Whether you’re protecting your personal home and auto or your business and employees, choosing the right agent can make the difference between getting the best value for your insurance dollar and getting taken for granted… or worse.
Exclusive or Captive Agents
There are three main types of insurance agent to consider when you are looking for insurance. The first, called an exclusive or captive agent, is someone who represents only one insurance company (a company who uses these types of agents is known as a direct writer). Looking at a captive agent is like going out for ice cream and finding only one flavor… vanilla. It raises the question, “What happens if this particular company doesn’t offer what I want or need?” The answer: tough.
You have to seek a different carrier and a different agent in order to get more personalized coverage. What if the insurer that agent represents offers products that are not competitive? Too bad. A captive agent simply does not have the ability to offer other carriers as an option. If you don’t fit the mold or meet the criteria of that particular company you have to seek coverage elsewhere.
But perhaps the biggest question regarding captive agents is loyalty. When push comes to shove or when there is a problem will the agent side with you or with the insurance company – essentially his/her employer? Will the agent risk alienating his/her only carrier – and potentially jeopardize their livelihood – by going to the wall for you?
Then we have a host of so-called “quasi” independent agents. These agents represent two or three carriers. Even though there is more variety with a semi-independent agent, drawbacks remain. An agent’s lead carrier requires the majority of that agent’s business to be placed with them; the carrier automatically gets the “first look” at any potential client. When searching for a semi-independent agent, take a close look at his/her yellow page ads or web sites. Seeing a particular insurance company predominantly shown reveals that the agent is beholden to that insurance company; the agent essentially functions as a captive agent, complete with conflicting loyalties. He/she may claim to shop around for the best price for clients, but what does that really mean? Agents may compare one or two other insurance companies. With hundreds of insurance companies out there, that’s simply not a good representation of the marketplace.
This brings us to the truly independent agent. Being committed to independence, this agent has connections with dozens upon dozens of insurance companies. This type of agent also develops relationships with wholesale brokers, making available hundreds of other insurance companies and underwriting syndicates around the country and around the globe. The truly independent agent is not pressured by or obligated to any particular insurance company. If your particular situation presents a risk Company A doesn’t like, or if for some reason you don’t like them, this agent is ready and able to shop with Company B, or C, D, E or heck, all the way to Z if necessary.
An independent agent has the freedom and flexibility to get the best combination of coverage, service, and price. In working with an independent agent, you have the ability to maintain that relationship even if you are dissatisfied with your carrier – for any reason. Simply switch over to a different insurance company. In fact, the best independent agents trouble-shoot for their clients and will proactively reach out to them recommending a change. Additionally, if a problem or coverage issue arises, you can be confident this agent is going to battle fiercely to make sure the issue gets resolved promptly and fairly. The independent agent willingly takes on the insurance company on behalf of the clienf as the client holds the highest priority. Now that is the power of choosing a truly independent agent.
Go ahead…ask your agent when they last went shopping on your behalf. Ask him/her to show you two, three, four or even five different insurance company quotes. You may then begin to see the difference between the contenders and the pretenders. Choose the agent who represents many quality insurance carriers and uses that competition to your advantage. After all, insurance is about protection for you.