Agency Network Exchange : Everything you need to know

Agency Network Exchange: Everything you need to know
Founded: 2009
Head office: Monmouth Junction, NJ
Independent agency members: >70
CEO: Elizabeth Schenk

Agency Network Exchange LLC (ANE) is a network of independent insurance agencies in the Northeast. Since its founding in 2009, the network has grown to more than 70 agency members across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, which together place more than $750 million in annual written premium.

How does ANE work?
ANE is a network – sometimes called a cluster, an aggregator, or an alliance – for independent insurance agencies that wish to maintain their independence while also tapping into the critical infrastructure, wider expertise and market access of a larger non-threatening trade body.

For an annual fee of approximately $12,000, independent agencies can enter a renewable three-year agreement with the network, with no extra fees for start-up or exit if a member chooses to leave. Once part of ANE, agency members retain 100% of their book and business, and they continue to receive 100% of policy level commissions. ANE aggregates all “common” carrier premium to increase the network’s contingent income, and members must pay a monthly service fee tied to the total level of aggregated premium.

What benefits can ANE membership bring to an agency?

The network describes itself as “an innovative model that helps independent insurance agents grow and retain business.” It provides members with market access, a support network, and education around new business, technology, legislation and best practices. Networks enable independent agencies to pool together their intellectual assets and successfully compete with industry disruptors.

ANE focuses on three key agency disciplines: profit & growth, sales focused culture, and agency owner support services. In terms of profit & growth, all members are able to participate in ANE’s profit sharing programs, which is constantly re-designed to generate optimal returns for member agencies. The network also offers incentives for new business production, as well as expert advice on portfolio management.  

Network members also gain access to professional development resources, such as growth-based business planning and educational programs that will help them to maximize sales. When it comes to agency owner support services, ANE strives to help members increase the value of their agencies by offering regular consultations, networking events and perpetuation and succession guidance.

Former CEO John Tiene, who left the organization in June 2019, told Insurance Business: “There’s a significant shift going on in the independent agent distribution channel, which is fueling a number of interesting things. On the one hand, you’ve got the very large brokerage operations, like the Gallaghers of the world, continually trying to expand and buying up specialty shops to boost growth. On the other hand, you have huge consolidation fueled by equity dollars coming in and buying up insurance agencies to build these monolithic equity houses.

“In the middle, you’ve got [networks] like ANE dealing with agencies who want to remain independent, and want to continue to move forward, grow and perpetuate, whether with family or existing management groups. That’s what has fueled our rapid growth in the past few years.”

What do carriers think of networks like ANE?
All ANE members get direct access to national and regional insurance carriers. Agents can write directly on the carriers’ systems, while still earning their usual commission and taking part in ANE’s profit sharing programs. For some time, networks like ANE have been gaining favor among insurance carriers because of the consistency and reliability of the aggregator model. Dealing with five or six hundred agents individually is a lot less predictable than transacting business through a well-structured network.

ANE, Vertafore and technology
The network has a partnership with insurance technology giant, Vertafore, through which ANE can reduce member agencies’ conversion and monthly operating costs on Vertafore’s agency management systems. As well as providing access to technology vendors, the network also coaches its members about technological advances.

“A big part of what we do [at ANE] revolves around demystifying the changes in the insurance industry for the agency owner,” said Tiene. “We’re building processes and support structures to educate our agencies as technology advances. We’re developing guide paths and road maps, so they can see what they need to accomplish in order to be proficient and effective. It’s about cutting through the noise and helping them understand what’s important today.

“We also spend a lot of time with insurance carriers in order to understand what they’re doing and what investments they’re making. We’re starting to see a shift in investment dollars away from the area of making the sale to the processes that go into the sale. We have to understand where the carriers are at, so we can help our agents align with the carriers and work with them more efficiently.” 

What’s next for ANE?
ANE has a relatively new leader, Elizabeth Schenk, who was appointed to the role of chief executive officer in June 2019. She joined from Keystone Insurance Group, where she served as vice-president of sales and geographic expansion, and was instrumental in the company’s expansion from six to 13 states. Schenk stated “growth and expansion” as her primary goals for ANE.

Upon accepting the CEO position, she said: “This is an exciting time for ANE. My focus will be growth and expansion of the company’s footprint, enhanced resources for ANE member agencies, increasing organic premium for our carriers and providing our employees the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.”

Agency Network Exchange : In the news