A comparison of independent agent opinions five years ago to today shows how far the agency channel has come while also illustrating that certain fundamentals remain important throughout cycles and market disruption.
Nearly 2,000 independent agents weighed in for the recent ninth annual Channel Harvest survey, co-sponsored by Insurance Journal, providing fresh insight into carrier performance.
“Ask agents what’s important to them and they usually put underwriting and claims at the top of the list,” said Peter van Aartrijk, managing principal of Channel Harvest. “But we were intrigued to find that some of those attributes are more prominent in our current survey than back in 2011.”
Comparing responses of agents writing personal lines five years ago versus the current survey, underwriting on the whole is more important today than in 2011, particularly when it comes to a carrier’s responsiveness, appetite and expertise. Agency compensation remains important today, as do claims service and competitive pricing.
Commercial Lines Trend
The trend in commercial lines is somewhat different, as agents value claims service, competitive pricing and customer service more than they did five years ago, the Channel Harvest comparison found.
When asked what their lead carrier does best, the greatest number of personal lines agents pointed to claims service, financial strength and underwriting expertise in 2011.
Today, agents continue to give their lead carrier high marks for financial strength and claims service. Underwriting, however, takes on a different complexion, as agents today applaud their lead carrier for underwriting responsiveness, where five years ago they gave highest marks for underwriting expertise. Channel Harvest interprets this as a sign of the urgency and speed at which business moves today.
“It’s also no surprise carriers score a bit higher today for their technology,” said van Aartrijk. “But another constant then and now is agency compensation, where agents tend to have a mixed-to-negative opinion of their lead carrier.”
Back in 2011, and now, agents like the financial strength of their lead carrier. As with personal lines agents, responsiveness in underwriting earns recognition today along with expertise where it was only expertise in 2011. Technology didn’t score high five years ago or today, with only 55 percent of agents citing their lead carrier for above average performance. Similarly, scores for compensation were virtually unchanged over five years. It’s also worth noting that agents see room for improvement in training and education both then and now.
“In today’s environment things quickly can change. Carriers enter and exit lines, there are mergers and acquisitions and some companies are no longer in business,” said van Aartrijk. “All of this movement and disruption can have a profound effect on an agency’s book of business, and the Channel Harvest survey bears that out while also reinforcing the universal conviction that underwriting, claims and service are still the glue that holds the value chain together.”
The Channel Harvest study, Key Success Factors in the Agent-Carrier Relationships, is the ninth in an annual series examining agents’ views on property/casualty insurers and various marketplace issues. Respondents ranging from principals to producers to CSRs answered 100 questions about personal lines and commercial lines carriers.
For more information on the report as well as accompanying raw data and other ancillary research products, visit www.channelharvest.com or contact John Campbell, managing principal of Channel Harvest, at firstname.lastname@example.org.