Independent insurance agents and carriers: a relationship ripe with opportunity

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In a recent survey of over 1,000 independent agency professionals in the U.S., we found several noteworthy trends when it comes to agency relationships with their carrier partners. This relationship can be complicated, and varies agency to agency, but there are some interesting insights when it comes to communication, technology, and how the end-insured come into play.  

The value of the independent agent 

While direct-to-consumer (DTC) insurance products — especially for simple risks — have picked up market share in recent years, the independent agency model continues to have tremendous value for both consumers and carriers. When we asked our respondents why clients choose to work with an independent agency, several trends were obvious:  

  • Consumers see their agent as a source of risk expertise and as a trusted advisor 

  • Independent agents bring a unique local perspective to their client interactions 

  • Clients feel their agent knows and understands them on a personal level — which is especially helpful when it comes to ensuring they have the right coverage 

  • Working with an agent provides comfort when filing a claim and their personal touch offers peace of mind 

  • Because they work with multiple insurers, independent agents can secure the best coverage at the best price for their clients 

How agents work with carriers 

It is evident from these answers that clients value the personal relationship with their agent — and that’s why carriers continue to invest in improving their agent experience. But what does that experience look like today from the agent perspective? 

Communication: When it comes to communicating with their carriers, many agents still rely on traditional methods. Nearly 60% of agents rely on email, while 27% tend to pick up the phone. Just 11% primarily use the carrier’s website. Fewer than 2% interact via text or in-person. Many agents report using a combination of several communication methods.  

Compensation: We asked respondents about their satisfaction with their compensation from carriers. The good news: most agents view their compensation favorably and just 3% cite it as a major challenge to working with their carriers. At the same time, the responses show there’s room for improvement, particularly around incentive programs. Below are the most common answers for each question:  

I understand my compensation package with each carrier: 

  • Always: 42% 

  • Sometimes: 37% 

I am paid in a timely manner: 

  • Always: 57% 

  • Sometimes: 26% 

I can view my compensation information at any time:  

  • Always: 36% 

  • Sometimes: 31% 

The carriers I work with have great incentive programs: 

  • Always: 15% 

  • Sometimes: 50% 

  • Unsure: 25% 

Onboarding: From the agent perspective, carriers have some work to do getting them onboarded and ready to sell. We also asked respondents to rate, in general, their onboarding experience with the carriers they work with. Less than 20% of agents report feeling “very satisfied” with their onboarding. The majority of agents are more ambivalent: 43% answered “somewhat satisfied” and 30% answering “neutral.”  

Challenges: A third of survey respondents indicated that their biggest challenge when working with carriers was underwriting response. The second most common challenge was appetites, at 28%. Inconsistent rates and connectivity were the next most common, at 16% and 12%, respectively.  

Agencies and carriers in sync 

It is clear from the data that while agents value their carrier relationships, there is opportunity for carriers to improve their agent experience. Investing in that experience benefits the entire insurance distribution channel—from enabling carriers to get their products to more consumers to ensuring agencies are placing their business with the right partner for them and their clients. Technology solutions that streamline the agency-carrier relationship—including onboarding, compensation, and compliance — are essential for carriers to become a partner of choice in the distribution channel.  

See how InsurTech is helping carriers connect with their agencies.