Over the last several years, agents and brokers have been in the middle of ACA mandates and insurance carriers looking to remain profitable. They have had to deal with reduced commissions, the public marketplaces and new government guidelines in various lines of business. Their role has required them to master technology, become benefit specialists for many of their employer clients, and form new partnerships to keep relevant in the rapidly changing insurance industry.
For close to a decade, the National Underwriter/National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) independent agent survey has looked to provide a voice to agents and brokers nationwide and gain insight into their business year over year.
This year’s results highlight some interesting findings that demonstrate the industry is in a state of flux. Agents are considering adding and dropping certain lines of business and looking for additional things from the insurers they work with to ensure their mutual growth and profitability in the years ahead.
Insurers need to take notice that only about a quarter (27%) of agents reported that their relationship with their carrier has improved in the past three years. And almost that many agents (22%) reported that their carrier relationship has declined. So for approximately half of the agents that leaves their relationship as the status quo for 2016. It also means that insurers have an opportunity to increase their efforts this year and build upon their partnerships with the agent community.
Due to the increasing complexity of the marketplace and the demands from clients, agents are overwhelmingly (70%) looking for insurers to provide timely information on product changes to help them accurately navigate new compliance guidelines and product alterations. Hand in hand with that thought, agents additionally ranked training from their carrier partner (34%) as very important. Agents’ clients expect consistent, clear communication on the benefits they’re providing to employees, which needs to start with a commitment by insurers.
Looking specifically at the health market, almost 60 percent of agents currently offer health and life insurance products and of them 34% noted that their commissions decreased. But agents still show optimism about the market as 53% of them reported they plan to increase their health and life revenue over the next five years.
The survey findings convey many opportunities for insurers to consider. It also highlights the perspectives and needs of independent agents and their desire to build relationships with the carriers they give their business to. Like all good partnerships, communication with active listening has the ability to empower both sides into positive action.
Source: National Underwriter. Agents Speak – 2017 NU/PIA Independent Agent Survey. March 2017. PP20-23.