From Generalists to Specialists: the Benefits of Specializing, and How Agents Can Begin Their Journey

In the past, specialized market or product knowledge was helpful, but not necessary. Now, as agents increasingly find themselves in competition with others offering similar services, specialized market or product knowledge is becoming an even more important part of any producer’s career.

While the benefits of specializing in a particular line of business may be apparent – from developing a niche to expanding one’s book of business – it might not be apparent where or how to begin that process. Following are considerations for agents of all experience levels to keep in mind as they determine the area of specialization that’s best for them and their careers.

Selecting an area of specialization

One of the first things to consider is how viable it may be to specialize in a desired line of business. Is it a commonly serviced line of business by other agencies? If so, producers may benefit from seeking a less saturated area and going where other agents aren’t. To this end, producers may seek to identify potential underserved or emerging markets, business segments or product lines to find opportunities or untapped client bases.

There are many resources producers can leverage to help make such discoveries. For example, producers should consider whether there are already specialists in their own agency who may be interested in working together. This can be especially helpful for more junior talent, as this kind of collaboration or mentorship can also benefit their professional development, overall. Other avenues to consider might include regional industry associations. Attending local events for these organizations can help agents make connections, expand their networks, hear about emerging risks and related needs firsthand, and better understand opportunities.

Deciding when to specialize

The road to specialization may look very different for a new producer compared to someone more advanced in their career, but an agent can seek specialization at any point.

An established producer already has a book of business which may naturally lend itself to deeper knowledge or market penetration in a given area. As a result, it may make sense for producers to specialize in this area, as they already have a certain level of comfort, connections and foundation from which to build upon. For example, it may make sense for an agent assisting multiple clients in the wood production or manufacturing space to look into expanding their knowledge and client base in this arena, so they can continue to provide existing clients with the best possible level of service while expanding their book of business.

New producers often have a less straightforward path and may want to begin their careers looking at more niche lines of business, where there’s potentially more opportunity to differentiate themselves. This could make it easier to specialize later on as they begin to build their knowledge base in areas with less competition and higher demand. Agents should keep an eye out for such opportunities, especially as the events of the past two years may have shed new light on previously untapped lines of business. This can be accomplished through careful monitoring of trade publications, industry events, and through personal connections with more senior colleagues.

Taking advantage of educational opportunities

There is no shortage of opportunities to continue education on a certain topic or industry segment. Some insurance carriers offer educational programs that can help agents on the path to specialization, offering courses that cover trends in specific industries and product lines, such as life sciences, emerging tech, ocean cargo and more. By participating in such trainings, agents can keep abreast of industry trends and gain even more knowledge about these areas of specialization.

Making the decision to specialize can be a defining step in an agent’s career, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. And while going from a generalist to specializing in a specific field may seem intimidating, with a good understanding of overarching industry trends, networking and a willingness to take advantage of educational opportunities, any producer can further their own knowledge base and better serve evolving client needs.

Josh Gibbons is Vice President and Branch Manager of Chubb's Oregon Branch.

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.