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Independent Agent Survey: Evolving the independent agent channel

Accenture’s Independent Agents Survey offers a set of actions agents and carriers should take to maintain dominance and profitability.

Our survey of independent agents (IAs) yielded important insights into the future of the IA channel. We offer a set of actions agents and carriers should take to maintain dominance and profitability.

Many insurers depend heavily on independent agents. However, the dominance of the IA is being challenged by a number of factors, including changing consumer behavior, the rise of the direct channel and new insurance players with new distribution models. In addition, innovative digital technologies and big-data analytics are providing a powerful advantage to competitors that are better than most IAs at exploiting them.

Accenture wanted to find out what are the most pressing issues facing independent agents, what are their business priorities and what influences their interactions with carriers and customers. We teamed with TrueChoice Solutions to survey more than 1,100 agents in the United States. The research yielded important insights:

  • Agents’ top priority is retaining and servicing existing customers.

  • After improved customer service, adding sales capabilities is an important operational enhancement contributing to growth.

  • The most valuable digital capability is effective carrier integration focused on web-based service and quoting.

  • IAs say they select carriers on the basis of claims process quality and speed, underwriting appetite and pricing consistency.

  • They claim their competitive advantage is due to a high quality customer experience and the ability to offer products from different carriers, rather than a superior advisory service.

  • Agents join clusters, alliances or associations mainly to improve their access to carriers and to increase commissions, not for operational support.

Independent agents’ most pressing concerns:

The survey also allowed us to divide the IA population into four distinct segments with different defining characteristics, which could be helpful to carriers seeking to refine their targeting and engagement approach. They are:

  • Conservative & Risk Averse (19%)

  • Emphasize Competitive Advantage (32%)

  • More Willing to Switch Carriers (34%)

  • Prioritize HR Competencies (15%)

The detailed results of the survey, and descriptions of the four segments, can be found in the report:

Accenture 2014 Independent Agent Survey—Evolving the Independent Agent Channel to Compete and Win in the Long Term.

The IA channel has strong assets, but is facing a future that will be more competitive, more complex and more susceptible to profound disruption. An incremental, piecemeal approach to tackling these challenges is unlikely to be successful—long term success will require substantial and potentially wide-ranging actions from carriers and agents alike. We believe they should work in concert to achieve five mutually-beneficial outcomes:

  • Greater customer loyalty

  • The ability to engage with customers on their terms across all preferred channels

  • The capacity to engage in advice-oriented sales and service

  • More efficient and adaptive agency operations

  • Data-driven insights that make all parties more effective

Find out about the critical actions which we believe agents and carriers should take to achieve these desired outcomes.

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