BY SHAWN MOYNIHAN
In any business, it’s critical to know your audience. Gaining a deep understanding of those to whom we
deliver news and insight is paramount
in serving them as well as possible.
Some time ago, I was pondering
how we could better get to know the
independent agents who consume so
much of our content, and who represent the lion’s share of our audience.
Such insight, I reasoned, would also
be of great value to the carrier executives who read NU in print and on
I wanted a deep, personal look at
America’s independent agents. What
were their books of business like?
What’s their split between commercial
and personal lines? Were they really
selling more Life and Health products
these days, to round out their book
and pull in new revenue? What were
their total revenues? What were their
expansion plans, and how were they
planning on garnering new business?
We wanted to know all their pain
points. What do independent agents
consider their biggest challenges? How
did they feel about the professional
relationships they maintain with their
current carriers? What carriers were
on their approved list? Were they satisfied with how insurers were treating
them? Did they have ready access to
the forms they need to serve clients?
What were their top-rated carriers,
by each line of business? Aside from
price, what indications of quality did
they value most in a carrier?
What were their perpetuation
plans, if they had one at all, and when
did they plan to retire?
Upon deciding on a basic frame-
work for what we wanted to know, we
contacted the best people for conduct-
ing research. NU has enjoyed a long
and fruitful editorial relationship with
Flaspöhler, part of NMG Consulting;
for nearly a decade, we’ve collaborated
on our Agent Study and Risk Man-
ager Survey, two separate studies that
examine how agents and risk manag-
ers, respectively, rate the carriers with
which they do business.
We then approached our colleagues
at the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), to see
whether they would be interested in
partnering with us and Flaspöhler on
this ambitious project. During those
conversations, together we envisioned
the most comprehensive study of
America’s independent agents that had
ever been done, one that would canvas
PIA’s national membership as well as
I’m happy to report that the study
results are everything we imagined,
The majority of respondents, un-
surprisingly, were 50 and older, with
the highest percentage in the 50-to-59
age range. Most respondents identified
themselves as either an agency prin-
cipal or owner (owners, for the most
part). Mostly retail agencies were
represented, as opposed to retail
brokers/firms and specialty wholesale
Carriers, take note: Only about 1
in 4 respondents ( 27.2%) say their
relationship with their carriers has
improved in the past three years —
and about 1 in 5 ( 21.7%) say that relationship has declined. Just over half
( 51.2%) say it has stayed the same.
When asked whether staff/producer
training was something agencies wanted from their carrier partners, 34%
rated it as “very important.” Timely information on product changes (69.5%)
was also rated as very important.
If you completed our survey, you
know that a good deal of the questions
provided space for agents to share
their thoughts on the topic discussed.
Some of the statements you shared
with us are peppered throughout the
survey results; even more of them will
be included in our online presentation
of the data set.
I’d like to thank PIA National,
especially Mike Becker, executive vice
president and CEO, and Ted Besesparis, senior vice president of communications, as well as Rick Flaspöhler and
NMG Consulting, for their partnership
and their amazing effort in bringing
this dream to life. Enjoy.
Shawn Moynihan ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
is Editor-in-Chief of NU P&C.
A Sharper View of Independent Agents