A Message from PIA's President
I can't think of a better time than now to be a Professional Insurance Agent.
Whenever things get tough, we need to remind ourselves that what we remember as the "good old days" could also be tough, and that today is actually pretty good.
Despite increased competition from direct writers, independent agents continue to thrive.
When I hear predictions that the independent agency distribution system is about to unravel, or as one consultant put it, that we're at "the end of an era for the local insurance agent," I know that such observations are coming from one source: My competitors. Far from contracting, the independent agency system is growing.
Why? Because customers continue to value agents. It is really that simple. The PIA Partnership, our national agency-company council, conducted nationwide research with insurance customers of all types to learn more about what they are looking for and what they expect from personal lines insurance providers.
Among the findings: Customers value what agents can do for them and are eager for producers to take a more active role in delivering those services. They care about coverage, and price is not their primary determining factor.They are looking for expert advice and counseling, personalized attention and interaction and excellent "relationship-based" customer service.
In 2014, The PIA Partnership will conduct a similar nationwide survey of commercial lines customers to determine their buying preferences.
Technology is key to a successful futures for independent agents. Social media has quickly evolved from a curiosity to a fully developed and deployed system of personal communications and marketing. Agents are using social media to market their agencies, compete against direct writers and build their books of business. It's more effective and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. But social media is not a panacea. It just starts the conversation with customers.
Of course, there are always external threats to our industry. That's why PIA devotes so much to advocacy. We lobby Congress, regulatory agencies like the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), federal regulators, state regulators and state lawmakers. As advocates of our American free enterprise system, we must guard against those who would legislate or regulate our agencies and our carrier partners out of business.
But PIA provides agents with much more than just advocacy. PIA is firmly committed to maintaining and continuing to expand the full range of services that we currently provide on behalf of our members.
Professional insurance agents are strong, innovative, nimble and able to quickly adapt to whatever the marketplace or the government throws at us.
Ours is a great business. I am thankful that I chose it, and I intend to spend my year as president of PIA continuing to give back to this industry, which has provided so much for me and my community.
John G. Lee