Unique ‘How to Write’ Seminars Deliver More Than an Education

Insurance Journal’s 14-Part Series Gives Agents Added Time and Potential Income

Where do retailers go to find the solutions they need to write new business?

Insurance Journal, in partnership with Shand Morahan & Company, has ventured into a series of online educational seminars to help retailers learn how to write and build their business in various, often difficult-to-write, lines of coverage.

IJ launched the first in a series of “How to Write” online video seminars in January 2005. Each online seminar offers agents and brokers dynamic, coverage-focused, live and interactive presentations via the Web, specific to certain lines of business.

“I like it because I can save so much time,” said Jay Odom, president of Deerfield Advisors Insurance Agency in Houston, Texas. “For me, that is the best venue possible because in Houston going someplace is extremely time consuming.”

Odom, who attended IJ’s “How to Write Employment Practices Liability” in January, said the seminar information is “absolutely valuable” in his daily work.

There are 14 “How to Write” presentations scheduled for 2005, all presented by Shand Morahan, a Chicago-based professional liability managing underwriter and a division of the Markel Corp. For Shand Morahan, the series lets the company share its experience and knowledge on a broad scale.

Independent agents and brokers can attend any seminar for free while participating in real-time with hundreds of other agents from around the country. Participants ask questions and receive live answers. There is no limit on the number of participants per agency office, so agency staff can also attend at no additional cost.

“The primary advantage of the online program is that it’s a very fast, summarized picture of a market and coverage opportunity,” said Letha Heaton, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Shand Morahan.

“One of the things that it says is, ‘don’t be afraid of this,’ there are viable solutions out there. It gives retail agents and brokers just enough information so if they see a submission or a client that has a need for this kind of coverage, rather than turning their client away, they have a place to go to be the solution provider.”

Retailers can quickly learn about important coverages that are complicated and hard to learn on one’s own, such as professional liability.

“The reason it’s such a good service, especially in the medium-sized agencies, is because insurance has evolved into such a high-level of professionalism,” said Cassandra Chauvin, vice president of Suburban Insurance Consultants Inc. in Elgin, Ill. Chauvin said the subject matter, especially in new and emerging risks, is extremely complicated and importnat for agents to keep up with. “Sometimes it amazes me that we don’t have to go get something like a law degree,” she added.

Heaton added that too many retail agents don’t know a lot about the surplus lines marketplace. “They really think of surplus lines as something they have to do when they can’t place their business with an admitted company … frankly they see us as a placement of last resort instead of a real opportunity. Surplus lines carriers are really the venue for new technology, evolving business, things that are in a state of change because of social, political or economic changes. It’s a huge opportunity to write new business in the new economic areas,” Heaton said. “We are proponents of educating our customers’ customer.”

Following each seminar, participating agents and brokers receive a free video CD of the seminar, plus course materials and handouts. For busy agents, the CD offers another way to take part in the series.

Andrew Sklover, president of The Sklover Group Inc. in Westbury, N.Y., was unable to attend the day of the seminar even though he had registered. He participated by watching a “re-run” via the CD.

“The EPLI CD was excellent,” Sklover said. “It’s absolutely useful for agents.”

According to Sklover, the “How to Write EPLI” seminar content provided a high-level of coverage information–not just the basics–that was helpful to him. “For me, when it’s at that level, when it’s at a high level, not just the basic level, it’s very helpful. I would recommend it to other agents,” he said. “I do have my continuing education courses that I need to attend, but this (seminar) is at a different level and I think online is very efficient.”

“When you go to off-site seminars, you love going, but it’s a huge cut out of your production and all the other stuff you’ve got to do,” Chauvin said. “You want to go but then you can’t. That’s why the online seminars are so important.” To register for any seminar in the”How to Write” series, visit: www. InsuranceJournal.com/seminars or contact Suzie Song (ssong@insurancejournal.com) at (619) 584-1100, ext. 136.