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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
April 10
What Agents Are Talking About

COMMISSIONS

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.

 
MESSAGE TO INSURANCE CARRIERS – STOP CUTTING AGENT COMMISSION!
 
​SELLING VALUE
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.
 
MERGING WITH PIA
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.
 
​PRICING ON EDUCATION
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 TrustedChoice.com. 

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.​ 

October 03
That’s Why They Call It Social Media

Why would your clients, or better yet the general public, visit your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media? It’s true they may visit your website to find out to how to contact you or to research a particular insurance issue (if you even have such information on your website). You might be able to get them to visit and signup by offering a prize drawing, but once that’s over how frequently do you think they’ll return? 

You need to use your social media as a way to communicate about you, your employees and your agency. You create a personality or persona based on what you write about and post. If you’re involved in the community post what you’re doing. Does your agency specialize in certain types of clients or businesses? Post information of interest to those clients or businesses. What are you and/or your employee’s areas of interest? Post information about those things that would be of interest to other like-minded individuals or to the public in general. 

Social media is a great way to let your clients and consumers know about the knowledge and expertise of you and your staff. Participation in conferences, awards received and work anniversaries should be shared with your visitors. If you or someone in your agency writes articles, teaches or is involved in industry organizations or committees posting that information exhibits your knowledge, professionalism and standing in the insurance community. Publishing client testimonials is a great way to show how satisfied your clients are with the services you provide. 

Most importantly remember social media needs to be light-hearted and fun. Let’s face it insurance is boring and no one is attracted to social media about it. Make sure your social media postings include articles, issues and surveys that are timely and interesting. Don’t make them all about insurance, matter of fact insurance related posts should be in the minority, brief and contain easily understood and useful information. 

Once you have achieved all the things I’ve already mentioned you will need to drive traffic to your social media. It’s important that you regularly are encouraging clients and consumers to visit your various social outlets. Be sure links to all your social media are posted everywhere. Include links to your social media in various communications you might send out, especially if you can link a client or consumer to articles or information related to the subject of the communication. Encourage clients and employees to share social media they find interesting, helpful or fun with their friends. An occasional contest or survey with a prize is a great way to drive traffic to your social media.

Remember social media is all about creating a relationship between the visitor and you and your agency. You wouldn't go out on a date and just talk about yourself or your business (boring and self-centered). It's always good to spend time finding out about your date, who they are and what they like and dislike (helps to decide if you are compatible). You also want to make your date laugh and have a good time (so make it fun and nothing inappropriate). These same challenges exist when you're creating a relationship with clients and consumers. Keep this analogy in mind as you move forward with your social media - act as though you are "courting" them.

September 18
3 Items of Importance to Independent Agents

​This week's blog post is going to touch several different issues and items that I hope you find helpful.

The news is full of stories about recent flooding. There is concern that many consumers still don't realize their homeowners policy doesn't provide any flood coverage. It's important that everyone reaches out to their clients making them aware of this and also offering them information regarding the need for and the cost of flood coverage. One way to get clients aware is to put a sticker on their homeowners policy letting them know there is no flood coverage contained in the policy. These stickers can be ordered from FEMA.

I'm getting calls from members telling me they have been seeing the Trusted Choice brand on TV or hearing ads for it on radio. We anticipate this growing to include strategic placement of ads in various places on the internet. As consumers become more aware of the brand and the benefits of buying protection from an independent agent we look forward to their visiting the website to find an agent and eventually to get a quote via the Project CAP consumer portal. In order for consumers to see your agency in finding a local agent it is very important that you create/update your agency's profile. Here's the link to take care of your profile. If you have technical questions you can contact Project CAP at 855.372.0070. For IIABNY help email Julie MacConnell at jmacconnell@iiabny.org. 

By the way, September 19th is Profile Publishing Day. Update your profile and be eligible for a swag bag

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I'm ending my blog with a growing problem I am seeing. Commission cuts are increasingly becoming an underwriting tool. Carriers that want to alleviate themselves from business or shift it to a different pricing platform use commission cuts to "encourage" agents to make the desired change. This allows them to not have to deal with regulations meant to control this activity. It also forces agents to move clients, creating additional work and putting that business at risk. The insurance division of the DFS needs to look into this growing trend and put a stop to it.  

September 10
Do Your Clients Feel Special?

​Customizing a client's coverage with the right company and making sure if they have a claim it's paid quickly and fairly are the keys to doing business with an independent agent. When it's coupled with exceptional service you have a client for life.

Have you ever investigated what it's like to be a client of your agency? What level of service does your client routinely get? Is it exceptional or just OK? Once you write or renew their coverage do you forget about them? How do they feel they're treated when they call in for service or to ask a question? How often do you communicate with them? Do you regularly update their information and coverage? Do you keep them informed of issues that are important and may affect them?

If they visit your website (hopefully you have one) is it inviting, easy to use, written in easily understandable language allowing them acess to their account as well as information that they find helpful. Do you have a Facebook account intended to develop a relationship with clients and prospects?

Every agency thinks they provide excellent service and use it as a sales tool. But the real decisionmaker in the matter is the client. If your clients don't feel like they get extraordinary service then retention and referrals are at risk. Step back and look at your service from the customer's perspective and then decide if what you provide is unique and exceptional. Does your service WOW a customer or is it the same thing everyone offers? 

August 29
You Can't Grow Your Agency on Price

If you plan on competing on price you will lose! Your competition is better equipped to win business on price! 

To grow your business you’ll need to create value consumers recognize and are willing to pay to get. What’s the value of buying protection from your agency?
 
I’ve been taking an informal survey of people I know or meet on what they value in an insurance agency. Here are their answers:
 
·         Convenience in doing business
·         Appreciate their business – positive, friendly interaction when they call
·         Regular communication in language they understand
·         No hassles – don’t need or want problems
·         Candid advice with their best interests at heart
·         Keeping them aware of issues that could affect them and offering solutions
·         Don’t take my business and then forget about me
·         I need you most when and if I have a claim – please be there
 
What do your clients value? What about your future clients? Maybe you should ask them? Not being able to show value in your service over price sellers makes the purchase of insurance a commodity sale.
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