Independent agents stepping up to provide extraordinary care

  • Independent insurance agents are increasingly supporting clients amid COVID-19
  • Agents are concerned about keeping business strong in the future
  • Agents are likely to look to stability of larger carriers

Independent insurance agents, who fill a vital role in protecting the fabric of the communities they serve, are stepping up in counseling clients facing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey of independent agents by Nationwide.

According to the survey of 400 U.S. independent insurance agents conducted from April 10 – 22, agents say they are helping clients address challenges like how to pay for their policies and understand what is and isn’t covered. Fifty-eight percent of agents reported having had a client come to them for suspending payment, while 58% have been asked for advice on cutting costs and 56% received requests to help clients better understand what their policy covers.

While agents are proactively supporting clients despite working from home, they expressed concerns about driving new business and retaining their portfolio of clients to keep their agency strong for the future. Agents said these were their biggest challenges with 60% adding that shifting their agency’s marketing to a heavier digital-based approach is also a struggle.

“COVID-19 has dynamically changed the way agents interact with clients,” said Jeff Rommel, Senior Vice President, P&C Sales and Distribution for Nationwide. “As more consumers adopt e-commerce tools, agents will be seeking solutions that allow them to increase their own digital presence and provide clients as much flexibility for customers as possible.”

The survey also showed that agents are looking more and more to larger carriers for stability, especially in uncertain times. More than two-thirds of agents (72%) reported they are more likely to use large carriers for customers’ needs due to concerns about the financial instability of smaller carriers. This trend was even stronger among younger agents, as 76% of agents aged 18-39 and 77% of agents aged 40-54 indicated they are more likely to migrate to larger insurers.

Rommel said the survey findings are part of a broader research series the company is calling Agent Authority, aimed at pinpointing challenges independent agents encounter and developing subsequent guidance.

“Our goal as a company is to identify ways that we can continue meeting the needs of independent agents and equip them with the right tools to help serve their clients and their business in this new normal.”

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