Has to Get Better

By | December 31, 2009

It’s no secret. 2009 was a tough year. Just as tough as 2008; maybe even more so. The economy continued to tank. More businesses shut their doors. Revenues dropped for just about every business. Independent insurance agencies were no exception.

Many independent agents think 2010 will be a better year for their clients and their agencies. How could it not be better than 2009? In response to an Insurance Journal survey, 60.8 percent said they are “somewhat confident” that 2010 will be better, while 19.8 percent are “very confident.”

“2009 was horrible, worst in my 21 years in the business,” one agency owner said in the survey. 2010 “must get better or there will be agents going out of business,” he added.

A number of things must happen if agencies and the industry are to have a better 2010 than 2009. The economy must improve, dramatically. The uncertainty over health care reform must be resolved in a way that will not hinder independent agencies. Perhaps more than anything, prices have to start rising.

But 2010 will be a success or failure more as a result of how carriers and agents work together than as a result of anything lawmakers or others might do.

Asked by Insurance Journal, independent agents and brokers offered advice for their carrier partners in 2010. Here are a few of the comments:

  • “Be a stable market.”
  • “Stop cash-flow underwriting and start pricing to make an underwriting profit.”
  • “Be patient and don’t overburden the agents with unrealistic production requirements.”
  • “Stay in the markets you’re in and provide effective underwriting.”
  • “Keep solvent.”
  • “Look at all your systems and become more efficient. Truly partner with your top agents.”
  • “Remain flexible with agents/brokers. It’s not easy right now.”
  • “Work on keeping your established business before you give away the ranch trying to write new business.”
  • “Quit passing on costs to the agencies that companies have been covering in the past.”
  • “Be more flexible. Stop doing things strictly by the book.”
  • “Specialty carriers should not restrict producer to specific product areas. They should open up. It will help their production greatly. Discriminate based on hit ratios. An additional producer only takes up a few bytes in a computer.”
  • “Become more efficient without dumping more on your agents.”
  • “Take moderate increases to help our clients and raise commissions slightly to help agents survive.”
  • “Pay higher commissions to ‘incent’ agents to sell your product, rather than compete on price.”
  • “Don’t think you are the only company out there.”

As the responses attest, agents aren’t shy about giving their opinions. At Insurance Journal, we know this well. Just as this is an uncertain time for many agents, it’s also an uncertain and challenging time in publishing. Like a good carrier, we know listening to you helps us perform better too, so please continue to provide us with your feedback as you have been doing online, in print, via e-mail and over the phone. From all of us at Insurance Journal, thank you for your support and for being our partners in these challenging times.

Happy holidays and best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.

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