Huge demand spurs agency network expansion to Mid-Atlantic

Huge demand spurs agency network expansion to Mid-Atlantic | Insurance Business

Huge demand spurs agency network expansion to Mid-Atlantic
Agency Network Exchange—formerly Consolidated Insurance Agents—didn’t plan on expanding outside its home state of New Jersey until later this summer. However, increased demand from Mid-Atlantic states including Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts prompted the independent agency network to move forward with its plans six months ahead of schedule.

“We expedited our rollout about six months early because of demand. We were taking our time, but the pressure from carriers and agents moved us to act more quickly,” said ANE CEO John Tiene, former president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey. “And after talking to agents in Philadelphia recently, I’m glad we did.”

Tiene says independent agencies in the Northeast are particularly eager to take advantage of the benefits of belonging to a network in which they maintain 100% ownership and control of their business, while gaining access to a greater number of carriers and products by virtue of a lower premium threshold.

The network model allows agencies to compete in an environment where large brokerages are increasingly growing and consolidating.

“Larger agencies are continuing to grow and, at the same time, insurance companies are continuing to demand more from their distribution channels in terms of volume of sales,” Tiene said. “An agent may want to take on a new carrier, but a commitment to write $1 million in two years is pretty daunting. We have a pretty low threshold under our master contract, so for most companies, agents have to write just $50,000 a year in premium, which for many might be two accounts.”

ANE also ensures its members are geographically unique, so members view each other as partners rather than competitors. The network currently has 40 independent agency members in New Jersey, who specialize in different products and markets, and frequently consult each other on behalf of a client.

ANE hopes to bring on another 40 to 50 members in Pennsylvania by the end of the year, after which the network plans to expand to Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut.

As part of the expansion, ANE is announcing three new programs for its members—a partnership with a payroll provider, which enables “pay-as-you-go” options’ for workers compensation clients and prevents payroll providers from selling insurance to their clients; a workers’ compensation program for residential and light construction in New Jersey; and a general liability excess and surplus lines program for property managers.

Tiene said ANE has plans to further expand its product offerings, including an interior contractor workers’ comp program in New Jersey and a partnership with a new homeowners insurance carrier.

ANE generated a combined $350 million in premiums in 2013, and doesn’t expect growth to slow down any time soon.

“For independent agents, this is a very wonderful time to write new business. Yet, as successful as agencies are, there are times you feel you’re online,” Tiene said. “We’re there to provide that support and the ability to increase an agency’s influence and to compete with some of the larger, and that’s a message that agents really want to hear right now.

Tiene expects ANE to be operating in Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey by the end of 2017.

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