Quick – what’s the ideal market niche to get a new commercial insurance agent started in the business?
You may not be able to come up with a better answer than mass merchandising programs in the sports & recreation market.
Letting new agents gain experience and build a base of business in mass merchandising programs can significantly increase the chances that agent will still be in the business a couple of years down the road, and far into the future.
“It’s a nice place for young agents to start,” says Mark Beck, senior vice president, Mass Merchandising Division at K&K Insurance Group. “Most agencies are looking to grow and in some cases they are hiring new young agents, and rather than throw a new agent into manufacturing operations that can be more complicated, these are all relatively small accounts that they can prospect for in their own communities.”
While companies that specialize in the sports and recreation insurance market like managing general underwriter K&K typically work to insure a wide range of specialty operations such as arenas, zoos, health clubs, sports leagues, festivals, themed attractions and more, the mass merchandising part of the business focuses on smaller, more individualized needs.
It is essentially a portfolio of insurance programs designed and targeted toward all the programs in the company’s other units, but on a smaller scale with smaller premiums.
Simplicity is the key
The whole mass merchandising program at K&K is designed to be very easy for agents to provide basic applications – either in person or online – to entities that need quick, inexpensive coverage. For example, think of a community baseball team. The field they lease for practice requires them to have insurance. This is the quick and easy way for them to get it. The application has qualification questions designed to either fit the applicant into a box for this coverage or not – and if not, agents can still help them find appropriate coverage.
“It is a very ‘template’ approach to underwriting,” Beck says. “We’re hitting the masses and just trying to make it an efficient and easy transaction.”
The majority of the programs in K&K’s mass merchandising unit are purchased and immediately bound online. Agents are compensated with commission.
A lot of the organizations that need these coverages tend to occasionally let things like insurance fall through the cracks as they deal with other administrative matters like registering for tournaments, scheduling and reserving practice fields.
If a soccer team suddenly finds it needs coverage for a game or practice at a specific field on a Saturday, they can go online, get coverage and print out the certificate that morning.
“Most of the operations we are insuring are utilizing somebody else’s facility,” Beck says. The land owner is going to tell them they need coverage to use the space, and this is a quick, easy way for them to get coverage.
Opportunities in your backyard
There are mass merchandising programs that focus on the fitness industry, exercise studios, independent health clubs, gymnastics, dance, cheer, martial arts and more operations agents are likely to find right in their own backyard.
“Finding the prospects is just a matter of them looking in their own communities and finding things that interest them,” Beck says. “A lot of agents are involved in these activities already.”
Expertise at your fingertips
Another reason mass merchandising programs can be a good starting point for young or new agents is the opportunity to utilize the expertise of underwriters who specialize in these types of coverages.
“This is all our underwriters do all day long. If this is the first time an agent has worked with a health club, we have underwriters that deal with them all the time. There’s no learning curve for us because this is what we do.”
Working with specialists also ensures the client gets the exactly what they need in terms of coverage. “If an agent just places a sports team with a carrier that may not be familiar with this league, the policy might not contain some of the coverages that are important for them to have,” Beck says.
Not all policies include coverages like legal liability to participants, which is important in activities where injuries are inherently likely to occur. Beck says that if the coverage can take care of those medical bills, the participant is less likely to sue and take it to court.
Programs for almost everything
While mass merchandising programs are available for dozens of different types of activities, there are some high-risk activities they just can’t cover. Some extreme sports and events like mud runs, for example, which have a significantly higher risk of injury than a traditional sport, are not appropriate for mass merchandising programs.
“In the mass merchandising end, we are a little more conservative,” Beck says, but adds that if it falls outside of “the box,” the company’s other divisions are often able to provide coverage.