The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America is considering a proposal to compile a nationwide database of minority–owned agencies for carriers looking to expand their presence in urban markets to utilize, the group’s Diversity Task Force Chair Joe Hernandez told the inaugural conference of the National African–American Insurance Association.
The idea has been in the works for some time and is now being evaluated by the Big I’s legal team to determine whether it would violate any civil rights or privacy statutes.
“Carriers are interested in finding minority agents,” Hernandez told IJ in an interview. “The problem is how do you identify them on a national basis? The charge is to try to find a way, collectively, without violating any privacy laws. The legal counsel is trying to find a way to do a survey to be able to encourage response to identify those agencies.”
Hernandez said the challenge is to reassure minority agents that the list will be used as a tool by insurers looking to expand their dealings in the black, Hispanic and Asian communities, not those looking to avoid them. The database would not be a proprietary moneymaker for the Big I, but free of charge to any insurer that is interested.
Immediate Past NAAIA Chairman Roosevelt Haywood III told IJ he believes the database is a good idea, and is similar to initiatives the fledgling group has undertaken on its own to promote its members to carriers looking to exploit the opportunities offered by emerging and underserved urban markets.
Hernandez cautioned that, aside from the legal issues that could arise, the question of what criteria to use in compiling the database is still largely unresolved.
“What we have to do is to set the criteria,” he said. “Are we looking for minority–owned agencies primarily, or are we taking it to the next level? Do you have minority producers or CSRs? How are you serving this particular community?”
Hernandez believes the database could be the crucial ingredient in helping minority agents provide their clients with access to a higher caliber of insurance carriers.
“Carriers looking to grow market share in certain areas,” he said. “We’ve got somebody in those communities already. I think a lot of carriers have concluded these are high– potential revenue markets that haven’t really been tapped. … I think we’ve changed a lot of perceptions in terms of diverse agents and carriers are embracing it. The [insurers] that are serious about it are doing it. … They are finding ways to work in those particular communities.”
The three–day NAAIA conference drew more than 200 attendees. To learn more about the group and the issues facing black insurance professionals, visit www.insurancejournal.com /broadcasts/ to listen to an interview with Roosevelt Haywood III.