean. Data is a great place to begin that conversation, but agents should go a step further and make sure the client fully understands the impact.
- Prioritize relationships: When the market sparks uncertainty, relationships built on loyalty and trust among agent, client and carrier are vital. It is these relationships that ease minds and ensure customers are properly covered. Agents have to get in front of the client and establish lines of communication, understand what they are facing in their day-to-day and how their policies could better serve their needs. The same goes for carrier relationships. Agents should pick up the phone or schedule meetings with their carriers to understand their underwriters, the variables impacting what they are able to write and work towards establishing a partnership.
Although a hard market is intimidating, it can offer agents several opportunities. All of SIAA’s panelists agreed being proactive is the best way to retain and attract clients. Hotspots can offer independent agents the opportunity to jump in and help fill the needs of customers in difficult areas to insure such as locations prone to wildfire or hurricanes.
Agents don’t need to fear a hard market. It may call for a change in strategy and a little more work on the ground, but it also offers opportunities for new business and stronger professional relationships.