12 Agents' Thoughts on their Futures in the Industry

Bill Bridges, president of Duncan Fraser & Bridges Insurance Agency

Bill Bridges, president of Duncan Fraser & Bridges Insurance Agency: “The independent agency system is definitely changing, but we are changing for the better. Today, we are bringing more value to our clients in the form of risk management, safety training and expertise in coverages and forms. There is a basic cost of insurance protection and if the public is buying it for less, then they are getting less. Good insurance agents today are professionally educated. Most people would not shop around for the cheapest surgical or legal advice, so don't put your assets and capital at risk by buying the cheapest insurance. That will cost more in the long run.”

Tommy Dies, CFO of Bryan Insurance

Tommy Dies, CFO of Bryan Insurance: “Independent agents can and will remain profitable if they understand how the next generation likes to communicate. As agents, we need to embrace social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram and other online technology to better communicate with our customers, like offering online chat via our websites. Instead of limiting ourselves to the role of insurance sales people, we need to become counselors and consultants who help individuals and businesses identify the many risks they face and help them mitigate, avoid, or transfer those risks. That's what we do. And if we can embrace communicating through the media channels where the new generation spends their time, we can begin to take back the market share we have lost to the direct writers.”

Roy Frey, agent, SBS Insurance

Roy Frey, agent, SBS Insurance: “We need to bring value to the buying decision. We do this by explaining why insurance always has been and always will be the transfer of risk through a paper promise. Independent agents are the face of the promise and our expanding use of technology will allow us to bring the ‘why’ to the consumer quicker, better and more efficiently than ever before.”

Roger Luttrell, president of Benton-Luttrell-Brown, president and member of CAA

Roger Luttrell, president of Benton-Luttrell-Brown, president and member of CAA: “We have found that our clients appreciate our diagnostic approach with the aim of protecting their assets. This allows us to uncover exposures that would otherwise be uninsured. With this approach, we can maximize the credits offered by the insurance carriers, and most importantly, become a trusted advisor to our clients. Our clients appreciate and understand the importance of having a personal advocate working on their behalf.”

Wayne Peel, president of Pinnacle Insurance Group Inc.

Wayne Peel, president of Pinnacle Insurance Group Inc.: “In order to maintain profitability, independent agencies will need to realize high renewal-retention levels by establishing a distinct separation with direct writers in areas of professional client consultation, value added services, and the efficient provision of client service. In combination with the need to have high renewal retention levels, it will also be imperative to achieve proactive growth objectives. These objectives will need to be met through better utilization of social media, establishment of sales goals and most importantly, providing younger producers with opportunities to launch their careers by providing access to financially strong carriers and a well-educated, capable support staff.”

Luke Proctor, president of Signature Select LLC

Luke Proctor, president of Signature Select LLC: “In tracking our results, we win over 85 percent of clients when competing against the direct marketplace. In addition, the retention of our current personal lines clients has exceeded 97 percent each of the last four years. That’s a strong indication that the value proposition of an independent agent is stronger than ever if delivered effectively. As individuals accumulate more assets, there remains a need to find an agent with many types and levels of coverage available. In addition, there is great value for an insured to have access to the vast number of insurance companies that only can be accessed through independent agents. An independent agent frequently can offer superior coverage options at a lower premium when packaging multiple lines of coverage together.”

Mordy Rothberg, president of Confie Seguros

Mordy Rothberg, president of Confie Seguros: “What worked for years is not working today. To be competitive, you need three things: you need scale; You need resources, and we are very fortunate to have those; and you need to make the right technology investments. A lot of the independent agents are offering value, the question is how do you compete in that marketplace. As McKinsey pointed out, agents have to adjust given the new circumstances.”

Bill Siddons, VP of Hill County Insurance

Bill Siddons, VP of Hill County Insurance: “Agencies must continue to evolve and adapt as technology changes. Ease of doing business and price are important, but insurance is still complex and non-standardized. There always will be a segment of the population that wants no human contact via the web, but our retention and growth indicates most consumers still want assistance navigating the complex products available in the marketplace today. A prime example is the health insurance marketplace. No consumer or government website can handle or address the questions individuals currently have regarding current or future healthcare options. As an independent agent, we offer access to several companies with price and coverage choices. Direct writers have limited coverage and price options to win or retain the customer.”

Angelyn Treutel, CPA, president of SouthGroup Insurance-Gulf Coast

Angelyn Treutel, CPA, president of SouthGroup Insurance-Gulf Coast: “Agents offer peace of mind, individualized and speedy service, convenient and hassle-free product delivery, spend the time desired by clients to help them understand their contracts and coverages, and also support the local community baseball team. As agents continue to provide trusted advice, personalized coverages, and options on carriers and pricing, consumers will continue to turn to agents for coverages.”

Ed Weeren, chairman of Ed Weeren Insurance

Ed Weeren, chairman of Ed Weeren Insurance : “To survive and prosper we Independent Agents must bring value to our clients that is recognizable to them. Our advice, which is based upon years of experience and study, our choice of multiple companies, and our risk management advice will set us apart from others and show our value to clients.”

Ashley Western, COO of Cravens Warren & Co.

Ashley Western, COO of Cravens Warren & Co. : “Agents have always offered a value that a direct channel, such as the Internet, cannot. That value is personalized service, with a focus on individual risk management. Any computer system or clerk can receive information in order to obtain a quote. However, a computer system cannot advise an insured on appropriate limits or coverage that may be suitable for a client’s individual risk tolerance or exposures. While these factors may limit the viability of the independent agent for clients only seeking to meet minimum required limits, they have absolutely no bearing on the client who truly values an agent who understands individual risk. Agents will continue to be profitable by focusing their efforts on clients who understand the value of proper risk analysis as a factor when creating their insurance program.”

Bob Wood, president of Wood-Dulohery Insurance, President of the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents and CAA Member

Bob Wood, president of Wood-Dulohery Insurance, President of the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents and CAA Member: “Our message hasn’t changed. We continue to offer trusted guidance and advice, combined with multiple carrier choices. We work for our clients, not our companies, to find the best solution for their situation. What has changed is the way the message is delivered. Traditional advertising methods have to give way to Internet placement solutions and social media.”

For more thorough discussion, please read Joe McKendrick’s response to the McKinsey report and a more thorough outline of agents’ potential moving forward from Angelyn Truetel. Feel free to respond to them directly in the comments section, join our LinkedIn discussion or tweet your thoughts at us @_INN. Photo courtesy Fotolia

Recent reports and discussions have revealed varied opinions on the future of agents. Here, several agents sound off on where they think they can provide value and meaning to consumers and insurers.