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 About Jamie

With 40 years in the biz, including 15 years as an agent, our AVP of Membership & Member Programs understands what agencies go through to survive and thrive. That experience, along with access to companies, products and services mixes with a passion for the industry, making Jamie a perfect member advocate.
As our resident "in the know" expert, Jamie shares what he is hearing from agents and company reps and his thoughts on industry issues. 

Note: The opinions reflected on this blog are Jamie Deapo’s and may be influenced by the views expressed to him by association members. Jamie’s comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views or positions of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New York, its Executive Committee or its board.

IIABNY > Jamie
August 12
Staying #1 In Your Client’s Mind

The world of the independent agent and broker is changing rapidly and in many areas.  Sometimes it seems things are changing so quickly it’s impossible to keep up. Competition is fierce. Clients are demanding more service, completed faster and taken care of when it’s convenient for them. 

Running an agency isn’t getting easier and finding, training and retaining quality staff can be a nightmare. Add to that the ever increasing demands for volume by carriers and it’s no wonder agents and brokers are pulling their hair out. 

On top of all that, agencies are being advised that they need to get more involved in social media and digital marketing; an area that only a few years ago wasn’t really a factor. Effectively using social media is foreign to many agencies. Their confusion is only magnified by all the “experts” and consultants out there overwhelming them with a mountain of completely foreign techno babble. 

Many have come to the realization that there isn’t anybody on their current staff with the necessary knowledge to handle this important area. Others are trying the best they can. Still others have decided to take a wait and see attitude convinced this may just be a passing fad. Where do you stand? 

Social media is all about relationship building and there couldn’t be a more important time for agents and brokers to maximize their relationship with their clients and potential clients. Because of increased competition there are an increasing number of insurance providers vying for the attention of your clients and prospective clients. Many of them are more highly automated and have people on staff that are very effective in using social media. If you’re not able to keep your clients attention and nurture a positive relationship with your clients they will move in and try to replace you. Remember some of them have enormous budgets earmarked for advertising. 

They are not the only folks you have to be worried about. Part of my role here at IIABNY is staying on top of what is occurring with independent agent carriers. It means reading tons of articles, blogs and white papers. One very significant trend I have noted over and over is carriers coming to the realization that they have to replace their existing legacy system with one that is more effective and consumer friendly.   

These articles encourage carriers to adopt new customer engagement models. Apparently the message is getting across as over 75% of carriers ranked this as a first or second priority. Carriers realize that consumers are demanding easily accessible information that allows them to research and educate themselves on insurance. They also want easy access when necessary via mobile apps on smartphones and tablets like the iPAD. This even extends over to claims with mobile apps available to report a claim and get the claims process started.  

Development and retention of current data on clients/consumers, referred to as Big Data, offers carriers the ability to do predictive modeling and analytics. They want to leverage this new customer engagement by obtaining as much pertinent information about the client as possible. This data then allows them to better analyze and predict profitability. 

The use of telematics is a great example of this. Customers and prospects are encouraged to plug a device into their car that provides the carrier with a wealth of information relative to their driving habits for the possibility of saving premium. This just further ties the customer to the carrier who owns that information and allows the carrier to better choose clients to insure long time based on an analysis of the information provided. 

For quite some time agents have been proud of the fact that when you asked their clients who they were insured with they would say the agent or agency. That was reflective of the deep seated relationship the client felt with that agent or agency. The changes I outlined previously in this article will very likely affect that relationship possibly taking the agent out of this role in the future. Clients may start to recognize and value the relationship with their carrier over the one they currently have with their agent. That is definitely something I don’t believe any agent wants. 

In order to combat this it’s important that agents nurture and solidify their relationship with their client. Social media is an important part of doing exactly that. Coupled with a customer centric, highly effective  agency service model you are almost assured of retaining the primary and most important relationship role with your client. 

Failure to provide exceptional customer service and to nurture your client relationship via your agency’s website, blog and social media leaves the door open for your carriers or your competition to take over. In a highly competitive marketplace like we have today an agency can’t afford to allow that to happen or it could spell disaster for their future. 

Social media is not a passing fad. It’s the current model for nurturing a relationship with clients and prospects. It may change in the future but for now it’s the way to go. Sift through the techno babble, learn how to use it effectively and then make it a part of your overall operation. It may involve an investment initially however you won’t regret it in the future.         ​

July 17
Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

Recently I referred several friends and relatives to a close friend of mine for insurance. I did so because I knew he was a good agent and would do a good job counseling them on their insurance needs. Unfortunately his strength does not lie in making sure his office provides an exceptional customer experience and he has relegated that responsibility to someone else who is not doing a good job.


How do I know this? Because the people I referred have told me so when I checked back with them on their experience. The sad part is the agency I referred them to didn’t check back after the fact to see how their experience went and so they have no idea that their new clients have started out on the wrong foot.


The issues and less than satisfactory experiences were all things that should not have occurred in the agency. It involved failing to provide exactly the kind of personalized, quality service that is the hallmark of doing business with an independent insurance agent. Is it any wonder after experiencing less than adequate service why it is so easy for our competitors to sell price as the only determinant in deciding where you buy insurance.


My experience is not unique. I have worked with several employees of IIABNY on issues related to their personal insurance only to find they have gone years with no contact from their independent agent or have been caught up in issues related to their coverage that stemmed completely from less than adequate customer service.


How would you rate your agency’s customer service? Do you check with clients regularly to inquire about their experience in writing new coverage with your agency or being helped with an insurance issue? How frequently do you touch your clients and are you doing regular reviews of their coverage? Is it possible you are like my agent friend, very good at counseling clients on the coverage they need only to have them experience less than adequate service from your agency?


There are a lot of reasons, but no excuse, for an independent agency not to provide exceptional customer service. It starts with a serious commitment by the owners of the agency to providing a high level of service. It then gets translated into action with training, technology, support and management of the process. It is not a onetime process but instead a living, breathing part of the day to day operations of a successful agency. It requires strong management and leadership coupled with a commitment to providing the very best service possible.


Sounds like a significant amount of work and expense. In the beginning it can be but once the framework is established it’s just a matter of regular management and oversight. Done well it will help you to retain and grow your agency. Excellent service gets noticed by clients and creates retention and referrals. Happy clients tell their friends, relatives and neighbors about you, refer them for coverage and build your image in the community.


If you work very hard to obtain a new client why would you not want to work just as hard to make their experience great and keep them as a long time client. Actually your agency’s offering a client an exceptional customer experience backed by support and expertise advocating when there is a claim is a large piece of your value proposition.


What’s the customer experience like in your agency? Do you ask clients to rate their experience? Do your clients feel important and do they believe they are getting exceptional service? Take some time and investigate the situation.


Work with your managers and staff to get issues worked out. Invest in training and education to help your staff be the best they can be. Make sure you are providing the necessary service when a client has a claim. That is when your client most needs you and having your knowledge and support will have the greatest impact. Find out how technology can speed up the process while freeing up time for your staff to work directly with clients.


I was embarrassed by the poor service the friends I referred received from the agency. I intend to discuss it with the agent I sent them to however if he isn’t already checking his agency’s performance I question whether he already knows or even cares. Candidly, I’m not sure I will refer others to his agency I may have to look elsewhere. That’s exactly what clients do as well. Unless asked they don’t mention the poor service they just all of the sudden leave and move their business elsewhere. How many customers do you lose to poor service that you believe left for a better product or price? Maybe it’s time to do a little investigating.​ 

May 08
The Buzz This Week

Here’s what’s been circulating and my comments or thoughts about the article or discussion:

Walmart &​ Get Into Insurance 

What’s It All About: They may be using independent agents or virtual agencies, carriers involved Safeco, Progressive & Travelers.  Safeco says same products and rates as independent agents. More of the same with the Shark Tank’s own Mark Cuban as an investor in

Related info – Check out and

Telematics –

What’s It All About: Everywhere you turn there is another article on UBI (usage based insurance) and telematics. Car manufacturers, insurance companies and even individuals (check out www.automatic .com). Looks like telematics is destined to be in many if not every vehicle and possibly impact insurance pricing.    

75% of Millennials Harbor Serious Renter’s Insurance Misconceptions – 

What’s It All About: The gist of the article is consumers, primarily millennials, don’t understand the cost of renter’s insurance and what it provides. Apparently no one is educating consumers – isn’t that what independent agents are all about?

Related info The article: Insurance Business America

Consumer Demands Driving Insurers to Digital –

What’s It All About:  Consumers expect and want more digital interaction with insurers. Mobile claims apps, video chat with adjusters are just a couple examples. The future may involve firms that match consumers with insurers based on location, language and lifestyles. Instead of it might be

Related Info The article: Insurance Networking News

Employee Turnover Costly For independent Agents -

What’s It All About: No surprise here, however the article does quantify the cost of turnover to roughly 20% of salary. With the mean annual salary for insurance agents being $47,450 that means replacing an employee costs $9,490. Could you afford to pay 20% of the salary to replace a lost employee?​ 

Related Info The article: Insurance Business America

One In Four Insurance Agents Gone in 2018 -

What’s It All About: A McKinsey report indicates the average of US insurance agents is 59 and ¼ of the workforce will retire by 2018. Independent agencies need to start recruiting younger staff. Younger employees interested in career development, problem solving and helping people. The article also quotes Sharon Emek, CEU & President of WAHVE (Work At Home Vintage Employees), an excellent solution for filling staffing needs with highly qualified remote employees at a flat hourly rate. IIABNY members get special pricing on WAHVE.

Related InfoThe article: Insurance Business America

I hope this informal blog update is helpful. Let me know if we should continue this format.  Have a comment or want to discuss any of the above articles drop me an email at Have an issue you want to discuss email me. One of my titles is Member Advocate and I can’t advocate on your behalf if I don’t know what you’re dealing with or what’s on your mind.

April 23
Renter's Need Protection Too

Last week’s Insider had a link to an article entitled “Most Young Renters Uninsured Nationwide Survey Says” that was one of the top links opened. It would appear that members had great interest in the article. When I read that article it tells me we’re not doing a good job educating young consumers and cross selling coverage.

How many young renters are auto clients in your agency? Have you offered them renter’s coverage? Do you believe the relatively small premium makes it not worth discussing? Are young renters not interested in buying? Sometimes a lack of understanding and knowledge about the importance of the coverage causes young clients to not be interested.

What if you told them about the importance of the liability coverage that is part of the renter’s policy. If they knew it provided legal defense against a claim as well as paying for it if it was a covered loss would they buy? Your dog bit someone, you hit someone golfing, you damaged someone’s expensive equipment you borrowed? – Your renter’s insurance is there to protect you and there is no deductible for liability losses. Trusted Choice® has an article already done on this.

Based on the nationwide survey results there appears to be a great opportunity to provide young renters with insurance. Most of those same young renters will eventually become first time home buyers and will need homeowners insurance. Why not write their coverage now and continue to be there agent as their lives progress. Trusted Choice® has a whole section on their website devoted to Renter’s Insurance. All the information is there, the work is completely done and just waiting for you to use it to educate consumers.


April 10
What Agents Are Talking About


Here’s a conundrum – How about a carrier who for years has encouraged their agents to sell value instead of price coming out with new auto pricing designed to lower their price and get them in the price selling game. The kicker is they are doing it by cutting agents commission.

Speaking of selling value – had the opportunity to attend the Hanover’s kick-off of their new Platinum Protection Program and I was truly impressed with how well this program was developed. Value Added Selling is the key to Independent Agents & Brokers capturing more market share.
Interested in Value Added Selling? Ed Higgins of Thousand Island Agency, and I recently completed a two part webinar on value added selling and taking back market share. Here’s a link to the program if you’re interested.
As I travel and talk to various agency owners, some who are IIABNY members and some who are not, they routinely ask “Why doesn’t IIABNY merge with PIA”. My only answer is ask PIA because IIABNY has been ready to work on this for years and has communicated it to PIA. I wish I had a better answer but that’s the facts.
How about the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) blowing GEICO, State Farm, Liberty Mutual and Progressive into the NY DFS for varying pricing of risks based on the applicants education and/or occupation. Some carriers indicated these are valid underwriting criteria. What do you think?
February 05
First a Gecko & Flo Now It’s a Shark and Zebra

For some time now I have been preaching about the growing threat to independent agents and brokers personal insurance clients and prospects. They are being lured away by competition that is very smart and focused in how they are marketing. A big piece of their success is leveraging technology.

Well just when you thought things couldn’t get worse they do. Mark Cuban, self made billionaire and a member of the Shark Tank TV series, is one of several investors that have provided $1.5 million in seed money to Insurance Zebra. This new venture aggregates insurance pricing similar to the way Kayak does with airline and hotel deals. Here’s the kicker, the article indicates they already have agreements with 10 major insurance companies. Follow this link and read more about Insurance Zebra. 

We can either walk away from personal insurance, specifically auto insurance, or we can focus our energy on promoting the Trusted Choice® brand and the benefits of doing business with a local independent agent or broker to consumers. My vote – lets get behind and take advantage of Trusted Choice® and 

Unrelated Newsflash! The Flood Insurance Agency, a private-market flood insurer, has expanded its operation into Connecticut. That’s right I said private flood insurance, not the NFIP, brought to you by the rising flood rates that are a part of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The Flood Insurance Agency is currently waiting for regulatory approval that will allow them to roll out their product in New York. Watch for more on this as things develop.​

January 28
"Build It and They Will Come" Doesn't Apply

​I regularly get pushback from members who either don't want to use social media or are using it with very little documentable results. Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, agencies who build awesome websites, blogs and Facebook pages are not guaranteed the traffic they want and expect. Social media does not always create specific new business activity and agencies shouldn't rely on it to do so. But, the benefits of being active are surely there.

Social media can be a good way to get name recognition. It also can help consumers to learn who you are and your business philosophy. It can convey your value proposition and you can make it tangible by posting testimonials from your clients. Sometimes it may even lead to writing new coverage.

Understand that social media success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, consistency and a little creativity to drive your clients and prospects there. We can provide help with starting and implementing the process. Once it does take hold and you are getting a consistent level of visitors - your reach expands exponentially as visitors start sharing information from your site with their friends who may also share to their friends and so on.

Not interested in social media? That's definitely your perogitive. My question to you is how are you reaching out to clients and prospects? Are they engaging with you and sharing information about you with their friends? Is your outreach successful in driving clients and prospects to you for insurance? What's the age of those you reach and are you missing the younger consumers that everyone sites as the top users of social media (FYI - It's not just young people using social media)

Let's not lose sight of our objective - to be recognized as a professional, community based resource for providing insurance protection and getting the opportunity to provide that protection for your current clients as well as prospects. It's not how you do it, it's how effective are you at doing it. Social media is a great tool to help accomplish this. The decision is yours.

November 26
The Reality of What We Provide

Yesterday a family of five was involved in a tragic car accident. The mother was killed and the father and three children are in critical condition. Very likely they were out holiday shopping and they had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A driver in his forties who was impaired by drugs crossed the road and hit them head on. This accident occurred in the middle of the day. 

I can’t think of anyone who would not be touched emotionally in hearing about such a horrible event. I’m sure you join me in praying for the family and hoping for their recovery. They have a long and painful road ahead of them. 

When I am able to step away from this event as a husband and father I can’t help looking at it as a member of the insurance community. My greatest fear is that this family was drawn to all the irresponsible advertising encouraging them to purchase their insurance based on price. It’s exactly because of horrific accidents like this that as independent agents we encourage individuals and families to investigate and buy enough insurance to make sure their families are well protected. No one expects to be involved in accident like this – I’m sure this family didn’t.  

Are you tired of fighting against price selling? Frustrated by consumers who only care about paying as little for insurance as possible? Thinking about throwing in the towel and jumping into the price competition? 

If you are then I recommend you focus on this unfortunate family and others like them who are seriously injured in car accidents every day. Did you become an insurance agent to be a professional or a peddler? Do you care about the people you protect and do you want them to have the best protection possible? How would you feel if these were your clients and you had sold them price instead of protection?​

October 30
Don't Leave Your Clients In The Cold

Superstorm Sandy kicked our butt this time last year. Here we are a year later and a lot wiser. Wiser yes but what are we doing with all that firsthand knowledge that was obtained at the expense of an awful lot of families and businesses in the metro New York area?

Sadly, there are still way too many people not recovered from the storm and back to living a normal life. No flood coverage, incompetent FEMA adjusters and poorly administered federal aid have had a devastating impact on the victims of Sandy. It’s unconscionable that a year after the storm only one home has been purchased under the federally funded program administered by New York City. I guess it’s safe to say that Sandy’s effect is still not over and it may never be over for some families and businesses.

Are things changing? A lot has been written about the problems and issues but what’s being done to mitigate or prevent problems related to future storm damage? I don’t think nearly enough is being done to have a serious impact.

What changes have you made to reduce the risk for your clients?  

Are you discussing the need for flood coverage with every client and showing them the cost? Are you aggressively encouraging them to buy coverage? Is your staff sufficiently trained to actually accomplish this goal? FEMA statistics show a minor uptick in the flood policies written in NY but nowhere near the number that should have occurred if more families and businesses were protecting themselves.

Have you advised your business clients how to get the services and equipment they will need to be up and running as soon after a disaster as possible? Many businesses never reopened after Sandy or lost a significant percentage of their business.

What about your agency? You are the first people everyone turns to when they have a loss. What disaster planning or modification have you done in your agency since Sandy? Have you contracted with a vendor to provide the immediate access to services and equipment you would need to get back up quickly and assist your clients? The resources are there, have you taken advantage of them? How can you ask your clients to do this planning if you haven’t?

All of these things are within our control as insurance agents and brokers and should be discussed as part of the risk management of every client. If you don’t do these things and we suffer another Sandy or even a smaller storm how will you face your clients knowing you could have helped but didn’t. Your obligation is to advise them of the need, show them the cost and encourage them to purchase the coverage. If they choose not to after that it’s ultimately their decision and you have met your professional and moral duty as their agent. 

October 15
Deapo Shuts Up & Let’s Readers Talk

As I sat down to write this week’s blog post I realized I had been picking the subjects based on what I think is important. My blog and the information it provides should be about you the member and what is on your mind or creating you a problem. 

So let’s talk. Please take a few minutes and tell me what’s on your mind. 

If you can’t think of anything right off the top of your head here’s a brief list of some the items members have asked about recently: 

  •         ​   Agency valuation & perpetuation
  •          Best Practices
  •          Buying or selling an agency
  •          Expanding coverage for current clients
  •          Making agency more sales oriented
  •          Finding time to sell
  •          Finding, hiring & retaining good employees
  •          Creating value to combat price selling
  •          Using the Trusted Choice® brand
  •          Finding markets – for agency or for a client
  •          Company issues 

This is your chance to put me to work or just tell me what’s on your mind. Take advantage of it. Your problems, interest and issues are what’s most important.​ 

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