COLUMBUS, OHIO – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the kinds of concerns agents must address from their customers, including a greater emphasis on how to pay for their insurance policies and what their policies cover. This new environment is also requiring agents to answer fundamental questions about their own businesses, including the size of the carriers they partner with and how best to grow their business in a post-COVID-19 world.
“COVID-19 has dynamically changed the way industries across the globe operate,” said Jeff Rommel, Senior Vice President, P&C Sales and Distribution for Nationwide. “In addition to the challenges independent agents face in their new work environments, they’re adjusting to shifting customer needs, growing their businesses and providing competent counsel amidst continued uncertainty. Our goal is to identify ways that we can continue meeting the needs of independent agents and equip them with the right tools to serve their clients and their business in this new normal.”
These and other important insights came out of the first of a series of Agent Authority research conducted by Nationwide. The Agent Authority research series was conceived by Nationwide to pinpoint challenges property and casualty independent agents encounter and develop subsequent guidance. The findings identified three key themes:
- Portfolio and business concerns
- Reliance on stability of large carriers
- Desire to help clients navigate unprecedented challenge
Growth And Business Concerns
Agents are concerned about driving new business and retention to keep their agency strong for the future.
- Agents say that their biggest challenges are driving new business to keep their agency strong for the future (69%) and maintaining their portfolio of clients due to the economic impact of COVID-19 (62%).
- 90% of all agents report that they are concerned about the time it could take for the U.S. economy to recover.
- 60% of agents are challenged to shift their agency’s marketing to a heavier digital-based approach.
- Agents have personally been affected as 63% claim that the economic impact from COVID-19 will likely impact their ability to retire at the age they had originally planned.
Agents Look To Larger Carriers For Stability
Agents are more likely to migrate to the strength and stability of larger carriers.
- More than two-thirds of all agents (72%) report that they are more likely to use large insurance carriers for their customers’ needs due to concerns about the financial instability of smaller carriers.
- Agents 18-39 (76%) and agents 40-54 (77%) shared an even stronger inclination to use large carriers, compared to agents 55 and older (53%).
Helping Clients Navigate Policies Amid Challenges
Agents are adding value by helping clients understand and adjust their coverage.
- 58% of agents report they have had a client come to them for suspending payments, 58% have been asked for advice on cutting costs, and 56% had requests to help clients better understand what their policy covers.
- COVID-19 has brought on new challenges as almost 6 in 10 agents report working with their clients to educate them on the impact Coronavirus has on their insurance coverage.
The survey also found:
- When it comes to operating in the new COVID-19 work environment, agents feel prepared and are finding opportunities to succeed in this new way of working with 83% of agents indicating that they have the proper devices and technology needed to work from home and the proper channels in place to effectively communicate with their insurance carriers.
- Through it all, 80% of agents say they’ve had to change the way in which they sell or market to clients because of COVID-19.
- 82% of agents say they have the ability to provide customers with online self-service tools and resources they need to manage their accounts.
“As we continue to develop additional research and guidance, we want independent agents to know that they have a partner in this crisis and Nationwide will put our resources and relationships to work for them as we navigate this environment together,” added Rommel.
Nationwide commissioned Edelman Intelligence to conduct a 10-question quantitative online survey among a sample of 400 U.S. independent insurance agents between April 10 – 22 to provide an understanding of their experiences as a result of COVID-19 and the impact on their business. The margin of error for this sample was +/-4.9% at the 95% confidence level. As a member of CASRO in good standing, Edelman Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with Market Research Standards and Guidelines.