A Smart Solution to the Small Commercial Conundrum
by Mark Brandt, Assistant Vice President, Commercial Lines
With relentless competition from captives and direct writers for personal lines business that has largely succumbed to commoditization, independent agencies must look past their old standby to remain relevant in today’s rapidly changing insurance environment. With thirty-one million small businesses and over $100B in premium up for grabs, the US small business marketplace represents the perfect opportunity for diversification. Small commercial is still largely controlled by independent agencies, is reliably profitable, but highly fragmented. Even the “titans” of the industry have less than 10% market share. In short, small commercial is ripe for the taking. Sounds great, right?
It’s not that simple. Small, new, or otherwise personal lines-focused agencies lack the experience to sell commercial and its complicated, multi-faceted products. Without a proven track record of writing commercial policies, they will not get access to markets. For larger agencies, market access is not the problem. For them, it doesn’t make sense economically to invest the necessary labor into the acquisition and policy management of these smaller premium accounts. Fortunately, Smart Choice offers the perfect solution for agencies of all types and sizes – Smart Start!
What is Smart Choice's Smart Start Program?
Smart Start is Smart Choice Agents’ in-house wholesale operation, where member agents get instant access to top-rated commercial carriers. Lynn DePasquale, VP of Smart Start Commercial at Smart Choice, says the popular program couldn’t be easier:
“Agents simply collect basic information about the risk and submit it to us on a short online intake form. The process typically takes less than 2 minutes, and in less than 2 hours up to six standard national carriers will provide bindable quotes with industry-standard coverages. Our agents love the quick turnaround and the ability to select which of our carriers they want quotes from.”
Benefits for Independent Insurance Agents
Smart Start commercial appeals to small agencies or those hesitant to pursue commercial due to uncertainty around coverages or exposures. They don’t need to be experts. The Smart Start team will work with the agent to review exposures and collect the data necessary to quote, bind, and issue. Smart Start enables the agents to build a book of business while learning commercial, something that’s impossible to do otherwise.
Larger agencies have more overhead and expenses, not to mention more complex and specialized commercial clients, so spending a lot of time quoting small premium accounts is not feasible. Smart Start allows them to retain small business clients without burning the usual calories necessary to provide their clients with various policy options (every independent agency’s value proposition). Instead of turning away these opportunities, Smart Start’s team enables large agencies to profitably write and service small business policies.
Graduate to Commercial Insurance Appointments — or Don't!
For small or newer agencies, Smart Start was designed to be an incubation program that enables them to break into the commercial arena, while strengthening their relationship with current clients and attracting new ones.
As agents become comfortable and establish commercial acumen, they can graduate to carrier appointments through Smart Choice. When appointed, agents can qualify for increased compensation and profit-sharing opportunities as they grow their books within our program.
Graduating is optional, many agencies are so happy with the convenience of Smart Start, they decide to make it their agency’s de facto commercial department.
Independent Insurance Agency Partnerships for Commercial Lines of Business
Whether you’re a startup agency seeking to join a network offering commercial market access, or a large, established agency looking for a process solution to make small commercial a profitable line of business for your agency, Smart Start is the place to begin — and end!
There are NO FEES to join the network, and there are NO FEES to use Smart Start.
- Commercial Lines
Even though we turned the calendar on 2020, the pandemic lingered, and so did the obstacles for many industries, including ours. Yet Smart Choice, our agents and carrier partners all worked together to hit some amazing milestones and put together another great year in the books. Check out the 2021 Issue 6 of Smart Choice Magazine for all of the milestones and achievements of 2021 and what we have to look forward to in 2022 (hint: there's a lot!).