TIPS FOR AGENCY GROWTH DURING A HARD MARKET
Educate yourself and understand your clients’ needs
The hard market is not going away anytime
soon, but that doesn’t mean you cannot leverage
it now to grow your long-term business strategy.
By Nicole Farley
There seems to be news each week that a carrier is adjusting its appetite and offerings. We are currently in a hard market cycle, which means insurance might be more expensive and harder to obtain in some small commercial markets.
It is easy to be overwhelmed in this type of challenging market landscape. It takes more time to remarket and to provide confidence to the carriers’ (and your) clients to ensure that their investments will be protected. By taking the time to understand what your clients need and to educate yourself on how best to provide it, you can take advantage of market conditions and strengthen your position as a trusted advisor and resource.
Below are some simple tips to thrive in a hard market; education, exploring additional coverage options, and optimizing workflow will strengthen your position as an advocate for your clients and prospects.
Know your book. Understand the composition of your book of business to stay ahead of changes that may arise from the hard market.
As an agency, the first step is to take time to truly understand who your customers are and what products they need. Even in a hard market, you are their trusted advisor, and they need an advocate now more than ever. The more you can dissect and analyze your book proactively, the better prepared you will be as renewals roll around and carrier offerings evolve.
Develop a niche. A hard market is the time to hone in on what you are good at. Pick a focus area and become an expert at it.
A hard market can create more work for your agency. Once you have a better view of your clients’ current and potential needs, you may find common threads in the types of coverage they need or in certain regions. It can be a benefit to your agency to focus on those products or regions that show up the most.
While in a hard market, you may still need to work with several carriers, but you will gain knowledge to analyze where to take your business. Becoming an expert in targeted niches will strengthen your position as a trusted advisor with the ability to offer them the best available products and options for their coverage needs.
Use available training. Your top carriers are going to be your ally through this process. Communication and training are readily available, so use it.
It is crucial, now more than ever, that agents have strong relationships with their carrier partners. Having a strong relationship with your underwriter and carrier team will allow you to get ahead of carrier changes and provide reassurance to your customers in advance. This provides excellent customer service and also saves you steps in your workflow.
Additionally, your top carriers will provide training and materials to understand their core products better. You should be talking with your underwriter often to understand what they need to help process a quick and clean review of the account. Take advantage of the extensive education options that carriers have to educate yourself and your staff.
The last thing to consider when it comes to carriers is finding reliable access to the E&S market. There are several options to explore through a direct appointment or by leveraging a wholesaler. There are pros and cons to each, but with more business moving to the non-admitted market, it is important to build a strong relationship and educate yourself on the options available in that market.
Explore technology. Now is a great time to explore technology options to optimize workflow.
During hard markets, an agency should explore how to leverage technology to help create efficiencies. Leveraging technology to help with back-end processes will free up your time to focus on advising your client; remarketing will not be as overwhelming if the workflow is simple and efficient. Explore the available options for raters, agency management systems, marketing tools, etc., to help create efficiencies for your staff and put your focus on being a trusted advisor.
Additionally, the data you can extract from these tools will help you analyze and strengthen your understanding of your clients and their needs. Readily available data will help you make better business decisions regarding how (and why) your resources are spent.
The hard market is not going away anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you cannot leverage it now to grow your long-term business strategy.
Nicole Farley is vice president of carrier operations at Bold Penguin, an integrated digital solution platform dedicated to simplifying small commercial insurance. Their product suite has digitized and transformed slow, manual processes resulting in reduced costs, increased efficiency, and better overall outcomes. In her role, Nicole has been streamlining the small commercial quoting experience for agents and small business owners, working closely with several large enterprise partners and carriers to achieve mutual short and long-term goals and objectives.