Primary Agent - March 2021

Page 1

MARCH 2021


Exclusive Member Magazine

RELIABLE SERVICE RELIABLE RELATIONSHIPS Your restaurant customers can rely on Grinnell Mutual for specialized coverages and outstanding claims handling. That’s how we build relationships that last. Agents, contact your underwriter for details. Trust in Tomorrow.® Learn more today. To find out more about what we can do for you and your customers, contact Jason Leister, Sales Manager, at

AUTO | HOME | BUSINESS * Products available in Pennsylvania only “Trust in Tomorrow.” and “Grinnell Mutual” are registered trademarks of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. © Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, 2021.





ENJOY MY GREAT OUTDOORS IA&B Education Consultant Kevin Amrhein, CIC discusses insurance implications for the growing market of private land rentals for camping.


> > > > > 12

Q&A WITH JOSH HEEBNER AND DAVE RIVELL IA&B Members Josh Heebner and Dave Rivell share growing pains and success stories from 12 agency acquisitions in 10 years. WHO OWNS AGENCY DATA? The agent is the main gatekeeper of client data, but at the end of the day, does the agency maintain ownership of the data or surrender it to the systems that house it?

MONTHLY JOIN US ON SOCIAL MEDIA: IA&B is the premier resource and champion for independent insurance agents in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Periodical postage paid at Mechanicsburg, PA and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Insurance Agents & Brokers, 5050 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055. Primary Agent (ISSN 1543-3110), Permit # 638-620, Issue # 2021-03, is published monthly by IA&B Service Group Inc., a subsidiary of IA&B. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. No material may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent of the publisher. The information in this publication is general in nature and not intended to serve as legal, accounting, financial, insurance, investment advisory or other professional advice as to any reader’s particular situation. Users are encouraged to consult with competent legal, financial, insurance, investment advisory and/or other professional advisors concerning specific matters before making any decisions. We disclaim any responsibility for any decisions or actions by readers. Statements of fact and opinion in Primary Agent are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of the officers or the members of IA&B. Participation in IA&B events, activities and/or publications is available on a non-discriminatory basis and does not reflect IA&B endorsement of the products and/or services.















BRAVE NEW WORLD The past 12 months have revealed how rapidly the world, and our industry, are changing. Looking back farther, to when I first began my career, the changes to our work processes, work flow, marketing, selling, rating, and managing are more than astounding. It is not even the same world. Much of this change is good, of course. From sales, to service, to agency operations, we’re light years away from anything that I could have conceived. Automation and technology have, presumably, made us more efficient, more productive, and thorough, if utilized properly. In fact, we’ve had to keep pace with all of these tools, or our competition would have buried us.

INSURANCE AGENTS & BROKERS 5050 Ritter Road | Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 191 Main Street | Annapolis, MD 21401 800-998-9644 |

IA&B BOARD OF DIRECTORS OFFICERS Craig S. Mader, Chair Crofton, MD Richard M. Rankin, CIC, Vice Chair Lancaster, PA


However, exponential change is a double-edged sword. Technology has created new exposures for our customers and our own agencies, and these new exposures can be terrifying if not managed properly. This issue of Primary Agent explores a few: coverage implications of a new sharing economy venture,, (see page 4) and the tug-of-war over agency data (see page 12).

Gregory H. Bennett

One of the benefits of your IA&B membership is insight into these changes. Your agents’ association is committed to staying abreast of the emerging opportunities for you and your agency, as well as the evolving threats to your business. Beyond this month’s magazine articles, a prime example is IA&B’s recent focus on cyber security vulnerability. If you haven’t, I encourage you to learn more at and engage this vendor in a “cyber audit.” This is a tremendous resource that can help you solve any security gaps and is price effective in giving you peace of mind. Yes, it’s a brave new world, so let’s focus on the positives, stay vigilant in controlling and calculating our risks, and, together, make the best of it. Through it all, IA&B will remain your ally and primary resource. Respectfully,

Sarah M. Brown, CIC, CRM, AFIS Shrewsbury, PA E. Stephen Burnett, CIC, ARM Wilmington, DE N. Lee Dotson, CIC, AAI

Wilmington, DE

Andrew Enders, Esq.

Harrisburg, PA

Len Gieseler, LUTCF

Pottstown, PA

G. Greg Gunn, CIC

Lemoyne, PA

Bryan C. Hanes, JD

Hagerstown, MD

Jason R. Hess

Coraopolis, PA

Lisa A. Leach Goth, CIC

New Bethlehem, PA

Christopher J. Miller, CIC

Jonestown, PA

Michael A. Papa, CIC, MBA Hunt Valley, MD William H. Purdy

Sunbury, PA

Jason Rodriguez

Wilmington, DE

D. Bradley Rosenkilde Jr.

Hunt Valley, MD

Tara S. Silfies, CPCU

Bethlehem, PA

Robert L. Smyrl Jr., CIC

Hatfield, PA

J. Marshall Wolff, CIC, CPCU Easton, PA

NATIONAL DIRECTORS Michael P. Ertel Sr. (PIA) Columbia, MD

Craig S. Mader Chair of the Board


Bel Air, MD

MARCH 2021

G. Greg Gunn, CIC (IIABA) Lemoyne, PA Diane Hornung Hanby (IIABA) Wilmington, DE


CLAIRE-IFICATION IA&B Vice President - Advocacy Claire Pantaloni, CIC, CISR Are you a member with a question? Contact Claire to find the answer at 800-998-9644, ext. 604 or

QUESTION: Some of our insureds don’t speak fluent English. Is a POA necessary to discuss policies with their adult children?

ANSWER: Good question. Whether you’re trying to be branded as a multi-cultural agency or occasionally run into a non-English-speaking customer, this question is definitely relevant. As insurance professionals, we all know that insurance is arguably a language unto itself, and when there is a language barrier, the potential for misunderstanding is compounded. Using an interpreter as a liaison between the agent and the customer certainly helps ensure both that the customer understands the questions and that the responses conveyed back to you are accurate.

should all be signed by the insured. The translation agreement is not a Power of Attorney (POA), and the translator/interpreter should not be the one completing the application or signing any documents. Finally, you may want to keep the contact information for the family member or friend who is acting as a translator or interpreter, should a need arise to contact the customer at a later date.

Regarding the document itself, one of IA&B’s online E&O prevention resources discusses non-English-speaking clients, and provides some guidance surrounding the use of translation or interpretation services, be it by a family member, friend, or an outside service provider. In your case, having the insured sign a translation agreement (see the template provided on our website) should be an appropriate substitute. Always remember that the application and other policy documents themselves

This document is not a legal opinion and should not be relied upon as such. The intent of this document is to provide a general background regarding the topic or topics discussed, not to provide legal advice. Producers and agencies should consult an attorney regarding specific situations and specific questions with respect to the topic or topics covered in this document. Neither the Insurance Agents & Brokers nor any of its employees shall be responsible for any errors or omissions regarding any statements made in this document, nor any errors or omissions regarding any statutes, regulations, court rules, and/or any other government documents cited in this document.



ENJOY MY GREAT OUTDOORS By Kevin C. Amrhein, CIC For all the terrors unleased by COVID-19, there are silver-linings. As evidence, take the often-reported quantifiable investment spikes in wellness/personal care. Similarly, another commonly referenced “upside” to the pandemic is society’s booming interest in outdoor activities. As tourist-dependent cities and the travel industry that services them experienced massive declines in traffic, expenditures on recreational activities and equipment have risen. If you’ve searched online for an ideal spot to take the family glamping (or


for you traditional-types, camping), you may have stumbled across, yet another tech platform designed to capitalize on society’s shifting interest to peer-topeer economics. Think Airbnb but for property owners looking for renters to stay on their property – such as a vacant lot, backyard, farm, or pasture – for a daily fee. Renters may come in the form of a camper/RV or as individuals with gear. It’s an interesting idea. But this is a column about insurance, so without further ado … MARCH 2021

“Just What in the H#ll Are They Doing Out There?” Unapproved use of firearms. Unsupervised fires. Improper disposal of waste. Dogs – whether allowed via the rental agreement or not – that attack resident animals. Property damage. Booze. These and many other risks should concern owners. Should any act result in a claim, there might be insurance. Or there might not be. Let’s dive in:

COVERAGE CORNER “The Renter Broke My Stuff!” “Hello, insurance company? Hi, I’m calling to report that a knucklehead glamper backed his RV through my barn wall.” (Author’s note: That may have been the most fun I’ve had writing a sentence.) Platforms like Hipcamp often entice owners by promising to pay – subject to a limit – for damage caused by the renter. As you’d expect, such promises are packed with terms which may exclude payment for any number of reasons. A few examples of possible limitations: ▲ Damage considered caused due to wear and tear, ▲ Damage caused by an animal, ▲ A settlement was accepted from the renter for less than the actual damage amount, and ▲ The owner failed to report the damage before hosting another renter. Should damage not be compensated by the renter or the platform, owners may turn to personal insurance. Assuming that the property is insured with an unmodified ISO HO-3 (big assumption!) and that the owner is not in violation of underwriting restrictions, there is no across-theboard exclusion for damage to the owner’s property caused by a renter. That said, here are a few concerns in the HO-3’s Section I – Property Coverages: ▲ Land, including land on which the dwelling and/or other structure is located, is not covered. ▲ Other structures rented or held for rental are not covered.

▲ Damage to personal property is covered only if caused by a named peril. ▲ Animals, birds, or fish are property not covered. For example – no coverage should renter’s vehicle damage owner’s animal. ▲ Likely no coverage for loss of Fair Rental Value.

“BI or PD to/by Renter, and Everyone is Blaming Me?!” As an insurance guy and not an attorney, I can say with conviction: Waivers are good, coverage is better. Hipcamp and similar platforms require renter agreement to terms which include certain liability protections for the owner. Insurance folks and attorneys have been around this campfire long enough to know there are circumstances – contract ambiguity, gross negligence, etc. – which render such terms futile in any attempt to hold harmless. Some good news is that platforms like Hipcamp often entice owners by including general liability insurance – subject to a limit (typically $1M) – for third-party claims. Should such policy not offer sufficient limits, not respond to the claim on a primary basis, or worse – exclude the claim completely – owners may turn to personal insurance. As mentioned previously regarding property, rental liability exposures are often subject to carrier underwriting rules and/or policy endorsements. Here are here are a few concerns in an unendorsed HO3’s Section II – Liability Coverages: Continued on page 7


ONE HOUR WEBINARS Register for a 1-hour webinar. Member Price: Just $25 Earn CE by attending 1-hour webinars. HOUR W/CATHY: ENDORSEMENTS FOR CONTRACTORS MARCH 10 2 - 3 PM








PA | DE: 1 GEN MD: 1 PC

Register today. 800-998-9644, option 1


NEWS & NOTES PA, DE AGENCIES ELIGIBLE FOR $750 REIMBURSEMENT Put money back in your pocket. All IA&B member agencies in Pennsylvania and Delaware are eligible for the Trusted Choice Marketing Reimbursement Program (MRP) through our affiliation with the Big I. What Expenses Qualify? Option 1 A: Receive up to $750 toward digital marketing efforts, such as video production, display or social media ads, etc. Use the Trusted Choice customizable campaigns, or customize your own using the Trusted Choice logo. New for 2021 only: All members are eligible, even those which previously used the MRP.

CONGRATULATIONS, SHAYNE We extend our congratulations to Shayne McIntosh, CIC, commercial producer with JPI Insurance Associates Inc. in Dillsburg, PA. He received the inaugural IA&B CIC Designation Scholarship in January 2019 and completed his designation in late 2020. “All of my mentors hold continuing education to an extremely high standard,” shared Shayne. “They point to their CIC designation when asked, ‘What’s the best training you’ve been through?’ So I was all over it.”

Option 1 B: Receive up to $750 to co-brand your advertising and marketing materials with the Trusted Choice logo. Eligible materials include advertisements, promotional items, signage, business cards, and more. (This is available to new members and first time MRP users.) Option 2: Receive $500 to upgrade your website through a preferred vendor and include the Trusted Choice logo. This vendor list includes IA&B partner Forge3! (This is available once per member agency.) How Does It Work?

Shayne took in-person CIC institutes throughout 2019, and then in March 2020, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of all in-person seminars. By summer, IA&B launched an alternative – live CIC webinars. Shayne took the transition in stride and attended his final two institutes online. “My wife and I love the sunroom in our new home, so I spent my CIC days in there which was really nice,” said Shayne. “All of the institutes are fascinating when you get into policy details. Commercial Casualty was probably my favorite though because it forced me to think harder than any other course.”

All reimbursements are made on a tiered schedule, based on agencies meeting the requirements. Review the Marketing Reimbursement Program guidelines and submission form available at money. (Note: You’ll need your Big “I” password to log in. Reset it online.) What Is Trusted Choice? Trusted Choice is the consumer-facing brand of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, better known as the Big I. All IA&B members in Delaware and Pennsylvania are also Big I members. Questions?

Shayne’s advice for those considering the designation? “Don’t waste any more time thinking about it. There’s no better strategy for feeling confident, avoiding E&O concerns, remaining profitable, and ultimately being successful.”


MARCH 2021

Contact IA&B Brand Manager Megan Fioretta at 800-998-9644, ext. 605 or

INSIGHT INTO PA LOSS COST FILING IA&B staff met virtually with the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) this winter to review the Loss Cost filing submitted to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, to take effect April 1, 2021. As in prior years, the loss cost trends continue to show a decrease in frequency. This decrease more than offsets the increase in severity, and the ultimate loss cost for April 1 shows an overall -3.02% change. Of particular interest is the Loss Cost Change History over 10 years. The cumulative effects of the loss cost drops over the last decade led to a whopping -48.12%. This is before Loss Cost Multipliers are applied by carriers. COVID-19 Impacts Other subjects broached during the conversation included anticipated impacts of COVID-19 on the 2020 year and future loss cost filings. While it is too early to tell, since the data has not been aggregated yet and only a limited number of claims are eligible for Workers’ Compensation, the initial assessment is that COVID-19’s impact on the economy will be much greater than COVID claims themselves. However, it is anticipated that some experience-rated employers may no longer be eligible due to lower premiums collected (when employees were furloughed).


OUTDOORS Continued from page 5 ▲ BI or PD caused by the renter’s motorhome/RV/ camper trailer is excluded. ▲ BI or PD arising from a “business” is excluded. Note that exceptions in the definition of “business” as well as the “business” exclusion may negate this exclusion. Exceptions will depend on interpretation of undefined terms such as trade and residence. Thus, underwriting guidance is recommended. ▲ BI or PD arising out of a premises owned by or rented to others by an “insured” that is not an “insured location” is excluded. For example – renting land that is not vacant or not scheduled on the policy. That’s all for now. Until the next round … cheers! Kevin C Amrhein, CIC, is IA&B‘s education consultant. He works with our CISR and CIC programs, as well as our special topic seminars and live webinars. Catch him at one of our upcoming professional training offerings: IABforME. com/education.

IA&B members have reported recent ransomware and other cyberattacks. How vulnerable is your agency? And how can you better safeguard your business? View the recording of our recent webinar to discover how hackers can take over your system. The webinar included a phishing attack simulation, so you can see how it happens. You’ll learn how you can protect your business and clients through a cyber security vulnerability assessment and how that assessment can give you confidence, as a business owner, that everything is secure. The webinar recording is intended for IA&B member agency owners, principals, and leadership. Contact Paul Kapadia at 732-423-9991 or


Q&A with

DAVE RIVELL & JOSH HEEBNER Element Risk Management Partners Josh Heebner and Dave Rivell opened their agency in West Chester, PA in 2011. Since then, they’ve acquired 12 agencies, expanding their footprint across Pennsylvania and into Maryland and Virginia. Q. We understand that you two met on a job interview – for the same position! How did that play out? Josh Heebner: Dave didn’t get the job, but I did. Dave Rivell: Yeah right, he wishes! Josh (laughing): We met on an interview in Chicago. The insurance company, FirstComp, had one job available, but they liked both of us, so they created two jobs…. We grew [the business] rapidly. It was a lot of fun, and it’s where we got to know a lot of the small agencies that we deal with today in Pennsylvania. Dave: They flew us into O’Hare. All of the interviews were inside the airport. After the interviews, we ended up sitting next to each other in a bar waiting for our flight. We got to talking, and the more questions we asked each other, we realized we had just interviewed for the same job! Josh: That was 16 years ago. Dave: For both of us, it was our first job in the industry. Josh was selling bricks. I was selling software to the government. Neither of us knew anything about insurance. A brick salesman and a government contractors walk into a bar…. It sounds like an old joke!


England, and it was time to move back home. I knew I always wanted to join the agency side. So when Dave and I got together, I had done the carrier thing, gotten to know agencies, and thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Dave: After I left FirstComp, I worked in the premium finance industry. So once again, I got to see agencies all across the map – some high-performing agencies, some that had been around forever and had that nostalgia to them. These smaller business were really attractive to me, and I saw that you could have that local feel and still grow a very professional firm, and I had a ton of respect for those agencies. The more I got to know those people and look up to them, the more confident I was that insurance was the right industry for me. Q. When you branched off to form Element Risk Management, what did you get right? And what do you wish you had done differently?

Q. Eventually you both left the carrier side to work together as producers. What prompted that change, and what was the transition like?

Josh: What did we do right? We took the risk. We kept our heads down and did what we had to do that day to stay in business. It took us a couple months to even pay ourselves a salary, which was daunting. As far as the things I wish we would have done differently, I wish we would have taken more seriously the business side of things. In insurance, accounting can get out of whack pretty quickly. Not surrounding ourselves with trusted advisors that could have helped us was a mistake.

Josh: At that point, I was working in middle management for the same insurance company. I was living in New

Dave: The thing we got right was that we committed to a vision from the beginning. Everything we took on, we

MARCH 2021

ON THE COVER asked, ‘Is it scalable?’ So with the phone system, on day one we had three people in a tiny little office. But the phone system we chose can grow to accommodate 500 people across a super-regional firm. Something we got wrong was hiring. Our hiring process today has changed so much from the beginning. When you’re barely able to pay yourself, you’re open to any producer willing to come on board. I wish we had done a better job of vetting at the beginning. These days, I’m so proud of the quality of our team and the culture we have established. Our first question now is whether someone is a culture fit for both where we are today and where the company is going. I just wish we had the same vision for our team as we did for our business when we started. Q. You’ve grown rapidly through acquisition. How do you approach the process? Dave: We’re keeping the heart and soul of the independent and local agency channel while still growing into a large company. We’re building a network of agencies that work together as a team. Accordingly, we’re looking at someone who cares about their team and their business as a legacy. That’s our seller. I say that we’re someone’s third best option – our sellers wish they had a family member to pass it along to or, secondarily, an internal team that could take over. For agencies where that’s just not an option, they have that kind of love of their business, their community, and their clients and want to keep their team together and honor the agency’s legacy. And that’s where we come in. That’s our approach: We want to stay in the community. We want to look and feel like what I affectionately call a ‘Mom and Pop Agency.’ What allows us to do that is technology. We leverage technology to operate as one even though we’re each in our own community. Q. What’s your outlook for the M&A market? How has it been impacted (or how to you anticipate it will be impacted) by the pandemic? Josh: Generally speaking, the pandemic will prove to be another historical marker for insurance agencies to show investors that the insurance agency and brokerage industry is worth investing in. When you look at data from Marsh, venture capital firms really got interested in insurance agencies back in ’08. Before that, acquisition by folks outside the industry was minimal. Once everyone looked at the agency data coming out of the Great

Recession, they saw that, in bad times, agencies may get more profitable – hard markets come in, premiums rise, and with it commissions. I think the pandemic will be another historical marker for those exterior firms to double down on this industry. So I suspect agency values may continue to creep up as a result. For generalist agencies, value probably went up. Dave: People run to safety in uncertain times. Pandemic aside, it’s a safe industry with recurring revenue. And when you look at the demographics of agency owners, if anything, for owners, their value continues to go up due to simple supply and demand. Right now there are far more people looking to buy than those who are looking to sell. Q. As a tech-forward agency, what have been your most worthwhile technology investments? Josh: There’s a couple we could point to. From a hardware perspective, our entire organization runs on Microsoft Surface. It’s great for our staff to travel between offices, to work from different locations or from home. Surface enables video conferencing, which has been huge, especially in the past year. It also allows anyone to work from any work station at any time. Being a Microsoft Surface environment, and by an extension an Office 365 environment, has been hugely beneficial for us. We started using Teams two years ago, prior to the pandemic. We run our phones through the computers. We run our agency management system via the internet. Everything we do and every technology decision we make goes back to, ‘Can I be somewhere else and will it still work?’ Everything we have is that way, and it has been a huge asset for us. Dave: Since day one, we’ve used the analogy that I keep gas in the tank, and Josh makes sure the engine runs well. So for me, it’s Rocket Referrals. It’s meant to get you Google reviews, but it lets us know how our clients feel about our team members. The vast majority is very positive, and we send out an email to the entire company every Friday with highlights. It has been very helpful from a culture-building standpoint. It also tells you when something’s awry, and sometimes it’s not related to us but still lets us know what’s going on. It’s been a very powerful tech tool. We’ve done a lot better with black-and-white data points, instead of gut feelings on things. Continued on page 17



OUR FEATURED PLATINUM PARTNER Insurance Agents & Brokers proudly recognizes Millers Mutual as one of its Platinum Partners. IA&B Platinum Partners dedicate the highest level of sponsorship to our organization.


NOW OFFERING STUDENT HOUSING INSURANCE Student housing can be a very difficult class of multifamily housing to place, however, this class of business fits nicely into our multifamily housing niche. Our target profile is off-campus, privately owned student housing that matches the size profile we currently write in Market Rate and Affordable Housing. We believe we can fill a gap in the market and provide a stable home to an unstable sector.

Jonah Mull President and CEO We’re committed to being a valuable resource for, and maintaining relationships with, our independent agency partners by providing exceptional property-driven insurance for building owners in PA, DE, MD, OH, VA and D.C. We’ve focused our appetite so that we may provide the highest value possible to our agents and our customers.

Learn more at https://millersmutualgroup. com/products/student-housing-insurance/ 10

MARCH 2021

Thank You

Thanks to these partners for supporting the independent agent network.



Acuity Erie Insurance The Main Street America Group

Our reputation for insuring apartment buildings and rental properties is unrivaled.

Millers Mutual Insurance


Penn National Insurance

At Millers, we choose to be a part of the affordable housing solution.

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE Commercial property is our specialty— from office buildings to strip malls

Nationwide Plymouth Rock Assurance

GOLD PARTNERS Chesapeake Employers Insurance Company Chubb Donegal Insurance Group EMC Insurance Companies Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Marble Keystone Insurers Group Inc

STUDENT HOUSING Now offering off-campus, privately owned student housing insurance.

Lackawanna Insurance Group Liberty Mutual Business & Safeco Insurance MMG Insurance Company Mutual Benefit Group Narragansett Bay Insurance Company Progressive

BECOME A PARTNER TODAY Interested in becoming a partner? Reach out today.

Associate Members of the Pennsylvania Apartment Association and National Apartment Association

Tim Wonder IA&B VP-Membership 800-998-9644, ext. 351 11



By Rachel Stauffer, HawkSoft

14 12

MARCH 2021

FEATURE In the insurance industry, client data goes through many different touchpoints, and ownership of it has long been in a tug-of-war between multiple stakeholders: the client, whose information it is; the agency, who collects it; the carrier, who produces policy data; the management system, which stores it; and other third-party technology vendors, who access it. The agent is the main gatekeeper of client data, but at the end of the day, is your agency maintaining ownership over your data or surrendering it to the systems that house it?

THE WAR OVER CLIENT DATA Client data is one of the most valuable resources an agency has, and they often don’t realize they’re sharing or even signing away ownership of it to the technology vendors they use. Many of the largest agency management systems and technology providers are being bought out or given investment capital by private equity and big data companies, which spend billions to acquire the aggregated data of the agencies that use them. Seth Zaremba, owner of Zinc Insurance and creator of its custom-made technology platform, spoke his mind on the topic to Insurance Journal in a recent article: “Data is extremely valuable to understanding the consumer, and agents – the only people who have relationships with the consumer – are giving that away to our vendors so that they can turn it into revenue. Agents are being farmed by many of these monolithic giants in the industry that now lock us into long contracts and then farm us for our data.” So what can your agency do to make sure the technology providers you work with aren’t taking advantage of the data you’ve collected? It’s your duty to advocate for your agency’s ownership of data. “Your agency’s data belongs to you until you grant that ownership to another party,” says Sean Hawkins, Chief Product Officer of HawkSoft agency management system. “Make sure you choose partners you

QUESTIONS TO ASK VENDORS ABOUT YOUR DATA How can you tell whether the technology vendors you work with allow your agency to truly own and control the use of your data? There are three important things you should ask when considering an agency management system or any other technology platform that will house or access your client data.


Does the agreement give the vendor ownership of your agency data?

Most vendors will require you to either sign a contract or licensing agreement, or accept their terms and conditions, in order to use their product. Before accepting any agreement with a vendor, make sure you understand whether the vendor is entitled to share, sell, or otherwise use your agency’s data without your consent. If the language is unclear, it may be a red flag that the vendor is not willing to cede the right to the data to the agency. Ask the vendor for clarification and make sure that you have their stance in writing before accepting an agreement. If the vendor’s views on data ownership don’t mesh with yours, it may be time to move on. Another thing to consider at this stage is who owns or has a stake in the company, and what their motivations could be. If the company has outside investors or has changed ownership recently or many times in the past, it’s possible the scope of the product and the agreement may change in the future as well. “It’s important for your agency to feel comfortable that you can place your trust in a vendor not only at the moment you sign the agreement, but well into the future,” says HawkSoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, Rushang Shah. “Vendors like HawkSoft, for example, that are privately owned have the advantage of having fewer stakeholders to answer to besides the agent, so they can focus purely on what’s best for the agent rather than making a quick return on investment.”

trust to keep your data safe and to keep your data yours.”

15 13




Is your data tethered to the system if you decide to leave?

True ownership of data means it’s not trapped in one system – an agency should be free to change systems if necessary for their business. But vendors often make it difficult for agencies to leave by locking them into longterm contracts and making it costly and time-consuming for them to get a copy of their own data, often charging thousands of dollars in data extraction fees and taking months to provide the agency with a copy of their own data when they leave. If this sounds like your data is essentially being held digitally hostage, it is. Here are some things to consider that will give you a better idea of how much control you’ll have over your data once it’s in a vendor’s system:

Does the vendor allow you to integrate your data with other platforms?

Another important part of data ownership is the ability to connect your client data with other systems that help you run your business, such as marketing automation, review management, raters, and more. No one system does everything an agency needs – nor should it, according to Todd Sorrel, co-founder of ePayPolicy payment processing system, in a recent article he wrote for Rough Notes. Rather than trying to find one system that “has it all,” he recommends looking at systems that specialize in what they do and integrate well with other systems. “When you go out to dinner,” he says, “you don’t want the same person who valets your car to seat you, serve and bus your table, and cook your meal.... Each of these individuals

▲ Does the agreement specify a minimum term of use?

plays a specialized role in your dining experience. The same holds true with your agency technology stack.”

▲ How much notice are you required to give before leaving?

One of the best ways technology vendors can facilitate access to client data for other platforms is through API

▲ Can you create a backup of your data in the system at any time?

integration. By offering API integration with a variety of systems, vendors can show they are committed to meeting all the needs of an agency – not just the ones

▲ How much does the vendor charge for providing a copy of your data if you leave, and how quickly will they provide it?

solved by their product. Torey Maerz, co-founder and CEO of Rocket Referrals,

▲ What format is the data provided in, and is it easy to manipulate or convert to another system?

points out that this level of connectivity differentiates the agency as well. “Agents who use tools with open connectivity have an advantage,” he said to HawkSoft. “They can pick the right set of systems for their business

▲ If you are bringing past data to a new vendor, how much will they charge to convert the data, and how long will it take?

to create the best customer experiences – a key differentiator in today’s market.”

“Agencies are sometimes blinded by a low introductory offer for a management system,” says HawkSoft’s VP of Sales, Paul Moyes. “What they may not be taking into account is how costly that decision can become when they are bringing data with them, or when they want to change systems down the road.”

Rocket Referrals has been a member of HawkSoft’s Partner API program since August 2020. “It’s inspiring to see the collaboration happening in our industry,” Maerz said. “I’m excited to see more and more API integrations offered among various systems as we continue to innovate and build even better tools for agents.”

MARCH 2021

The quality of a vendor’s API partners is just as important as the quantity offered, since the partner will be accessing your policyholders’ data too if enabled. Look for vendors who thoroughly vet their partners and hold them to data practices that are fair to the agency; you want a vendor that goes to bat for your agency. HawkSoft’s Business Development Coordinator, Kenny Hendricks, drives the company’s Partner API program, which currently offers 15 API integrations and is in talks with over 40 more platforms. “The single most important aspect of my job is ensuring we partner with vendors that we can trust and who are committed to respecting an agency’s ownership of their data as much as we do,” Kenny says. “Agencies should take the same care in vetting vendors themselves.”

DATA IS VALUE We often talk about partnering with companies which respect or share the agency’s values. Data ownership is one area where it’s imperative for those values to align. Finding like-minded technology partners to handle your agency’s data can mean the difference between maintaining ownership of one of your agency’s most valuable assets, and giving it away for free.


Rachel Stauffer provided this article on behalf of HawkSoft, a leader in management systems for independent insurance agencies that want effective workflows and a delightful experience for staff and policyholders. Learn more at


Why are

75% of independent agencies across the country joining a network?

Because scale is necessary regardless of the size of your agency. Keep your independence and grow your book with a top national network. Not only is ANE outperforming the industry, our contract is SIMPLE, the fee is MINIMAL, and the ability to leave is EASY.

To learn more, contact: | (800) 700-9643

CYBER SECURITY VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT PROTECT YOUR AGENCY FROM HACKERS We partnered with Radiant to offer your agency a lowcost, fee-based cyber security vulnerability assessment without disrupting your daily operations.

To learn more, contact: Paul Kapadia 732-423-9991 |

Q&A Continued from page 9 Q. Your original office is in the heart of West Chester, PA. Tell us about the town and what makes it great! Dave: I love West Chester. People support each other, businesses rally together. It’s come a long way. A lot of developers work together with the Borough to preserve architectural integrity. It’s a beautiful town, and the people are awesome. Josh: West Chester typifies the type of town that we have offices in across Pennsylvania and Virginia. Not always, but typically we’re in county seats, typically we’re in town. Pennsylvania has all of these wonderful towns with really great people. That’s what draws agencies to our business model – that they can operate in Hanover or East Berlin or Biglerville thanks to technology. You’ve got really great people there who can be part of something bigger but still maintain a presence in that town. So West Chester typifies what we’re going for.

o Co

s’ ion

We distinguish our Workers’ Compensation coverage by providing value-added services before, during, and after a claim. We’ve been successfully protecting our policyholders and their employees for decades. Up-front loss control measures Responsive claims handling Facilitation of quality medical care (when an accident does occur) Our Workers’ Compensation policy is available nationwide except in monopolistic states: ND, OH, WA, and WY.



P IC S & P O S T S 18

MARCH 2021



T R A I N I N G & E D U C AT I O N



Editor: Karen Robison 800-998-9644, ext. 606 Contributing editors: Jennifer Ross, Megan Fioretta, Melissa Telesha

MARCH 2021

Sales Account Executive: Laura Gaenzle 717-430-2351

Connect with Other Agents & Get CE Credits Online Register today! 800-998-9644, option 1






Mar 2

CISR Commercial Casualty I

8AM - 4PM

Mar 2

Financially Surviving Retirement

1PM - 4PM

Mar 3

Annuities: Consumer Protection & Suitability

9 AM-1 PM

Mar 4

CISR Life & Health Essentials

8AM - 4PM


Mar 8-9

James K. Ruble Graduate Seminar

8AM - 5:15PM

Mar 9

Small/Hobby Farm: Identifying & Insuring the Risk

9AM - Noon

The Rose Insurance Agency Inc Eynon, PA

Mar 9

Understanding & Insuring Emerging Risks

1PM - 4PM


Mar 10

Hour w/Cathy: Endorsements for Contractors

2-3 PM

National General

Mar 11

Evolution of Ethics in Insurance

9AM - Noon

Mar 11

Cyber: Evolution, Exposures, Incidents & Insurance

1PM - 4PM

Mar 16

CISR Commercial Casualty II

8AM - 4PM

Mar 16

Commercial Property: Direct vs. Indirect Damage

9AM - Noon

Mar 17

Hour w/Nicole: Personal Umbrella Issues & Answers 2-3 PM

Mar 18

CISR Personal Residential

8AM - 4PM

Mar 18

Agent's E&O: Documentation, Social Media, Cyber

9AM - Noon

Mar 18

Commercial Insurance Coverages & Court Cases

1PM - 4PM

Mar 22-23 CIC Personal Lines Institute

8AM - 5:15PM

Mar 23

CISR Personal Auto

8AM - 4PM

Mar 24

Hour w/Kevin: Insuring Drones

2-3 PM

Mar 25

CISR Agency Operations

8AM - 4PM

Mar 25

Understanding Insurance-Construction Contracts

9AM - Noon

Mar 25

Personal Lines Clients and Their New Normal

1PM - 4PM

Mar 30

William T. Hold: Commercial Lines

8AM - 4PM

NEW MEMBER Trego Insurance Agency LLC Douglassville, PA

Have a question about your member benefits? Contact: Tim Wonder VP-Membership 800-998-9644, ext. 351

EDUCATION UPDATE All IA&B classes are online. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions and resume classroom options when appropriate. For all 2021 classes, go to MARCH 2021

TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP Our goal is to save you time and money. LEGAL & COMPLIANCE - #1 Most Used Member Resource Have questions regarding carrier or coverage issues, agency management, or compliance? Save time (and frustration) by contacting IA&B’s Claire and Don.

INSURANCE FOR YOUR AGENCY IA&B members have more options when it comes to professional liability programs that provide better value & protection.

ACCESS MARKETS With IA&B Membership comes access to independent markets.

CARRIER RELATIONS We have tools for members to build relationships with companies.


CE CLASSES & TRAINING Receive member discounts to our award-winning education and online trainings.


“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” – Winston Churchill

Like you, HawkSoft chooses to fly independent. No outside investment. No stakeholders. No exit plan. This rewards us with the freedom of choice. We choose to do what’s best for the two groups that matter the most to us: our customers and our employees.

HawkSoft. Privately owned for a reason.

Agency Management System