by Arthur B. Seifert
Hyper competition, evolving technology, excess capacity and distribution consolidation are just some of the elements challenging the insurance marketplace. Growing organically and producing an underwriting profit is always demanding – maybe more today than ever before. It’s certainly the toughest market that I have witnessed in the last 40 years.
When I left my comfy salaried insurance carrier position in 1986 and became a retail producer, my goal was to reach $100,000 in commission income by my third year. I learned my hit ratio, did the math and realized I would have to make 11,250 phone calls a year – and I did. I knew the power of productivity, and I quickly learned the power of productive partners.
The fact is that sometimes you nurture a client for months, even years, before they agree to let you in the door – only to be let down by a carrier who doesn’t want to write the business. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes a carrier will target you, court you and hang you out to dry after you’ve submitted a proposal. Why does this happen? Perhaps a sales associate has ignored the carrier’s appetite, or an underwriter has overlooked the actual risk potential, or a marketer hasn’t communicated effectively.
Program managers must recognize that there needs to be true understanding and collaboration between sales, underwriting and marketing to grow organically, produce an underwriting profit and develop an ongoing relationship with agents. This requires breaking down the silos and being comfortable with sharing what was once sacred turf. In today’s market, transparency trumps trespassing. And if it doesn’t, it’s often at the agent’s expense.
Marketing builds the relationship that creates the opportunity for sales to open doors, and sales maintains the constant flow of qualified submissions that underwriting productivity depends upon. But these ties are useless if all parties don’t understand, appreciate and respect the amount of work, time and expense an agent must invest to produce a submission. Submissions are the raw material that drives insurance production: no submission, no business.
Sales should be in the field or on the phone to help drive the submissions in the door. To be a truly helpful resource, salespeople have to understand their industry deeply and be able educate their agency partners on its need-to-know nuances and product advantages. They must tell agents what information will make their submissions competitive and how much context and landscape is needed to make the underwriters comfortable.
Underwriters need to know what information they want from agents, and they need to know what that information truly means. Your submissions are in the right hands when the underwriters don’t have to compare apples to oranges. Underwriting expertise in a class of business is an advantage. Underwriters who have reviewed thousands of files in a specific class have greater insight and are positioned to make better underwriting decisions.
Marketing has a duty to assist sales and underwriting by conducting research to gain a solid understanding of the challenges associated with the class. What keeps the prospect up at night? What message will attract attention and create an opportunity? This information shouldn’t be carrier-exclusive. Marketing departments ought to serve as a resource for agents by providing them with the important updates, industry news and marketing collateral they need to stay up-to-date on business operations and bind business.
When you combine sales, underwriting and marketing efforts, what results is a team that truly brings value to the agent and can help them bring additional value to their client. Driving profitable organic growth is always challenging. It requires constant communication and collaboration. The quality and quantity of information increases the probability of better underwriting decisions. Better decisions lead to better results, and better results lead to profitable, organic growth.
Arthur B. Seifert has 40 years of insurance industry experience, including positions in sales, financial consulting, underwriting and leadership. He currently oversees niche insurance programs as the president of Glatfelter Program Managers.