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Jamie

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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 20
6 Fast Facts about Our Rapidly Evolving Insurance Business

​Here are 6 industry trends I want to share with you:

·         Vertafore could be sold. A recent Insurance Business America article indicated the private equity owners of the insurance software firm were exploring its sale. Vertafore is also exploring whether refinancing of debt or some other strategic move might be a better solution. Major news by a major provider of agency management systems to independent agents.

·         A recent about money article was quoted as saying: Insurance is a business that relies on human intervention and services, and this is where the human touch will often make or break what you get out of your insurance.” A great message for consumers!

·         Bind Now – Ask Your Carriers to Join the Movement!” was the headline of an article posted on LinkedIn by George Robertson from ITC. The focus of the article was to encourage independent agent carriers to create a “Bind Now” procedure that is seamless and would allow us to compete with the rest of the marketplace. Great idea – Let’s talk it up with carriers!

·         Why a mobile app? Did you know that 55-65 year olds are spending two hours a day on mobile devices and 80 percent of all personal lines sales starts on a mobile device? That’s the findings of an Agents Council for Technology 2015 Hard Trends report. The report indicated that mobile first is of the most importance for agencies. Do you agree?

·         Everyone is trying to attract millennials to the insurance industry. A recent Business Insurance article states that by 2025 millennials will account for 75 percent of the global workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BI goes on to say the industry has to do a better job of marketing its desirable attributes, such as average pay that is $16,000 higher than the mean wage of all U.S. occupations and the stability that comes with the constant need for insurance. The end of the article highlights the importance of mentorship for millennials. Do you have a mentoring program at your agency?

·         Business interruption insurance is the No. 1 risk businesses in the Americas face today, according to 58 percent of respondents in the fifth annual Allianz Risk Barometer survey. Can you explain it and offer it to every commercial client?​

March 23
Defeating The Zebra, Lemonade, Insurify and CoverWallet

Recently, many independent agents breathed a sigh of relief as Google announced it was withdrawing from insurance. This news was definitely a positive and welcomed by everyone currently in the insurance business. 

This is not a time for independent agents to get lax or cocky! Although Google has decided to withdraw, it doesn’t mean the online giant might not return sometime in the future. That's true especially if Google views the insurance marketplace as vulnerable and a significant opportunity to make money. In addition, unless you’ve been living on a deserted island, you most already know there are a number of other technology-driven direct carriers poised to enter the marketplace and make their mark.

What the hell is going on here? It’s the evolution of an insurance industry fueled by technology and the perception insurance can be sold direct, without the professional advice and service of an agent. The scary thing is that many consumers are buying into this concept.

Unfortunately, independent agents bear part of the blame for this occurring. For many years, we shared the marketplace only with captive agents, and we were comfortable and fairly successful competing in that marketplace. Matter of fact, personal insurance, although it developed steady and experienced stable growth, was looked upon at many agencies as a second-class citizen.

That resulted in many agencies not investing in the appropriate training their personal insurance staff needed to compete and grow the agency’s book of business. As things progressed, many agencies competed only on price and their staffs became order takers. In addition, clients were told the agency would regularly review and update their coverage. Unfortunately, it never happened in too many cases. As a result, many customers went years without ever being contacted or hearing from their agency.

Along with the advancement of technology, this neglect allowed direct response carriers the opening they needed to convince and attract consumers to buy through them. Companies like Geico and Progressive were born and flourished. As technology continued to advance and other firms saw Geico and Progressive’s direct market share grow substantially, they decided this market was where some significant inroads could be made. 

So here we are in 2016. Independent agents breathe a sigh of relief that a significant competitor has decided to leave the market but realize many more are on the horizon. Your personal insurance clients and even your small to medium business clients might be seriously at risk of being taken away by these companies. If you’re an independent agent who intends to be in the marketplace going forward and generates a good portion of your business from this marketplace, it has got to be keeping you up at night.

So what can independent agents do?

There are four important areas agents need to focus on.

First and most important is staffing and training. These areas are critical to the success of an agency. The value proposition of independent agents involves professional advice and service. If your staff is lacking in this area, you won’t be able to compete. In addition to exceptional training, your staff needs to know how to function effectively in the marketplace. That means understanding how to turn around a prospect looking for “cheaper premiums” into one who values having the right coverage at a competitive price. It's not easy to do with the extraordinary amount of advertising attempting to convince them that all coverage is the same and only price and ease of doing business matters.

It’s no secret that we’re in the early stages of a major loss of agency personal with significant knowledge and expertise due to retirement. How are you going to overcome that growing trend? Have you been developing your younger employees? Where will you find the new employees you need? Its common knowledge that many young people aren’t interested in or don’t even consider a career in insurance. We need to solve this problem and attract more young talented individuals into our business.

Part of the training for all staff needs to revolve around the agency’s commitment to providing exceptional customer service at every level. It has to be an agency mandate that is developed into your agency’s culture. It needs to be consistently monitored and dealt with wherever slippage is discovered. All agency policies and procedures need to be reviewed and made as customer friendly and helpful as possible, starting from the customer’s first call into the agency.

Second and almost equally important for agents is maximizing the use of technology in the operation of your agency. It’s a key to freeing up agency personnel to work with clients as well as allowing your agency to stay in regular contact with clients and offer the exceptional customer experience today’s consumer is looking to receive. Wherever current hardware, software and technology can be placed in your agency’s workflow to speed up processing and free up staff, it needs to be done. I realize it comes with a cost, but there is an even bigger cost in lost business if you ignore this need. Technology and innovation are what the direct response companies are using to lure your customers away. Technology can also uncover valuable time for your staff to work with customers, develop their relationships and improve your retention in today’s marketplace.

The third important area is data analytics. Insurance carriers are using data analytics more and more in the underwriting and selection of their insureds. Progressive’s Snapshot and all the other auto tracking devices were just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are now able to know more and more specific information about your clients and prospects. I just read an article about Verisk Insurance Solutions and the new tool it has developed that allows insurance carriers to more accurately determine the age of your client or prospect’s roof. What effect do you think that has on the underwriting of your new and renewal business? Data analytics will ultimately enable carriers to determine the likelihood of various types of losses for specific risks. Follow it, understand it and be prepared to deal with it as insurance progresses.

Capturing, or mining, data is also important to your agency. The more you know about your clients and prospects and the better able you are to analyze and use that information is important. Your agency’s marketing efforts will be enhanced by the quality of agency information you have and can be analyzed. Being able to focus in on those clients that may have had a life or business event that may require additional protection is invaluable. In addition to marketing, your agency’s data allows you to develop a strong CRM program that will allow for the regular contact that is so important to developing an exceptional customer experience. Today’s consumer wants and expects you to have regular contact, offering advice and information that they might find helpful and showing your desire to have a strong relationship focused on them and their needs. Your agency’s data, the technology tied to it and how you use it will be a critical factor in your success.

Lastly, cyber liability coverage is essential for every independent agency. If you don’t have it, you need to get it! With the amount of personal information that flows through an independent agent and the current atmosphere of cyber hacking, it is crazy not to have protection. If you’re asking clients to buy it and don’t have it yourself, that’s incredulous.

The insurance world is changing rapidly. If you don’t change to meet these challenges, your market share and agency are at risk.  I realize it’s easy to outline the issues. The time and money investment to make the changes I'm recommending may be significant. The problem is the time is now. If agencies don’t start to implement these changes, they will find themselves struggling as they go forward. IIABNY has developed tools to help with these four key areas, knowing they are crucial to agency success today and in the future. We are only a phone call away.​

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 & Overstock.com​ 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 thezebra.com.

Related info – Check out www.thezebra.com and www.coverhound.com.

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 eharmony.com it might be eprotection.com.

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 jdeapo@iiabny.org. 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

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?​

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