A group of New York insurance agents has launched a new trade group for Latin insurance producers as well as brokers who serve the Hispanic community in the Northeast.
LABA is not the first group geared toward insurance agents with Hispanic clientele. Other groups include The Latin American Agents Association (LAAA) – which focuses on agents in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Nevada – and the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA), which comprises members chiefly from Florida. LAAA was founded in 1998; LAAIA was founded in 1969.
Elmer Rivera, New York branch manager for Jimcor Agencies and founder of the Latin Agents and Brokers Association (LABA), said the group hopes to establish a sizable presence over the next year among agents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Its membership will comprise agents and broker of Latin descent, as well as non-Latin agents who are interested in pursuing a Hispanic customer base.
“Historically, the corporate level of the insurance industry has not always made a concentrated effort to market to the Latin agent and broker, nor do they fully understand the various cultures within the Hispanic community in the Northeast,” Rivera said.
LABA’s twin goals are to counter that internal trend within the industry, as well as to help agents improve sales and service to Latin clients, Rivera said.
The growth of the country’s Hispanic population is a hot topic among demographers and marketers. As of 2008, the last year for which census data is available, the country had a Hispanic population of 46.9 million. Hispanics are also the nation’s fastest-growing minority population, having grown by 3.2 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to the Census Bureau.
The Northeast, and New York City in particular, is home to sizable populations of Hispanics. Roughly 45 percent of the nation’s Dominicans lived in New York in 2007, and New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia are each home to more than 500,000 Hispanics.
The growth of the population, Rivera said, comes at a time, when the “Latin consumer is becoming more savvy and knowledgeable about financial protection.” LABA, he said, will be “a place that provides a forum for mentorships for those new to the insurance industry and where carriers can reach this ever growing population of agents and brokers.”
Andre Urena, founder of the West Coast’s LAAA, said the group’s membership comprises “anybody of any race that focuses on the Hispanic market,” and has 670 agencies and 200 insurance company members.
The group works to educate agents on ways to overcome barriers of language and culture for and to develop trust and confidence of Hispanic customers.
It’s a niche that Urena says is getting bigger. “We see nothing but growth in the next few years.” The group’s convention last month in Long Beach brought roughly 2,000 attendees, largely from California but many from other areas of the country.
The growth is understandable, said LABA’s Rivera, given since the nation’s shifting population. “There is a growing need of insurance agents and brokers who understand that diversity,” he said.
In some parts of the country, agents with Hispanic heritage are very common. In South Florida, home to one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in the country, the line that divides Latin and non-Latin insurance agents has become meaningless in some ways.
Case in point: The newly launched Broward County chapter of the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA), where 80 percent of members are white, said President Joe Mier.
“The only thing Latin about is us our name,” Mier said “And the way we embrace the community. We do not conduct any business in Spanish. We don’t target the Hispanic market. More and more, it’s just that agents are seeing the value they get their membership.”
The LAAIA is a nonprofit that was founded in 1969 with the goal of providing education and advancement for Latin agencies and principals and encourage them to work together to maintain access to certain carriers.
But the organization —which has its annual convention next month — quickly evolved to a group whose primary role was to provide continuing education for agents as well as networking and other social opportunities.
Mier, who is also vice president of Allstar Direct Insurance and Financial Services, said that LAAIA is growing. However, unlike the California and New York groups, he doesn’t see the growth of his group driven by any particular interest in enhancing agents’ access to Hispanic customers. Instead, he sees it as an affirmation that the services and education the group provides are a value for agents.
“What’s happened is that we have become very mainstream,” he said.