Every time I talk to an agent lately, I hear some version of the same thing:
Why is the carrier asking so many questions? Why do they need so much information? I used to only tell them what premium reduction I was looking for, what number I needed to quote to win the business. Now renewal limits are being cut, premiums are skyrocketing…. I don’t know where else to go to get this done.
Things have certainly changed. Carrier underwriters are starting to act the way they should – determining the real premium needed for the actual exposure.
Maybe I’m alone in saying this, but it’s a wonderful time to be in the insurance industry. Real expertise can now emerge to help clients accurately assess their needs and get appropriate protection from the necessary insurance coverage – all at a responsible premium.
The recently-expired soft market has disturbed the agent community. Many insurance agency professionals have never worked in a world where the carriers conscientiously underwrote the risk and set the appropriate price. For these professionals, this is a new environment, where the conversation focuses on the true risks facing the client, and how to properly get coverage for that risk at a premium level that is both appropriate and responsible.
True, there may have been speed bumps of select price increases over the years, but a fundamental shift to quality and pricing risk responsibly has taken place. The impact is being felt from first dollar of coverage all the way up through the highest level of reinsurance protection.
Now more than ever, retail agents need and deserve seasoned expert specialist brokers to help them navigate through the new normal and to get the needed coverages and terms for their client.
Two types of wholesale brokers exist. There are those who are true specialists and have firsthand experience in understanding the carrier’s approach, lending seasoned senior-level expertise in partnering with the agent to get things done. And there are the others, who are not able to help because their teams are limited to experience in the “find the cheapest price” world.
When deciding on which wholesale broker to choose, agents should not be misled into thinking that solutions can only be found with the large national or multinational wholesale broker. The “find the cheapest price” mantra and operating style has been deeply rooted throughout these firms as well.
When choosing a wholesale broker, agents must first consider the individual person, their credentials, experience and reputation within the industry. Second, agents should take an equally hard look at the wholesale brokerage firm the person works for and their respective reputation in the industry. Remember the time-tested adage: there is no substitute for experience.
My 30-plus years of experience has taught me that underwriters and carriers greatly depend on the experience and knowledge of the brokers they work with. Without it, they will not seriously entertain offering insurance on the risk.
I’ve had the benefit of experiencing a wide variety of situations in our business over the years, and there is one absolute I’ve learned and try to remember each day. In times of great turmoil people do business with who they know, like and trust. And conversely, in times of great prosperity, people do business with who they know, like and trust.
When a person has gained awareness due to their expertise, is genuinely enjoyable to work with, and has a high level of integrity and trustworthiness, that person is a real insurance professional, and is always worth doing business with.
For dedicated agents working diligently on behalf of their clients, along with expert specialist wholesale broker partners and the expert underwriters and carriers whom provide the coverage, it is wonderful time to be in the insurance industry.
About Alan Belthoff
Alan is Senior Vice President and Senior Broker with Breckenridge Group’s Breckenridge Insurance Services Division and is responsible for the Management Liability focus within the group.
Alan has 30+ years of wide-ranging expertise across all aspects of the property, casualty and specialty lines marketspace. He’s worked with some of the finest people in the insurance sector and approaches each day with a high level of passion for the business. Throughout his career, he’s held roles ranging from technical underwriting all the way up to Chief Operating Officer of various companies within the North American sector of AIG’s Global P&C Company. He has extensive expertise in technical underwriting, P&L management, product development and innovation, sales, marketing and distribution, and operational efficiency including technology integration. Most recently, Alan has brought the same level of expertise, commitment, and passion to the specialist broker side of the business.