From the Front Line
Andrew Caldwell, Smart Choice® President
As we finish up 2018, I look back over another record year for Smart Choice® agencies and the growth we’ve experienced together. We have reached two significant milestones this year – first, this has been our second consecutive year at 30 percent revenue growth inside our agencies, which matters the most. Second, we’ve had our fourth consecutive record year in terms of new agent recruitment. Our network has grown into a force in the industry and truly is BY FAR the fastest growing network in the country. It’s a great story and one that has seen turns and twists over the years that would make a Hollywood writer salivate over it’s scripting.
Today, we are not defined as small or large agents, or personal or commercial focused. Instead, we encompass and support agencies of all sizes, and have a place for every type of agency. How we got to this place and the bright future ahead of us can be traced to decisions we’ve made along the way to invest into our future success by investing in our program and ourselves, individually. Allow me a few brief moments to touch upon those investments and ask each of you what steps you are taking to capitalize on the opportunities we share in the marketplace:
From where I stand within the industry, in terms of investments, I think about private equity. We hear and see all the talk the last few years about Insuretech investments and the billions of dollars pouring into the insurance industry. We also hear those multiples agencies are getting on the street and truthfully, I receive an email or call every day asking about the availability of our network just like all our other competitors. It can be tempting to say, “Now’s the time to cash in my chips and move on,” but that’s not how I operate, and I know many of you are the same way. I ask myself these questions: If the independent agency market is doomed, and insurance is moving to all online platforms, and commissions are being cut to nothing … then why is everyone trying to buy every agency and network? Why are the carriers buying each other? Why would billionaires and equity groups throw out crazy multiples and fall apart at the chance to acquire agencies that are doomed to fail?
The answer is - we aren’t going anywhere, and the technology advancements that are coming to our industry can make each of you and our network stronger, and more advanced than we have ever been before. Once you realize that we can benefit more from the changes happening in our industry, rather than be hurt by them, it’s time to act and begin that investment in yourself!
Let’s talk about Smart Choice® and your agency:
Smart Choice® wouldn’t be where it is today without the tremendous investments made from 2011 to today, around technology and a shift toward more commercial lines. Our recruitment of new agents is tied directly to the expansion of capabilities and carrier additions below. The carriers and the capabilities didn’t come on day one – it required investment in our current employees and the addition of over 25 new employees, hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology to enhance our offering to each of you, and finally developing new programs to provide every agent with multiple ways to be part of our network. You each know about those programs and the opportunities available to you, and if you don’t, make sure you reach out to your territory managers with questions. Below are some significant enhancements we’ve created, that are available to each of our agency partners.
Agency Business Center
- Did you know we have over 25 carriers participating in express markets that pay 100% commission directly to you? We had 5 of these carriers in 2013 and have significantly expanded these opportunities within our program with more to come
Enhanced Leadership Agent program
- Did you know Leadership agents can qualify for a Smart Choice® Trip and other unique rewards?
Commercial Carrier access
- Largest expansion in our company is our shift toward providing commercial markets to our agents. We have moved in the last 5 years from a 96/4 personal to commercial split of premium to a network that is 84/16. Our goal is to progress to 70/30 by YE 2020.
- Launched but more than launching we have continued to invest in both sides of Smart Start and these programs are now expanding offerings and we are adding additional staff to keep up with the demand in our agency base
What about your agency? The items above are nice to talk about from our network perspective, but what other investments you can make today inside of your agency?
Are you cross-training your staff and utilizing producer schools for your employees?
- Did you know several of our carriers offer these schools at discounted rates?
Have you invested in your agency’s technology in the last year?
- Google Analytics for your agency’s website
- If you read the above and thought “I need a website” please make that a priority!
- Social Media Marketing
- You have heard it for years but did you take steps in 2018 to utilize it in your agency?
- Are you selling telematics devices that we are seeing many carriers promote? It can help you retain customers and provide a discount.
- Are you utilizing mobile applications when a carrier has them available for your customers?
- Are you developing a knowledge base around the products you sell so that you reach the insureds that want to lean on your expertise? If not you will be watching business walk out your door or brokering business that with the tech advances in commercial you could be writing every day.
These are small tips above and certainly not an exhaustive list but as we finish out 2018 you want to be setting yourself and your agency up for not just 2019 but 2020 and beyond. Together we can look back at this season of change in our industry and realize we conquered it together, if we make the small investments in ourselves today!
- Agency Network
2018 Year End Review: Real Numbers, Real Growth, Real Results
In business, this is often the time of year when we begin planning for what’s to come in the next year – from budgeting and goal-setting, to creating actionable punch lists and enacting plans. But it should also be a time of reflection. Check out 2018 Issue VI for ways to reflect on the past year and make sure the next one is full of success.