Managing producer compliance and credentialing is inherently complicated—that’s why we’re working to make it easier. In this blog series, a team of Vertafore regulatory experts address some common compliance challenges faced by most carriers. Read more on improving compliance operations.
An expert discussion for carriers on just-in-time appointments
John Paddock, VP Customer Experience, and Girtha Perkins, Sr. Regulatory Compliance Analyst, both work to provide Vertafore customers the best expert guidance in matters related to regulatory compliance. Combined, they have more than 50 years of insurance industry knowledge.
Recently, John and Girtha discussed some considerations in the practice of just-in-time appointments, including commission pitfalls and compliance cost perspectives. Read their advice for carriers below.
Where did just-in-time appointments originate?
John: “There’s specific language in the PLMA, or the Producer Licensing Model Act, that’s widely interpreted as being the linchpin for just-in-time appointment processing. This process has been widely adopted, and the economic benefit it's given to carriers has been very significant. For very large carriers, it’s a savings on the order of millions of dollars on an annualized basis.”
“Many carriers have 10, 20, sometimes even 30 or more writing companies. If you were to appoint everybody in the old manner—where everybody held an appointment, everywhere that you wrote business—the cost adds up dramatically. Just-in-time allows you to target your investment, or target your compliance spend, to your actual new business.”
Girtha: “The problem is not every state adopted the entirety of the PLMA, and there are different variations of the model. Just-in-time is an industry concept, so you will not find it in the regulations anywhere. It’s not a regulatory thing.”
When should carriers use just-in-time?
Girtha: “In a lot of states, where the PLMA provides for you to be able to work for more than one company if you're not a captive agent, then those secondary appointments and those non-resident appointments are an excellent use of just-in-time.”
John: “Agreed. Some carriers have taken the approach of saying ‘we want to have them appointed,’ so they’ll appoint them to one writing company, typically in their resident state, and then use just-in-time everywhere else. That still has a huge economic benefit. That one appointment threads the needle for some carriers, and it just comes down to what's right for them.”
“When a company wants to introduce just-in-time into their policy and operations, they should set the policy based on their understanding of the regulations and requirements, and on having their legal and compliance team review the legislation.”
What should carriers avoid with just-in-time?
Girtha: “When you use just-in-time and run up against a timing problem, you could be tempted to do something bad. That's called backdating—don't do it. And don't ask a regulator if you can backdate, because then you're falsifying documents. If you have a window in which to appoint an agent and you're one day off, I would just let it be accurate. You're probably not going to get a market conduct ding on a one-off, but a pattern of doing this may cause you some legal trouble. Don't be tempted to break the law just because your paperwork didn't quite line up—that's not going to be as big a problem as breaking the law.”
What should carriers keep in mind when it comes to appointing?
John: “Agents will frequently move from one agency to another. When they make those changes, the obligation is on the agency and the individual to say to the carrier, ‘I'm leaving this agency.’ But 99% of the time they don’t.”
Girtha: “Like John said, it's the agency's responsibility to add that member and inform the state to submit the notice of affiliation. But you also don't want to blur the lines between a broker and an independent agent. If that broker who has a producer license is getting paid by fees from the policyholder, then they shouldn’t be appointed. Vertafore can help keep you out of those weeds.”
John: “Exactly. With Vertafore’s tools, it's a fast, easy process to get producers set up. It’s also very easy to get new agents appointed—all of that can take place literally in minutes.”
What else should carriers know?
Girtha: “Don't assume your state's compliance rules are pure Model Act. They may or may not be. You should know if you're in a state that says ‘appoint upon contracting,’ ‘first insurance application,’ or whichever occurs first.”
“With states that say ‘whichever occurs first,’ that's a timing issue, and I think contracting always comes first. Does the agent bind the company? If that's the case, then just-in-time won't work. But, John, you may feel differently.”
John: “When we talk about new business, it can go very, very well for an agent, or it could go very poorly. That's a moment of truth for a carrier when they're working with agents. Every carrier has an ease of doing business, or an agent experience objective. Just-in-time practices are mature in this industry: agents are familiar with just-in-time, and there are more companies doing it than not these days. When done well—with the right tools, techniques, and policies—just-in-time can be very effective and can provide a favorable agent experience as well as balancing compliance costs.”
Just-in-time Industry Practices and Insights for Carriers
A just-in-time appointment policy allows you to optimize appointment expense by aligning the spend associated with appointments with actual business, while simultaneously meeting compliance requirements. In this comprehensive whitepaper, you’ll find detailed information on the many considerations you should be aware of when supporting a just-in-time policy.
Sr. Regulatory Compliance Analyst
Girtha's work with Vertafore began in 1997 (at a company then known as Pictorial), in the outsourcing division as a licensing administrator. She was the first administrator cross-trained for all software services. She has held an agent’s license in Indiana and Michigan, yet her deep knowledge of insurance licensing extends to all 50 states. Read more.
VP Customer Experience
John has been engaged in the insurance industry since 1998 and has held several operational leadership roles over that time. He started working with the Vertafore team around the same time when the company was known then as Innovative IT Solutions, then Sircon and now Vertafore. Read more.