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Official publication of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington 11911 NE 1st St., Suite B103, Bellevue, WA 98005 Ph. (425) 649-0102 Fax: (425) 649-8573 Web: www.wainsurance.org Officers of IIABW President: Mary Stien, CIC, Parker, Smith & Feek, Bellevue President-elect: Pat Otter, Otter Insurance, Lynnwood Secretary-Treasurer: Mike Button, AIP, Western States, Richland IIABA Director: Sue Knobeloch, CIC, CPIW, Lovsted Worthington, Bothell Executive V.P.: Daniel Holst, IIABW, Bellevue
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Burns & Wilcox
Capital Insurance Group
Board of Directors Mike Button, AIP (Benton), Western States Insurance, Richland Craig Field (Chelan/Douglas), Mitchell, Reed & Associates, Cashmere Nancy Frost (At Large), Propel Insurance, Tacoma Garth Hamilton, AIP (At Large) ISU Insurance Services, Spokane Lynette Grandy (King), McDonald Insurance, Kirkland Duane Henson, LUTCF (Skagit/Island), First Insurance, Mt. Vernon Kim Krogh, ARM (At Large), Fidelity Insurance, Spokane John McDonald (Snohomish), McDonald McGarry, Edmonds Dave Merrill (At Large), DeFranco-Merrill Insurance, Seattle Darren McEuin, CIC, (Past President) Conover Insurance, Pasco Pat Otter (At Large), Otter Insurance, Lynnwood Melissa Power, ACSR, CIC (At Large), Homestreet Insurance, Spokane Michael Rydbom, CIC (SE WA) Associated Independent Agencies, Pullman Nick Stay (Pierce) American Underwriters Insurance, Tacoma Robert Trask, Jr. (Grant), Robert Trask Agency, Moses Lake Larry Trefry (Spokane), Andre-Romberg, Spokane Chris White, CIC, CRIS (At Large) Bell-Anderson, Anacortes
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Staff Daniel Holst, Executive V.P. - email@example.com Susan Scott, AAI, Sr. V.P. of Education - firstname.lastname@example.org Ashley Kuaea, Director of Member Programs - email@example.com Bill Stauffacher, Stauffacher Communications, Contract Lobbyist - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Advertising For more information on advertising, contact Jim Aitkins, Blue Water Publishers, LLC 22727 - 161st Avenue SE, Monroe, Washington 98272 360-805-6474, fax: 360-805-6475, email@example.com Big I Washington is the official magazine of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington and is published quarterly. News items from IIABW members are requested. IIABW does not necessarily endorse any of the companies advertising in this publication or the views of its writers.
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Table of Contents 6
A Message from Mary Stien, IIABW President
IIABW Wins Educational Award
Blanket Additional Insured Coverage... A Huge Exposure Gap
Everyday Online: What to Do Today to Build Your Presence
Niche Markets Available to Big â€œIâ€? Members
Health Care Reform and Producers 29
IIABW Testifies at B&O Hearing
ACT: Grow Your Agency and Improve Your Marketing by Tracking Key Metrics
2013 IIABW Upcoming Conferences
20 IIABW/PIA Successful Joint Conference Photo Recap 4
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hat an exciting year we have ahead of us. I am honored to be Big I’s new president. I would first like to thank all of the members and vendors who took the time to travel to beautiful Coeur d’Alene for our annual convention. It was incredibly fun, at times surprising, and always wonderful to connect East and West to rediscover how much we have in common regardless of being separated by a major mountain range. These connections are an integral part of my plan for 2013. Early on in my career my mentor, Vic Parker, gave me some powerful core values that I would like to carry into my position as president of IIABW. That advice was: • Focus on the needs of the clients • Be rooted in your community • Commit to the success of each of your business partners These values helped me create my agenda for the coming year. Outreach Those involved in the inner workings of the organization know that we have been focusing on internal issues over the past few years and have successfully streamlined the organization to make it economically stable for the future. Now it is time to focus externally by reaching out to potential members throughout Washington who may not know the benefits of membership. We intend to do this through an informative weekly email. We will also hit the road to meet and recruit new members. It is my intention to host “industry days” with the theme “The Power to Compete” throughout Washington. These will feature an education series, industry updates, and tout the benefits of the organization with an emphasis on recruitment.
Legislation This is a very important time for our industry and our relationship with Olympia will be key to representing the whole of our industry in Washington. One of our big concerns is with the changes to national healthcare and the Washington insurance commissioner’s commitment to those changes. Also, there are threats to redesign the B&O Tax, which can potentially adversely affect the income of every agency in Washington. Lastly, we will continue to engage in the state workers’ compensation dialogue as inadequate reserves continue to require alternative and sustainable solutions. By bolstering statewide understanding of the importance of these issues, we bolster our resolve to influence legislation which directly impacts us all. Communication If we effectively communicate with agents across the state about the importance of membership and participation in the insurance community on the state level, we will be able to move forward and strengthen as a community. Many agents know of us, but some do not fully realize the benefits of membership such as: • Access to E&O Insurance • Access to the convention and thus the insurance community • Access to vendor/partners and their services • Educational opportunities • Young agent networking opportunities • A voice in Olympia I hope that you will join me in my excitement to help grow IIABW and keep the organization on a positive trajectory. I value all of my colleagues and friends in the organization and I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to make the lives of everyone in the insurance industry in Washington, both members and nonmembers, better in some small way. Mary Stien, IIABW President Parker Smith & Feek, Bellevue
Blanket Additional Insured Coverage...
HUGE Exposure Gap
A written construction agreement exists between the insured contractor and a project owner that clearly requires additional insured (AI) status be extended to the owner, architect, construction manager, etc. The AI endorsement we’re using appears to extend AI status ONLY to the party with which our insured directly contracted with.
”Coverage scenario ... a written construction agreement exists between the insured and one entity (owner) that clearly requires additional insured status be extended to multiple entities (i.e., the construction manager and architect). Does the attached blanket additional insured form extend additional insured status to ALL PARTIES NAMED in the agreement or ONLY to the party they have contracted directly with? Appreciate your thoughts.”
The language in the attached additional insured endorsement, with regard to the issue at hand, is identical to that in the current ISO CG 20 33. There is at least one court case that has interpreted AI status to extend ONLY to the party with whom the insured has directly contracted. Our national Technical Affairs committee plans on pursuing this issue with ISO next year. In the meantime, here are some VU faculty thoughts.
The way I read it, it applies only to the person or entity with whom a contract has been directly signed.
The endorsement includes as an insured “any person or
organization when you and such person or organization have agreed in writing in a contract, agreement or permit that such person or organization be added.” I believe it only covers the person or organization who entered into the contract. If other parties require additional insured status it would be best to use a CG 20 10 or its equivalent and list the various parties.
The way I read it, the AI status extends only to the person or organization with whom the insured has the written agreement. The secondary parties would not be included. The real answer, however, must come from the underwriter. Ask him or her and be guided accordingly
This is the same language as the ISO CG 20 33 which says that the automatic status is extended to the party with whom the NI has made the contract and not any other party that the contract also requires to be an AI. A recent case in point was a CG 20 33 where the contract between the GC and Sub said that the sub had to name the GC and owner and provide certificates. A third party was injured and sued all three. The Sub and GC were defended but defense was denied to the owner as the owner’s status as an AI was not granted by the endorsement.
1. Paragraph 2. under SECTION II - WHO IS AN INSURED is amended to include as an insured any person or organization when you (NI) and such person or organization (the party to the contract with the NI) have agreed in writing in a contract, agreement or permit that such person or organization be added as an additional insured on your policy to provide insurance such as is afforded under this Coverage Part.
IRMI has a discussion of this issue and they cite the case of Brooklyn Hosp. Ctr. v. One Beacon Ins., 5 Misc. 3d 1029(A), 2004 WL 2913774 (N.Y. Sup.) as one court that has followed the restrictive interpretation that AI status is extended only to the party with which the insured has directly contracted. Clearly, this makes any blanket AI endorsement with similar wording virtually worthless to upstream parties. The Big “I” Technical Affairs committee discussed this with ISO at our May meeting and they’re pursuing it through that channel.
The endorsement clearly limits protection to only the individual/entity that the insured has contracted with.
Ask the insurer to specifically name all the required parties as additional insureds. Do not rely on opinions of other people. Post loss attorneys could argue the language either way. A layperson might read it as applying only to the actual contracting party.
The issue is similar to the discussion regarding the CG 20 33 which refers to “any person or organization for whom you are performing operations.” Some claim this limits coverage only to the immediate upstream party. My belief is that few if any courts would read it in such a restrictive manner. If, for example, your insured is a sub-sub, is it not performing operations not only for the subcontractor that engaged its services but also for the GC and owner?
By Mike Kreidler Washington State Insurance Commissioner
Health Care d n a m r o f Re s r e c u d o r P
nsurance is a changing landscape, and nowhere is that more true than in the arena of health coverage. In 2014, key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will take effect, including launch of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. The exchange, a public-private partnership, will be an online marketplace through which people and small businesses can buy health coverage. For some, the coverage will be partly subsidized. A new category of helper, known in the legislation as “navigators,” will be established to help consumers assess their coverage options. Many health insurance producers – there are more than 25,000 living in Washington -- have questions and concerns about the Exchange and the navigators program. Producers want to know what it means for their business and their customers. They’re worried about losing clients. Here’s what I predict: I do not envision major erosion of producers’ position with their clients. In fact, I believe that producers who prepare and position themselves well will find the next few years an excellent time to expand their business. Here’s why: We calculate that at least 600,000 Washingtonians who today don’t have insurance will be looking for it in the private market. Many currently insured people are also likely to be curious about what’s available and want to shop. While it can be expected that some clients will turn to the Exchange website and navigators rather than contact their agent, a proactive agent or broker can anticipate a client’s curiosity and conserve the business through early contact. After all, navigators and the Exchange website will not be able to answer everyone’s questions. There likely won’t 10
be enough navigators or call center assistance to meet the big surge in demand, at least initially. It’s a new program that is just now in the planning stages. And in some cases, Exchange plans will simply not be best for the consumer. Given interest we’ve seen recently from health insurers trying to expand their businesses into Washington, the market outside of the Exchange may be more robust. Navigators, who must be impartial, cannot recommend specific plans, nor steer business to the Exchange. I believe that many existing clients will seek assistance from the familiar source in which they have the most confidence: their agent or broker. That said, producers should also be proactive in being prepared to serve their clients through the products offered in the Exchange. Some agents are working to develop a relationship – yet to be defined – with the Exchange through which they would sell the Exchange’s health plans. That’s the direction Oregon is headed in with its exchange’s “Agent Management Program”, and I think it’s an idea worth exploring. Oregon’s trying to develop a system through which producers would affiliate with that state’s exchange, which would collect and distribute commissions from the insurance companies selling in the exchange. We’re also well aware of the erosion in commissions for small groups, and we’re watching closely to see what carriers do with commissions moving forward. So here’s what I’d recommend: Producers will have to be knowledgeable about Exchange plans and how to work with the Exchange. (The Exchange website’s “plan-finder,” which will be used by consumers and navigators, will also be available to agents and brokers assisting their clients.)
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Producers and their associations should be making their voices heard as the Exchange takes shape. They’ll also have be familiar with plans sold outside the Exchange. Savvy producers would likely want to contact clients in anticipation of the Exchange enrollment period, which starts in October 2013, to offer assistance in buying a plan. It would be a good time to review their health insurance to determine what’s best for a client. I strongly believe that health care reform is headed in the right direction. Yes, big change can be messy, and there will undoubtedly need to be tweaks made along the way to full implementation. But the old system – growing numbers of uninsured families, surging rates, and ever-higher uncompensated care – was unsustainable. I’m proud to see the nation moving ahead on this issue, and I’m convinced that health insurance producers will continue to play a very critical role. Mike Kreidler is a former state legislator, member of Congress and health care provider. He is serving his third term as Washington’s elected insurance commissioner.
IIABW’s View on the Role of Navigators
IABW has argued that the involvement of agents in the health exchange is critical to its success. Exchanges in the past that have tried to cut agents out have
failed. We have worked with the state Health Care Authority’s committees to ensure that the role of agents and navigators are clear and not overlapping. In a recent draft document created by the Health Care Authority to explain the responsibilities of navigators, it states that navigators will “assist the consumer to compare the plan benefits and costs and how each plan aligns with the consumer’s or the families’ health-related issues and needs and select a QHP.” IIABW believes this is far beyond the scope that the Obama Administration had envisioned for navigators. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote a letter to Congress on July 11th which stated that navigators will not “offer advice about which qualified health plan is better or worse for a particular individual or employer. Instead, Navigators will provide impartial information to help consumers understand the differences in premium amounts, cost-sharing policies, and benefit structures among plans, and they will help consumers submit information to begin the eligibility and enrollment process. They will not advise consumers about which health plan they should choose”
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Tracking Key Metrics The author studied the differences between high growth agencies in his territory and those that were not growing or growing only marginally. He determined that a key differentiator for the high growth agencies is that they tracked and acted upon key metrics relating to the origins of their business, close ratios, revenue and policies per client, retention and average client tenure. Based upon his research, the author then outlines the twelve key metrics agencies should track to maximize their marketing efforts and grow their business. He also lays out how agencies can generate those metrics. By Chuck Blondino, Safeco Insurance
ndependent agents should be winning in the personal lines marketplace, even dominating. Is there any other industry where companies selling just one option have a majority of the market share over other companies in that industry selling multiple options of the same product? Think of cars, ice cream, or appliances. The company selling multiple brands consistently beats companies selling just one option. And yet, in the world of personal lines insurance where independent agencies have multiple insurance carriers to sell and choose from, independent agents have around 33% of the personal lines market share. (A.M. Best 2011 data) It’s been this way for five years, almost no movement. Many agencies claim they’re growing a little, but it takes 1.7% growth per year just to keep up with the population increase and stay flat with market share. (US Census Bureau, 2000 to 2010 population annual growth average) High Growth Agencies Track Metrics While most agencies change little in size of their personal lines books, there are a select few high growth agencies consistently increasing their total personal lines books by 10 to 24%. (Safeco NW Region top 25 personal lines high growth agencies study in 2011) Comparing the commonalities of these agencies, it’s clear that they stand out in their sales methods, training, and support. One thing really was truly unique – these agencies tracked their marketing efforts and knew what was effective and what was not. For the purposes of this article we’ll keep the discussion to personal lines, but many of the tracking metrics that follow will work for commercial as well. Marketing an independent agency is different from 14
marketing an insurance company. Large insurance companies need to drive greater name recognition. But like all small businesses, insurance agencies need to be more efficient, more cost effective. Simply put, your marketing efforts should be the result of knowing where your new business comes from, and how much revenue you make from the new business, so you can focus on how to drive in more and keep more. Key Metrics for Growth To gain back some of that market share, independent agents will need to get more effective with their marketing. Let’s take a look at what the high growth agencies specifically track to help achieve their high growth numbers. These tracking methods can help you grow too. These 25 growth agencies tracked 12 common items. They fall into three categories: new business, average revenue per client, and retention. Here’s a look into each of the 12, along with a few key target examples so you can see how you compare. As you read through this, put a mental check mark by all that you’re currently tracking in your agency.
NEW BUSINESS Item 1: Total new business items This is fairly easily tracked through agency management systems. Most can say how many new policies were written. But it gets tougher from here. Item 2: Where each new policy comes from Here’s the big one. The most important question each person must ask on every call is, “How did you hear about us?”
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Everyone knows it. Without this, everything else falls apart. You can tell where the business comes from, which advertising dollars are most effective, where to focus your efforts and more, just from this question. Once asked, then the tracking begins. The more detailed you get, the more you’ll learn. Here are 10 basic tracking categories: Total new business items – 1. # from cross sell efforts 2. # from client referrals 3. # from mortgage referrals 4. # from real estate referrals 5. # from walk ins 6. # from phone books 7. # from print ads 8. # from website 9. # from Facebook 10. # from other You can also track on a much deeper level. You can break out referral leads by each producer’s clients. You can track referrals by individual mortgage companies, real estate agencies, title companies and credit unions. This helps you understand which centers of influence are high quantity referral sources and thus where to spend time enhancing relationships. Or you can view the low production sources,
so you can either change focus or drop the lead source completely. Item 3: Close ratio by category Learning your close ratio by category can also be a big boost. It’s clear where you should spend your time if you know, for example, that your close ratios for mortgage companies and certain captive agent referrals are near 80% and other methods are at 25%, Some of these agents who track close ratios know that their client referrals are closing around 70%, while other agencies know they close client referrals at 35%. Digging further, those with the higher close ratios are only considering true client referrals to be those where the person referred is calling for a quote. Agencies with the lower close ratio are accepting any name and phone number given by a client as a referral, but this means that the prospect may or may not be ready to look into insurance at the time you call, and the agency is spending resources to continue to call and follow up on each lead. Both methods can work, and several agents say that they want to encourage the behavior of giving any referral. But if you are tracking everything, at least you’ll know which ones are most effective.
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Item 4: Monthly close ratio by producer This is an excellent training tool. If you know your agency closes referrals at 55%, but that your three producers are closing referrals at close ratios of 70%, 50% and 35%, then you’ll know where you should focus your sales training internally. Sounds easy, but you can’t do this if you don’t track close ratios!
AVERAGE REVENUE PER CLIENT Item 5: Total premium Another easy one to track. This needs to be done for all personal lines in the agency, not just by carrier, so compile the totals and read on. Item 6: Total policies Also easy to track by totaling all of your policies by carrier into one agency number. Item 7: Total number of clients This equates to total households. Pull the total number of addresses from your agency management system to get this tally.
Item 8: Average number of policies per client Divide total policies into the total number of clients to get this number. This is one of the most helpful statistics you have to tell you how your team is cross selling your book. A rough average of number of policies per client to use is 1.6. If you’re averaging 1.4, you know that one of the first things you should do is a big cross sell effort throughout your book. Cross selling boosts both new business and retention, so if your average policies per client are 1.6 or less, you should focus your marketing efforts here first. What is the high end ceiling for average policies per client? Very few agencies average 3 or more policies per personal lines client. It’s challenging to move your book one tenth of a point in this category. But if you track it monthly and can see growth over 3 months of 1.72, 1.73, 1.74, you know you’re making solid progress on cross selling. If not, you may want to do some cross selling mailings with phone call follow ups. Or it may show a need for you to do more internal sales training on cross selling to protect your clients properly. Item 9: Average premium per policy To find this amount, divide total premium by total number of policies.
Item 10: Average revenue per client This is more challenging, but it’s the jewel of tracking numbers for every agency. To determine the average revenue per client, multiply the average premium per policy by average policies per client. For example, if your average premium per policy is $1000, and your average policies per client is 1.6, then your average premium per client is $1600. Now multiply your average premium per client by your average commission. For example, $1600 average premium per client times your average commission of 13% would equate to average revenue per client like this: $1600 x .13 = $208 average agency revenue per client. What is a good target range for average revenue per client in personal lines? Heavy non-standard agencies selling mostly monoline auto will be in the $140 to $180 range. In low catastrophe areas, average preferred agencies will see $190 to $240. In more affluent areas or places with increased catastrophe exposure, the average revenue per client is higher, averaging $280 to $325 per client. Once you know this number, and you know where your business comes from, you can easily track your return on your investment. Agents who know these numbers are shooting for a 1 to 1 first year return on all of their marketing. For example, if you’re spending $1000 per month on phone book ads, and your
average revenue per client is $200, then you know you need to write 5 new clients each month to get a 1 to 1 return. If you’re not, then you may want to consider shrinking your marketing in that area. If your newsletters are driving a 1 to 1 first year return or better based on the increased referral traffic, then you know your marketing there is paying off.
RETENTION Item 11: Retention for your entire book each month To determine your monthly average retention, you’ll need to know: -- Total policies from 12 months ago -- Total policies as of the last month end -- New business total policies written over the past 12 months For example, let’s say 12 months ago you had 1000 policies. At the end of the 12 months ending last month, you had 1150 policies. Subtract the 250 policies you wrote new over the 12 months from the ending total of 1150, and you kept 900 or 90% of the original 1000. (Be sure you’re not counting rewrites as new!) Is focusing on retention worth it? Here’s how to find out. Multiply your current annual revenue by your current retention rate. Do that over 10 years. Don’t add in new business; just
clients you have. This will give you the average length of time clients stay with you. Excellent marketing tactics should deliver a $1.00 return for every $1.00 spent or better in the first year, but you get a much stronger picture for how profitable your marketing is when you know how long you retain your clients on average. Keep tracking each of these metrics and you’ll enjoy seeing how your monthly report card can drive growth and stronger profitability.
see what happens to your current book over 10 years. Then multiply the same starting annual revenue by a retention number 3 points higher over 10 years, and calculate the difference. Here’s what it looks like for a $1 million revenue agency that moves it’s retention from 88% to 91%:
Chuck Blondino is the Northwest Region Marketing Director for Safeco Insurance, Member of Liberty Mutual Group. Chuck wrote this article for ACT and he can be reached at Chuck.Blondino@Safeco.com. This article reflects the views of the author and is not an official statement by Safeco Insurance or by ACT.
Item 12: Average length of time clients stay with you Determine the number of years each client has been with you. Tracking in whole years as opposed to months is easier when you start. Add up all the years clients have been with you (this will be big). Then divide that total and divide by the number of
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Successful Second Joint Conference
IIABW/PIA WA Joint Conference September 20-21, 2012 Coeur d’Alene Resort www.waconference.com Title Sponsors:
IABW and PIA followed last year’s historic joint conference with a blockbuster sequel. Collectively, the two associations have been in existence for over 180 years and held over 130 annual conferences separately. This year’s event at the Coeur d’Alene resort was attended by over 350 insurance professionals and received rave reviews. The sold out Trade Show provided attendees over 60 booths offering products and services. It provided a great opportunity for agents to talk to staff of hundreds of companies, wholesalers, technology vendors, etc. in one place. IIABW installed our new officers on Thursday afternoon. Mary Stien took over President from Darren McEuin. Mary is Parker Smith & Feek’s Private Client Group Manager and has been a partner with the firm since 1997. Pat Otter was elected President Elect. He is the owner of Otter Insurance in Lynnwood and has worked in the insurance industry over 17 years. Mike Button was elected Secretary/Treasurer. Mike is a commercial lines producer specializing in the construction industry and contract surety and has worked in the industry for 12 years. 20
IIABW Presents Awards IIABW’s top honor, the Don C. Burnam Lifetime Achievement award, was presented to Michael Rydbom for contributions he has made to his community, including leading his local Lions Club, education foundation, church council, United Way fundraising drive, school levies and a major Library expansion. Mike was also recognized for his leadership in the insurance industry as IIABW’s past president and our state’s former representative on the national Big I Board of Directors. Sue Knobeloch of Lovsted Worthington was presented the Agent of the Year award for her leadership on the national Big I Board as our state’s current representative as well as a member of the national Virtual University Committee and the state chair of our InsurPac committee. Bill Norman of Safeco Insurance was given the Industry Person of the Year award for his support of independent agents and the Big I. Bill has served on our state strategic planning committee and has spoken at numerous conferences over the years. At the national level, he has served on the InVest Board, Trusted Choice Partner Board and active on the Council of Best Practices and Future One Agency Universe Study. Bill was not able to accept the award because he was at an agent appreciate event. Ryan Stewart of the Partner’s Group (formerly Baldwin Resources Group) was presented the Young Agents of the Year Award for his advancement of the Young Agent Committee. Ryan has been a leader on the committee for 4 years and has helped organize some of the most successful events. 21
Golf Tournament The weather for the golf tournament was perfect and gave the 120 participants a great opportunity to network and have fun on one of the nicest courses in the Northwest. The winners were as follows: Foursomes: 1st Place: Mike Button, Jim and Sue Slaugenhaupt and Darren McEuin; 2nd Robb Dale, Guy Decosterd, Ryan Fournier and Dan Rucker; 3rd Carrie Cheshier, Sue Knobeloch, Dick Bass and Paul Duffy. Closest to the Pin: Sue Slaugenhaupt and David Houlihan; Longest Drive: Denise Hess and Ryan Pugh.
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IIABW Wins National Education Award
or the second year in a row, IIABW accepted a Gold Excellence in Insurance Education award from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. This award celebrates and recognizes state associations and staff who have made significant contributions to education for their members and the industry in the key areas of class offerings, continuing education, 7.5 x 4.625 professionalism, designation offerings, industry collaboration, planning goals, and jgs_umbrella_7.4x4.625v1 marketing. For Nov. 2011
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What to Do Today to Build Your Presence
By Robert Allan Paul
he phone rings in your office. Can you imagine not answering or never responding to the voicemail left? Could you conceive deleting an email from a potential client without reading it or following up with an appropriate reply? Of course not. Ignoring such inquiries would not only violate basic rules of customer service, but would also be detrimental to your company’s growth. Yet many companies have created a new website or established a corporate account on social media sites without the necessary follow-through— and without a daily commitment to engage online. These companies aren’t just failing to gain benefit from their online presence, but might actually be harming their brand because they are not interacting appropriately. The advent of online marketing has changed the playing field. In the past, marketers controlled the message, pushing content to customers. Now, the customer is in charge of the conversation; they’re pulling the content they want, when they want it, and they expect you to participate. If not, you are letting their questions, comments and complaints fall on deaf ears. As Paul Gillen remarked in Secrets of Social Media Marketing, “Social media challenges nearly every assumption about how businesses should communicate with their constituencies. The most important change to understand and to accept is that those constituencies now have the capacity to talk – to each other and to the businesses they patronize. In the past, those conversions have been limited to groups of at most a few people. Today, they are global and may include millions of voices. Once a shift like this occurs, a lot of change happens, both predictable and unforeseen.” To facilitate this new level of customer engagement, there are some simple basics: 1. Establish a daily schedule. Just as you set aside time to reply to emails or follow up on phone calls, commit to a block of time each day to review your sites and respond as needed. 26
2. Divide and conquer. If there are multiple sites to manage, assign different individuals to each one. Rotate responsibility occasionally to gain insight to your brand’s footprint and diverse customer perceptions. This is the process Project CAP uses to produce its weekly blog at www. ProjectCapMarketing.com and it’s made the content more interesting for all concerned. 3. Speak with one voice. Even though different people may be responding on different sites or to different customers, make sure you’re all reflecting your brand’s personality in the same way. This calls for creation of an “engagement strategy,” which establishes clear lines of responsibility, clarifies required timelines for response, and addresses how comments will be handled—from positive feedback to negative complaints. 4. Share conversations. Some messages will reveal issues that will require immediate action. Others can be collected for review by the group on a weekly or monthly basis so that you can track trends and understand what is driving customer comments. 5. Be genuine. The technology used—your computer—may be impersonal, but the conversation should be just as real as if you were having it face-to-face. You owe a quick, courteous response and if additional research is needed, timely followup. 6. Connect to sites. Just as you want to encourage customers to leave comments on your own sites, it is equally important to leave comments elsewhere on the Internet to improve your search rankings. Every time you leave a comment, create a link, “retweet” or indicate a “like,” you are increasing the amount of “interconnectivity” with your own site. This will ultimately increase your overall visibility and establish you as an expert within your own field.
AM Washington ad.pdf
7. Relish the opportunity to learn. Your online interactions will give you tremendous customer insight. You’ll be talking with customers who are eager to receive a response. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. The most important consideration as you approach the incredible resources of online marketing may be your attitude. Don’t look at it as another task, but as a direct line to your consumers. Once it becomes a part of your routine, it will feel as natural as picking up the phone or sending an email. And you’ll soon wonder what you ever did without it!
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For more information on Project CAP, visit ProjectCAPMarketing.com.
Robert Alan Paul (RobertPaul@ProjectCAPMarketing. com) is Vice President of Marketing for Project CAP. Project CAP provides digital marketing tools and services to help independent agencies, brokers and insurance carriers build their online brands and visibility in order to attract and interact with today’s digital consumers. Project CAP was created through an alliance of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”), Trusted Choice®, state associations and key insurance carriers to expand the independent agent›s share of the personal lines insurance market.
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Niche Markets Available to Big I Members Members of IIABW get access to hundreds of markets on Big I Markets. Here are the five popular ones:
MiddleOak habitational program helps you write apartment and community association risks under their fully admitted BOP: • Large Frame: multi-story, multi-million dollar valuation, non-sprinklered • Claims History: underwriter reviewed risk as a whole; not just the claims ratio • Off-Campus Student Housing • Older Buildings: pre-1960, well managed and updated in the last 30 years • Independent Senior Housing: 55+ community looking for a better rate • Open stairwells: other carrier didn’t want the exposure • Odd Building Configuration • Affordable Housing: privately owned, under the 1986 Low Income Housing tax credit (LIHTC) and other tax credit programs • ‘Non-current’ NFPA properties: battery smoke detectors, non-sprinklered 3+ story, no manual pull alarms • Converted: renovated mercantile/warehouse and office buildings converted into condos and apartments • Public Housing: owned & operated by HUD, Public Housing Authority, owned by state/local governments • New construction: just coming off of builder’s risk policy • Rental condominiums • Newly purchased: by an owner with prior experience • Rental dwelling schedule: well managed, fully updated • Remediated aluminum wiring • Mixed occupancies: apartments with offices and retail/ mercantile tenants below • Renovations: undergoing temporary and minor ‘cosmetic’ renovations to improve the building
Since not every home is going to fit into standard underwriting guidelines, Big I Markets has teamed with AI Risk Specialists Insurance, a subsidiary of AIG, that provides direct, local access to Lexington Insurance Company’s full range of property, casualty, and specialty insurance products and services. This non-admitted excess and surplus line is a great place to turn when your client has high claims or credit problems.
Bonds Federal, state and local governments require an incredible variety of surety bonds — from numerous license and permit bonds to ERISA bonds, court bonds, tax payment bonds, fidelity bonds, business bonds, broker bonds and many, many more. Goldleaf Surety Services only represents surety companies that are rated “Excellent” or better (by A.M. Best Company) and are T-Listed (approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury for federal bonds). With over twenty different companies to choose from, they are able to network individuals and businesses to the surety companies that best understand their industry and their particular bond needs. 28
• • • • • • • • • • •
Affluent Non-Standard Homeowner Coastal Homeowner Corporate Owned Homeowner Non-Standard Condo Non-Standard Rental dwellings Non-Standard Renters Personal builders Risk Unprotected Homeowner Unsupported Seasonal Homeowner Unsupported Secondary Homeowner Vacant Dwelling
Affluent Personal Lines Up to 70% of high net worth clients are still insured with direct writers and many have coverage that is inadequate for their needs. With one submission you can request a quote from the primary players in the affluent/high net worth market space, including: • ACE Private Risks Services • Chartis Private Client Group • Chubb Masterpiece • Firemen’s Fund Prestige® Portfolio
IIABW Testifies at B & O Hearing
IABW testified before the Citizens Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences on September 14 - asking the Commission to recommend continuing the current preferential tax rate for insurance producers’ sales commissions at 0.484%. The Commission’s preliminary recommendation would ask the legislature to review the current tax rate and clarify the public policy objectives associated with the current insurance producers’ rate. The Commission has three recommendation options: eliminate, review and clarify, and continue. “Review and clarify” is a common recommendation by the Commission. If the preferential rate were eliminated, insurance producers could be placed in the general business services rate category - which would more than triple the tax rate on insurance producers. The services B&O tax rate is 1.5% plus a 0.3% surcharge that expires June 30, 2013. In comments before the Commission, IIABW argued in defense of the current rate: • Insurance producers cannot pass a B&O tax rate increase on to customers since we cannot adjust the sales commission or set the price of the policy;
Insurance companies determine the price of the policy and sales commission rates and submit rate filings that take into account insurance companies’ costs but not insurance producers’ costs. • B & O taxes on commissions are double and sometimes even triple taxed. Sales commissions are part of the insurance premiums that are taxed with a 2% premium tax. Then, the commissions are taxed again when agencies pay the 0.484% tax. The commissions can be taxed a third time if an agency pays an independent contractor producer his/her commission split with another 0.484% tax. • Tripling the tax rate would create a significant competitive advantage for major out-of-state direct writers like GEICO who do not have a sales commission-based sales force and, as a result, pay no B&O taxes on sales commissions. The Commission is currently reviewing over 50 current tax rates, credits and exemptions (i.e. ‘loopholes’). In October, the Commission will finalize its recommendations for a joint legislative audit committee. This legislative committee will review the Commission’s recommendations in November and December and make a final recommendation to the legislature by the end of the year.
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Our team of professional and experienced consultants has assisted insurance companies and agencies in achieving their goals and objectives for many years. We focus on the following areas of business development. • • • • •
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Liberty Northwest® has been creating insurance solutions and providing superior services for businesses in the Northwest since 1923. We know how important it is for our agents to have the right resources to support the needs of their clients, which is why we pride ourselves on strong agent relationships and act with integrity and responsibility. Your success is our success – we are proud to support the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington.
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Published on Oct 31, 2012