More than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, remote and hybrid work arrangements and travel restrictions are commonplace. For many, the frequent in-person interactions with colleagues and clients that were once part of day-to-day life are limited.
In the case of insurance agents and brokers, these in-person interactions are being further compounded by agency mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In an increasingly transactional world, the moments of human connection agents and brokers have with their coworkers, the insurance carrier they work with and, perhaps most critically, clients and prospects, become even more important. To this end, the following strategies can help build stronger relationships with new and existing clients, so agents and brokers can continue maintaining and expanding their books of business amid changing times.
Agency M&A rates were shattering records by the end of 2019. While the economic impact of the pandemic contributed to a slowdown in 2020, transactions are picking up steam once again. According to OPTIS Partners’ June 2021 agent and broker M&A update, there were 339 transactions in the first half of 2021, up 10% from 307 in the first half of 2020. This momentum is expected to continue, making it essential for agents and brokers to find new ways to rise above the noise and make sure that their dedication to fostering personal connections doesn’t get lost in the fray.
When it comes to cultivating more meaningful relationships with clients and prospects, the pandemic has presented agents and brokers with a unique opportunity. Since the onset of COVID-19, many companies have been navigating new or heightened exposures as the economic climate—and their own needs and operations—change. As a result, insurance agents and brokers’ role in helping insureds navigating risk has become increasingly important.
In order to be trusted partners to clients, agents and brokers should look for opportunities to cultivate deep knowledge around their clients’ line of work, and how exposures may be shifting during the pandemic. Some insurance carriers offer educational programs that can help agents and brokers accomplish this via workshops that explore emerging risks within different verticals as well as the insurance products that can offer protection. Additionally, agents can leverage the top talent on their teams, by leaning on industry expertise often found on the underwriting and loss control teams within top carriers. Whether delving into top exposures in the manufacturing sector, the nuances of product recall coverage or other topics, agents and brokers should seek opportunities to continue honing their expertise to be better positioned to provide the risk management and insurance coverage guidance clients need and want.
According to data from Chubb and the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM), only 15% of middle market companies rely heavily on an insurance agent or broker to understand and manage risk. Thus, agents and brokers have a clear opportunity to help companies understand the value they bring to the table, year-round.
When working with clients and prospects, agents and brokers should act as risk advisors throughout the year—not just at renewal time—by conveying the importance of continuously assessing and staying ahead of emerging risks, and adjusting risk management strategies and insurance coverage programs. For example, if a manufacturing client is looking to build a new facility, agents and brokers can help them understand how this may impact insurance coverages and limits before any changes are made—from property coverage needed for the new structure to workers compensation and other insurance solutions related to the employees who will be on-site. The key is being proactive about identifying and minimizing potential gaps in coverage before renewal season.
The most successful business partnerships blossom when all parties involved seamlessly work together toward a common goal. Thus, it’s important for agents and brokers to build trust with clients and prospects and demonstrate how they factor into overarching business success while calming client fears about new competition in the market.
As the risk landscape continues to evolve and the agency M&A landscape heats up once again, agents and brokers not only have the opportunity to build stronger client relationships, but also to help businesses stay one step ahead of the challenges on the horizon. The increase in M&A activity could lead to questions about the value your agency brings to the table, so re-focusing on the client and client experience—particularly coming out of a pandemic—should pay dividends in a competitive market.
Zach Hoch is Marketing Manager for Chubb's Midwest Region and the Grand Rapids Production Office Manager.
The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.