Batman and Superman have one commonality. Regardless of who you prefer, they both work to protect the public. Much like there are different strengths and weaknesses found in superheroes, there are strengths and weaknesses found in the two types of insurance agents: the independent agent and the captive agent. Often, they seem like opposing forces despite their mutual ability of doing good by those in the market for new insurance products. So, are you a Batman or are you a Superman to the industry?
The Independent Agent
So, which is better: an independent agent or a captive agent?
Independent agents resemble Batman. They have more freedom and truly own their own business. Although there are some risks (such as breaking into the market and working only for commission), independent agents don’t have the same marketing restrictions as captive agents. Bruce Wayne works in the best interest of his business and for his city…just like independent agents. There is true freedom as an independent agent.
Captive agents resemble Superman. They still do a good deed for society by providing insurance products, but they must beware of their limitations. Superman must avoid kryptonite, red sun, lead (limits his x-ray vision), and solar energy exhaustion. That’s a lot of can’t do for a man in a cape. Captive agents are limited, too. They may “own” the business, but they are restricted by the parent company on how the advertise. They can lose clients if the parent company decides to drop products. Captive agents will often also face a limitation on what they can and can’t do with their agency once they decide to retire.
As mentioned earlier, both types of agents come with a specific set of benefits…just like superheroes have their own unique abilities. Independent agents don’t face the same strict regulations when marketing and running their businesses. They can be the Bruce Wayne that they’ve always wanted to be. Independent agents can write more business because they have more options thanks to the ability of working with more than one carrier.
Captive agents get the benefit of more secure income. They don’t rely solely on commission. Captive agents often receive employee benefits such as retirement and health packages. Working for one company is often easier for people with little insurance, sales, or business experience.
Economies of Scale
Even superheroes face challenges. Between weaknesses and clever foes, being a superhero certainly isn’t easy. Let’s look at some of the economic challenges faced by the two types of agents.
Batman certainly has his fair share of challenges between multiple foes and simply being human. He’s gone through two Boy Wonders, the loss of his parents, and has faced down evil multiple times. Independent agents have to face down one core enemy: growing their business in a way that makes economic sense. Independent agents face the challenge of breaking into the market both with clients and with insurance providers. Acquiring clients and partnering with insurance companies takes money. It can be an expensive venture. However, this cost can usually be minimized by relying on the support of an Alfred: a Managing Agent Group.
Captive agents often get help from the parent company. They also often get a discount on their E&O needs. Captive agents often receive pre-set appointments from the parent company and a book of business. However, it’s important to point out that as beneficial as a parent company can be, they can also be a lead wall that prohibits the captive agent from growing their business. Captive agents receive little notice if certain types of products will be dropped. They can’t always “see” what the parent company will do, and this can cause the captive agent to lose part of their business.
Directly related to Economies of Scale is getting appointments. Superheroes often have different methods of the same end goal: saving the world. Independent and captive agents have the same goal of getting appointments and yet they have to use different methods.
New independent agents can struggle more to get appointments. There is no parent company that makes appointments or advertises on the behalf of the agent. Sometimes, a lack of sales experience can also hurt new independent agents. Independent agents can get help from relying on an Aggregator (someone who helps independent agents find clients). Those with previous sales experience may understand how to find and cultivate leads without much of a struggle.
Captive agents often have their appointments set for them by their parent company. This can be very beneficial for people with no experience in business, insurance, or sales. Of course, the downside of the appointments is that captive agents get one chance to save the day. If their parent company doesn’t offer a policy or product to fit the needs of the client, the captive agent loses out on business.
Marketing can be the foe of any business, regardless of industry. Both independent and captive agents must fight this foe in order to run a successful agency.
Independent agents get more flexibility in how they choose to market their agency. They are not tied down to strict regulations from a home office. However, it is harder to break into the market. Independent agents must focus on selling themselves to the public and to potential insurance partners.
Captive agents get the superpower of brand recognition. However, they face a huge drawback. They pay for this by being confined to strict home office rules that dictate what agents can and can’t say. This often stifles creativity and makes it hard for agents to break out of the mold.
Number of Companies
Superheroes have the job of protecting the entire world. They do this by using all of the tools at their disposal. So, just how do independent and captive agents compare when they’re saving the public from their insurance woes?
Independent agents are able to work with different carriers. This flexibility means that they are able to better meet the needs of the client. Meeting needs and not turning away business means a bigger payday for the agent.
Although captive agents may get clients strictly based on the name of their parent company, they may not get as much business as they need. Working for a single company means that the products and policies they can offer is from a single company. Parent company can’t write a policy? Unfortunately for the captive agent, they lose a client.
Truth, justice, and the American way? That just about sums up the insurance industry. Everyone in America needs insurance. Many types are required by law, and others are a great way to protect loved ones.
Independent agents are on the lookout for solutions that solve the individual interests presented by potential customers. This is because independent agents have relationships with multiple companies. They are better prepared to offer custom solutions. Batman can’t beat Catwoman using the same methods as he used for The Joker. Each customer needs a different solution.
Captive agents have to hope that the products offered by the parent company will fit the needs of the customer. Just remember – Superman can’t use his x-ray vision on a wall made of lead. There’s no way to know if the product will work for the customer until they meet with the agent. If it doesn’t? The captive agent loses out on that business. Even if the customer qualifies to purchase something from the parent company, it may not be the best solution for the customer. An unhappy customer will eventually find a new agent.
Freedom From Restrictions, Requirements, and Unfavorable Terms
Every superhero has weaknesses, and we’ve already discussed some of those weaknesses earlier in the article. When an insurance agent faces the foe of unfavorable conditions presented by an insurance carrier, the independent and captive agent have different ways of facing the challenge.
The independent agent has the power to negotiate, especially if they work with an Aggregator. If needed, the independent agent can simply decide to no longer offer products from that particular carrier. The independent agent lives to fight another day.
The captive agent is, well, captive. Much like how Superman never deals a final blow to end the life of a bad guy (because of his strict moral code as a Boy Scout), a captive agent cannot deal a death blow to the relationship of their only insurance product provider. Captive agents are at the mercy of the parent company.
In any sales-related industry, quotas exist. It’s another hurdle for both captive and independent agents. However, the way that quotas affect them are significantly different.
Quotas can be a challenge to an independent agent, but it’s not a death blow. Quotas can often be reduced dramatically by using an Aggregator. The Aggregator can meet the minimums. In this instance, the Aggregator is the Boy Wonder by helping Batman with the dirty work.
For captive agents, quotas can often be kryptonite. They don’t get the help of an Aggregator, and the minimum often changes without much notice. Quotas can be a death trap for captive agents.
Lost business can kill any insurance business. It’s the biggest nemesis of all.
Independent agents have a secret weapon that they can use to stop this particularly nasty brand of evil. If an insurance carrier drops a specific line or refuses to renew a policy for a current customer, an independent agent can write the business through a different carrier. The day is saved!
Captive agents do not have a secret weapon that they can use to contain this type of evil. Captive agents can’t do anything for the customer if the parent company drops a product or refuses to renew a policy. It’s simply lost business.
Although all agents should come together to meet the insurance needs presented by the world (just like Superman and Batman eventually work together as part of the Justice League), there is a clear winner of super agents: independent agents.
Independent agents may face unique challenges, but they have the freedom to meet the needs of customers by shopping and writing through more than one carrier. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can save the day as an independent agent, contact Connect Insurance at 682-518-6594. Don’t forget to check out our other articles to learn more about how can grow your independent agency.