I recently read an interesting article written by an industry peer on what to know before joining an agency network. Interesting.
It’s interesting because as the leaders of agency networks, we know agents have options. In fact, they have more options today than ever before to gain access to markets.
We live in a world of aggregators, wholesalers, networks, alliances, brokers, MGAs, clusters and yes, even associations.
Agents have options.
And agents are smart. They’re doing their homework on us. They’re asking the right questions. They’re comparing us to each other, side by side. As they should.
The lines between us are blurry, and getting blurrier.
However, in our ever-changing industry, we also know agents need more than just access to markets to survive. They need access to strategy, technology, training, relevant data and other critical resources, not just to survive, but to thrive.
But we work with independent agents. There’s a reason they’re independent agents.
No one has the market cornered on knowing what independent agents need. And certainly no one has the silver bullet to solve all their needs. So before we all go touting all our great solutions and value propositions, we need to first respect what independent agents value most – their independence.
Hooks and crooks
The aforementioned article by my industry peer lays out all the basic considerations for joining an agency network.
I, too, presented some very similar basic considerations at an industry event to a room full of Nationwide agents learning about what it’s going to take to be independent. And if joining a network was in their consideration for transitioning to the independent side, what should they be asking. Here you go:
- What are the requirements to join the network? What are the requirements when you’re in the network?
- What carriers do the network offer access to, and what are the requirements to access them?
- What other resources does the network provide, beyond market access?
- What do you know about the other agency partners in the network?
- How does compensation work with commissions and contingency (if at all)?
- What does it cost to get in? What does it cost to get out?
- What do you know about the network’s contract?
All pretty basic stuff.
But as I talk with agents around the country, there’s always the one consideration that matters most to them – the contract.
What do you know about the network’s contract?
This is the moment of truth for us networks. Are we truly here to help the independent agent stay independent? The truth resides in the contract, and I mean the fine-fine print of the contract:
- Does the agent own 100% of the business they write with that network, forever and always?
- Will the agent be held to a first right of refusal if he or she chooses to leave the network?
- Will the agent be held to a non-compete after he or she leaves the network?
- Will the agent have to pay anything if he or she chooses to leave the network?
- Can the agent go direct with the carriers if he or she has earned the opportunity to do so, and at no cost?
We affectionately refer to these as the “hooks and crooks” of agency network contracts.
“How would an agent know if they are going to be held captive by any of these hooks and crooks?”, you ask?
Here, I’ll provide the answer key:
- Q1: Yes.
- Q2: No.
- Q3: No.
- Q4: No.
- Q5: Yes.
If a network doesn’t score 100% on this ever important quiz, and the agent doesn’t get a perfect match to that answer key, the agent should run. They should run as if their future independence depends on it. Because it does.
Get an edge. Stay indie.TM
You won’t find any hooks or crooks in our contract options. We guarantee it.
Because we are a company of agents, by agents, for agents.
No, that’s not a tagline. It’s who we are. It’s our DNA.
We were founded by independent agents who committed their precious time to collaborate, cooperate and strategize together for the benefit of other independent agents.
To be clear, that’s competitors cooperating (“co-opetition” as it were) with each other to make their competition better.
Who does that?
They sought to come up with a solution that would help the independent agent stay independent. They believed that If they can make the independent channel stronger, they too will be stronger as a result.
We were born out of that work. By agents. For agents.
And in that process, they wrote our agency partnership agreements (i.e. contract) for agents who value being independent.
By agents. For agents.
And today, we are still owned and directed by independent agents. Which is why everything we do challenges the established model of insurance, giving independent agents the edge they need to stay “indie” (as we say), both now and in the future.
By agents. For agents.
And yes, at our core, we do that by providing access to the best national markets. But we also provide access to the most relevant tools, technology, training and insights, making our agents and the companies with whom we partner, winners.
All, without any hooks or crooks. You’re welcome.