Many independent insurance agents, both new to the industry and established agents, at some point find themselves asking the question: “Should I join an aggregator or agency network?” Independent agents aren’t tied down by the restrictive contracts and obligations that captive agents are – but they face their own set of challenges as an independent business owner. This ongoing blog series investigates both benefits and drawbacks of agency groups.
Drawback #1: Membership fees
Agency networks exist because there are many insurance agents who need access to markets for their customers. The networks provide a service, and have to be compensated in some way to make money and stay in business. Therefore, they charge fees to the agency owner in exchange for access to markets. For an agency owner who’s just starting out in the industry and needs markets, but has little profit and cash-flow, this can be a problem. Agency networks typically charge fees in one of three ways: Monthly membership fees, initial start-up fees, or commission splits.
Some agency networks charge agency owners fees in MORE than one way, requiring a start-up fee, a monthly fee, AND a commission split on business written through their program. While others only charge a commission split. The commission split charge in some networks is taken on income earned through the carriers the agent accesses through the group, and/or on the commissions agents earn on the carriers with whom they have a direct appointment.The agency owner must investigate the contract of each agency network, and decide which network offers them the best markets for the littlest cost.