If you’ve ever shopped for or purchased life insurance, you probably have learned that it can be a challenging process.
The process of buying life insurance can be overwhelming, with so many different companies and policies to choose from.
An independent life insurance agent can provide expert advice and help you find the best life insurance policy, and save you time and money.
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While an independent agent can offer insurance options from many different companies, an exclusive agent is only able to offer insurance on a limited number of products.
Although purchasing a cookie-cutter type policy may be quick and easy, using an independent agent who represents multiple highly-rated insurers gives you the advantage because you can compare policies with multiple companies simultaneously.
When you choose an independent agent to find the best life insurance product for your circumstances and budget, you’ll know very quickly that your agent works for you, not the companies they represent.
What is an Independent Life Insurance Agent?
An independent agent (broker) either owns or works for an independent agency. The term “independent agent” means the agent is generally self-employed and represents multiple insurance companies rather than being employed by a single company.
Independent agents know that they work for their clients and not the companies they represent. Rather than receiving a salary, they earn commissions that are paid by the insurance company only after they can complete a sale for their client or prospective client.
Independent agents typically hold an advantage over captive agents and that advantage is passed on to the client. Moreover, since they represent many life insurance companies, they have access to practically every product a prospective client might need.
On the other hand, if your circumstances don’t line up with the captive agent’s product selection, you will have likely wasted your time and will end up with an experienced independent agent anyway.
Independent vs. Captive Life Insurance Agents
Although there are a few advantages to working with a captive agent (State Farm, Allstate, Farmers) the advantages you gain working with an independent agent far outweigh a captive agent.
- Represents many highly-rated insurance companies
- Access to the type of life insurance product you need
- Prioritizes the client rather than the company
- Can drop insurance companies that disappoint clients
- Personalized customer service and claims service
- Typically limited to one or two insurance companies
- Limited types of insurance products
- Since employed by the company – the company’s needs come first
- No control over disappointed clients
- Usually not involved with customer service or claims service
Why Should I Use an Independent Life Insurance Agent?
There many advantages to using an independent agent. Some advantages may be more important than others depending on your product needs, individual circumstances, and your budget. Here, we’ll discuss the advantages that clients have told us were most important:
Independent Agents are Licensed Experts
Independent agents help customers understand the complexities of insurance. They have an excellent grasp of the industry and are able to communicate sophisticated insurance information in simple terms.
They can help you make smart decisions about your insurance coverage. And, they will endeavor to uncover everyday risks that you may have not considered.
Your independent agent becomes your advocate when shopping for and purchasing the best insurance solution to mitigate the risks that most are most concerning.
Independent Agents are Personal Advisors
Independent insurance agents are experts at finding you competitive rates. They can negotiate more favorable terms and get you the coverage you need.
As your personal agent, your independent agent will work with you to understand your individual needs and concerns. They’ll make sure you are adequately covered.
Moreover, experienced and reputable independent agents will follow up with clients after the sale to find out if life events may have affected your everyday risks and suggest appropriate coverage changes.
Independent Agents Become Your Advocate
Your independent agent will remain involved as your advocate between you and your insurance company.
If billing or service concerns arise, as a client you can always speak to your agent to get advice on how to best resolve your situation.
Although most insurance companies prefer agents not to get involved in a claim dispute, rarely will you find an independent agent who will sit on his or her hands when a client takes issue with perceived service issues. Independent agents get involved.
They’re Always Close By
Whether your life insurance was purchased over the phone, online, or at the agent’s office, your independent agent will be available to you whenever you need them.
In today’s marketplace, more and more agents are expanding their market reach using innovative technology. This technology allows you to communicate with your agent even when vacationing on the other side of the world.
Most independent agents have technology in place that allows their clients to stay in touch 24/7.
Most Independents offer One-Stop Shopping
In their efforts to keep other agents from poaching their clients, many independent agents are licensed in multiple lines of business. This means that they can “round out” each account by offering auto insurance, home insurance, and even business insurance to every client.
One-stop shopping makes insurance shopping easier on the client and protects the agent from other agents poaching their clients because they offer other insurance products that clients generally need.
They are an Advocate for Life
Although captive agents frequently come and go, independent agents are self-employed and will likely become your advocate for a lifetime.
It’s not unusual for an agent to have two or three generations of clients in a single family. Since an experienced and reputable independent agent will be in contact with their clients on an ongoing basis, it’s not unusual for them to attend a wedding, childbirth celebrations, and the funeral of a client.
When your teenager finally gets licensed to drive, your independent agent will be available to handle the car insurance or recommend a trusted agent to handle it for you.
How to Find the Right Independent Life Insurance Agent
Since there are hundreds or even thousands of independent agents in every state, you might consider it challenging to find an experienced and reputable agent who can meet your needs.
Almost every independent agent is online and many are licensed in every state. This means that finding an agent that’s right for you may be as challenging as finding a policy that’s right for you.
Before you begin your hunt for the perfect agent, we recommend taking the following steps which will likely take less than an hour of your valuable time.
Review Their Website
When you are considering an agent who offers insurance products online, visit their website to make sure that they offer product information, risk information, and plenty of information about the companies they represent.
Most independents will also have an instant quote form on their website, but keep in mind the quote or quotes you receive are “price indications” until you’ve spoken with the agent and have gone through the underwriting process.
Even though an online quote isn’t etched in stone, think of it as a starting point when comparing a particular product sold by multiple carriers.
Additionally, look for easy-to-find contact forms and phone numbers for the agent. Also, look for evidence that the information you share will be kept confidential.
Review Their Credentials
Many agents hold other credentials than a state insurance license. If it’s important to you that your agent is credentialed in specific areas of risk management, you can visit the licensing division of the department of insurance in your state.
Most departments have a list of agents who have been or are currently under investigation for any kind of licensing issue. The department of insurance in each state the agent is licensed in will also track that agent’s continuing education requirements.
You can also check into professional designations online if an agent you’re considering is boasting a CIC, CPCU, or ARM designation.
In-Person or Telephone Interview
Often times prospective clients may be turned off by an agent when they finally speak with or meet an agent. Personality traits can make or break a long-term relationship so don’t be timid when discussing your circumstances, needs, or budget with an agent early on.
Before placing your trust in an agent, it makes sense to verify that he or she is not only trustworthy but easy to get along with. A phone call or in-person meeting provides you the opportunity to gauge their product knowledge and get a sense of their integrity.
Inquire about The Agents Work History
It’s not unusual for captive agents to move from company to company during their career, but most independent agents are fairly stationary once they either open an independent agency or go to work for one.
It’s completely legitimate when you ask a prospective agent to send you his or her work history. After all, it makes good sense to stay away from “shop-hoppers” if you are looking to establish a long-term relationship with an insurance professional who will be dealing with services as private as life insurance and retirement planning.
If an agent appears offended when you ask for a resume, cut off the conversation and call another. There are certainly plenty out there to choose from.
Get Lower Rates through an Independent Agent
When you understand the difference between a captive and an independent agent, you’ll soon learn that an independent agent will put your needs before the insurance company’s needs.
Alternatively, you’ll likely discover quickly that a captive agent is limited in product selection, and as such, he or she will typically only offer easy-to-place insurance products. If your case fits in their “box”, then you’ll likely be a good fit for them but will they end up being a good fit for you and your family of business?