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PIA Western Alliance Forms to Strengthen 'Main Street' Insurance Agents

VANCOUVER, Wash., October 12, 2004- A new alliance covering nine Western states today announced its formation to provide independent insurance agents with the strength and...
October 12, 2004

Affiliates Unite Across Nine States to Deliver Products, Services to Independent Insurance Agencies as They Battle With 'The Big Boys'

VANCOUVER, Wash., October 12, 2004- A new alliance covering nine Western states today announced its formation to provide independent insurance agents with the strength and support they need to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The organization, called the PIA Western Alliance, creates the nation's broadest regional alliance comprised of state affiliates of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA). Included are the PIA state affiliate organizations covering California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

"Hometown, 'Main Street' agents face greater competition than ever before," said Clark Sitzes, executive director of the PIA Western Alliance. "Now they can offer their customers the range of products and services found in much bigger agencies, delivered with their traditional personal touch."

Independent agents increasingly face much larger competitors, Sitzes said. Mergers have created bigger agencies, and more insurance companies have begun bypassing agencies to write coverage directly for customers.

"For more than a century, independent insurance agents have served as a vital lifeline for community insurance needs," said Terry Adams, national PIA president and owner of Reinholdt Adams Insurance in Ashland, Ore. "But it's more challenging than ever in today's marketplace. By uniting the products, services and marketing efforts of all of PIA's individual state affiliates in the West, we ensure the greatest purchasing power, leverage and expanded offerings, to benefit all PIA members in all nine states."

"Membership in PIA has always been a smart business strategy and the powerful new nine-state alliance in the West means PIA members will get even more," said Len Brevik, executive vice president and CEO of PIA National. "The PIA Western Alliance makes PIA the association of choice for all independent insurance agents in the West."

In the shadows of big competitors

For independent agents, the challenge is to gain access to enough products and carriers to fully serve their customers' needs. Insurance companies often require agencies to sell a certain volume of their coverage or lose access to the company's products. A survey of PIA Western Alliance members, conducted before the alliance's formation, showed that 75 percent have experienced a reduction in new business production because they didn't have enough sources for the coverage their customers needed.  And 40 percent said that trend is worsening.

PIA Western Alliance formed to help independent agents fight back. Members will have access to diverse types of coverage from major carriers-including The Hartford, Safeco, AIG, Utica National and CNA-without being required to sell a minimum premium volume. As a result, members will be able to provide broader coverage, increasing customer retention while receiving optimum commissions.

This alliance's formation also marks an organizational revitalizing of the PIA states in the Southwest, which have been lacking centralized office support. In addition, the four regional affiliates covering the nine-state region will remain in existence. As a result, members will continue to enjoy the local governance of their affiliates while gaining the benefits of the alliance's buying power.

Products, services for PIA members

Members and nonmembers are invited to explore that new menu at the Western Alliance web site, www.piawest.com.

The available resources include:

  • Products-Access to selected insurance products, for members who might not qualify for carrier appointment or optimal compensation based on their own volume.  The product offerings include property and casualty, homeowner and workers' compensation, as well as personal and commercial umbrellas.
  • Educational services to enable agents and their staffs to meet ongoing licensing requirements and achieve industry certifications, including Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR).  Some classes are even web-delivered, enabling immediate study and credit toward license renewals.
  • Owner services-Services aimed at agency principals, including errors and omissions coverage for agents, as well as succession planning and agency buy-sell services.
  • Employment postings, both of available positions and individuals.
  • Government relations-One-stop shopping for government relations and regulatory information, including legislative bulletins from some of the state capitals in the Western Alliance territory.
  • Industry developments-Members will receive news of events, announcements and trends within the industry and association.

How insurance agents use the expanded menu of PIA Western Alliance services will be determined by their individual circumstances and needs, according to Sitzes, PIA Western Alliance's executive director.

"It takes a distinctive, persistent, upbeat personality to run a community insurance office," said Sitzes. "It also takes continued support in the form of an association that provides top value and time-saving services.  That's why members tell us this is going to be such a winner."

PIA Western Alliance profile

A survey of PIA Western Alliance members this year showed that:

  • Average number of years a member has been in business: 36.
  • Average number of years each member has been an agency principal: 18.9.
  • Members' commercial book is 88 percent "Main Street," or small business.
  • Average written premium produced annually by each agency: $7 million.
  • More than 70 percent of PIA members sell both "main street commercial business" and personal lines.
  • Member agencies employ an average of several full-time producers, a couple of customer service representatives and two part-time employees.
  • Customers have been with PIA member agencies 19 years on average.

About PIA Western Alliance

The PIA Western Alliance is the largest grouping of state affiliates of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), linking four regional affiliates covering nine Western states. The alliance aggregates purchasing power, to provide a range of services and products found in larger agencies, enabling independent agents to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

PIA is a national trade association that represents insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance, but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses.

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