Country Sees Growing Power of Hispanic Agents and Customers

By | July 19, 2010

Latin Agents Group Launches in New York

The growth of the country’s Hispanic population is a hot topic among demographers and marketers – including insurance producers and brokers. 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.

“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,” said Elmer Rivera, New York branch manager for Jimcor Agencies and founder of the Latin Agents and Brokers Association (LABA).

LABA recently launched as a new trade group for Latin insurance producers and brokers who serve the Hispanic community in the Northeast. LABA wants to help agents improve sales and service to Latin clients, Rivera 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 interested in pursuing a Hispanic customer base.

The growth of the Hispanic population nationwide comes at a time when the “Latin consumer is becoming more savvy and knowledgeable about financial protection,” Rivera said. And that’s no secret to other Latin American insurance groups, including 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.

Andre Urena, founder of the LAAA, said the group’s membership comprises “anybody of any race that focuses on the Hispanic market.” The association has 670 agencies and 200 insurance company members. The group works to educate agents on ways to overcome barriers of language and culture, as well as to develop trust and confidence among Hispanic customers.

It’s a niche that Urena said is getting bigger. “We see nothing but growth in the next few years,” he said. The group’s 2010 convention in Long Beach, Calif., 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 the nation’s shifting population. “There is a growing need of insurance agents and brokers who understand that diversity,” he said.

Of course, in some parts of the country, the prevalence of agents with Hispanic heritage is so common that it’s barely noticeable. In South Florida, which is home to one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in the country, the line that divides that 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 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, but unlike the California and New York associations, he doesn’t see interest in LAAIA driven by any particular interest in enhancing agents’ access to Hispanic customers. Instead, he sees membership 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.

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Insurance Journal West July 19, 2010
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