No one could have anticipated the challenges and changes brought by the last two years. The impacts of COVID-19 created monumental shifts in how we work, use technology, communicate and interact.
We at Agent for the Future have been continually impressed to see how independent insurance agents have responded to the challenges and rose to meet the opportunities of this strange time.
As we head into 2022, here are some of the things we learned about what top agents and agencies are doing to blaze their path forward into the future.
1. Doubling Down on Digital
Over the last two years, independent insurance agencies embraced more digital ways of doing business. In our research report, Rise of the Digital Insurance Agency, we found that adopting digital was good for agency growth.
Our research found that agencies that adopted more digital capabilities grew 60% faster than low digital adoption agencies.
When we talked to top agencies, it was clear that they will continue to focus on digital. Majda Baltic, president and owner of Majdas Touch Insurance, explained how digital tools helped her scale her business and quadruple the size of her agency.
“Being fully digital made things easier and smoother for me and also provided a better experience for my clients,” she wrote in her article on Agent for the Future. “Technology allows you to accommodate people’s needs in so many different ways beyond doing everything in-person.”
Heading into 2022, it’s time for agencies to reassess their digital capabilities. Which digital capabilities might your agency need to implement or improve to continue growing into the future? Take our digital agency assessment for ideas.
2. Cultivating a Growth Mindset
“As a channel, we are at an inflection point,” Tyler Asher, Liberty Mutual and Safeco’s president of IA distribution, wrote at the beginning of 2021. “One where we can choose to continue the same course despite changing market conditions—or one where we can evolve, knowing the transformation won’t be easy but will allow us to emerge stronger than ever. Future-minded agencies will choose to evolve.”
Asher went on to argue that adopting a growth mindset – a willingness to learn, adapt and evolve – will help set agencies up for long-term success.
This is no less true for 2022 than it was for 2021. Our 2021 Agent for the Future Award winners are all stellar examples of what a growth mindset can look like in action.
Do you have a growth mindset? Use the Growth Mindset Index™ (developed by Beyond Insurance) to find out.
3. Re-imagining Workplace Structures
2020 and 2021 drastically changed how we work. Many people got their first tastes of remote work, and many found they liked the flexibility.
Going forward, many agencies plan to adopt a hybrid approach, allowing a mix of in-person and remote work.
When Ericson Insurance Advisors sent their employees home fulltime, the agency’s productivity actually increased by 20 percent or more. Its revenue also grew, and since productivity was high, the agency was able to manage the growth without having to bring on additional staff.
The results showed that remote work was “good for the firm and so good for employees and for the value proposition that we’re delivering,” Spencer Houldin, the agency’s copresident said.
Learn more about the future of hybrid work in our report, The Independent Agent’s Guide to the Future of Work.
4. Focusing on Their People and Workplace Cultures
Workplaces are becoming more human. With the challenges and hardships brought by the last few years have come more open conversations about mental health, burnout and self-care.
Future-thinking agencies recognize that their employees are their most valuable asset.
“After a strange and difficult year, it’s more important than ever before for business owners to care for our employees and lead with empathy,” Ashley Whitney, president of Harbor/Brenn Insurance Agencies wrote in her AFTF article. “If you take care of your people, your people take care of the clients. They take care of the business.”
5. Thinking Outside the Box for Hiring and Recruiting
Faced with extra challenges brought by the “Great Resignation,” business leaders in 2021 sought new ways to attract and retain great talent.
Agencies have to work harder to attract great candidates for open positions. They have to show what their agency has to offer. Plus, since many agents are heading toward retirement in the next few years, agencies will have to start hiring fresh talent from outside of the industry.
In his article on Agent for the Future, Jack Hoedeman, CEO of Compass Insurance, stressed the importance of showing potential hires that there are many great career paths in insurance and helping employees grow.
“Whether we’re hiring a new employee or helping a current employee navigate career choices, there are several questions our leadership team always considers: Are the right people in the right seats? How can we help employees be the best version of themselves? How can we set them up to be successful? How can we make sure they get out of bed in the morning and feel excited to go to work?”
In this business, we handle so much sensitive personal and private financial consumer information that we have to be vigilant about staying on top of cyber security. From phishing attempts to identity theft to ransomware attacks — everyone is a viable target and should be prepared. Check out the 2022 Issue 1 of Smart Choice Magazine for tips on protecting yourself and your clients from cyber threats.