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Hartford's Andrade Comments to PIA On Agents and Growth

The Hartford Financial Services Group has unveiled a new "customer-centric" growth strategy that it says will help unlock the value of its books of business...
April 7, 2010

The Hartford Financial Services Group has unveiled a new "customer-centric" growth strategy that it says will help unlock the value of its books of business in property/casualty as well as life insurance. The strategy will also see The Hartford focus on small- and medium-sized businesses as clients, creating more sales opportunities for its independent agent sales force and reining in risk. The Hartford announced the strategy in a web investor presentation on April 1.

Juan Andrade, President and Chief Operating Officer, Property and Casualty Operations for The Hartford spoke on April 2, 2010 with PIA National's Ted Besesparis and Patricia A. Borowski, outlining the changes and what they mean to PIA members.

"We thought about core competencies of The Hartford, and the first one for us is our distribution. So in a nutshell, this is all about our agents," Andrade said. "It's all about being able to be more relevant and become an even bigger partner to our independent agency distribution."

"Seventy percent of our property and casualty agents also sell group benefits products," he said.  "The whole idea is to make this whole process a lot easier for independent agents, but to also bring greater product capability to them."

Andrade said the new focus will open up the company's group benefits products to its P&C agent force. At the same time, Hartford announced that the company is ending mass marketing of personal insurance lines, and will court customers above 40 years old, primarily through affinity groups like AARP. Andrade said the Hartford-AARP program for auto insurance, which is offered through independent agents, has been very successful and is an approach Hartford "is looking to expand upon. We know that 70-80 percent of the AARP membership wants to work through an independent agent."

"With regard to [agent] compensation, I think that's something we are going to be looking at over time," Andrade said. "Certainly the fact that 70 percent of our agents sell benefits and the fact that 40 percent of the group benefits premiums come from P&C agents is a pretty powerful thing. One of the things our agents will be able to see now is a much more coordinated response to their needs. Hopefully it will be easier to deal with us and certainly we'll look at that as part of the compensation as well."

As to the decision to no longer engage in mass marketing efforts in personal lines, Andrade said: "What that means first of all is a commitment to our independent agency force. But we also understand as a company where we can bring differentiated value. From a coverage, pricing and service perspective, we tend to be a value player, not a price player. We don't want to be just a pure price player - we're not a commodity, we're the Hartford. We've got a great brand, a great history and great partners."

What It Means to Agents: The Hartford's growth strategy and its affirmation of the value it places on its independent agent force is a win for PIA agents. The company's decision to forgo mass marketing efforts in personal lines is an additional vote of confidence.

Click here to listen to the audio of the 4/1/10 presentation by The Hartford.

April 7, 2010