What is the difference between an insurance market access provider and an insurance aggregator? And which will help you grow more, faster?
The main difference between insurance market access providers (MAPs) and insurance aggregators or insurance clusters is… not much at all. The names are often used interchangeably and they don’t really tell you a lot about how each individual group is managed.
This does NOT mean that all market access providers are the same - on the contrary. Each cluster, network, or aggregator is tailored to its member agencies, their needs, priorities, and culture, and this is why it’s so important that you find the one that is the best match for you as an independent insurance agent.
Do You Need a Premium Aggregator or Carrier Access?
As you probably already know, in the insurance industry, independent agents usually have a hard time getting access to some of the insurance markets they want to be selling, be they property, casualty insurance, or personal lines.
Carriers tend to require a certain premium volume to access certain products, and independent insurance agencies who are still growing their book of business are often not as big as carriers request.
If this is a problem you are facing, then joining an insurance market access provider will help you, since by joining forces with other independent agencies you will gain clout and be able to negotiate collectively. You will not only gain access to the lines you want, but you will also get better commissions and profit share deals.
Is Carrier Access Enough?
If all you need is better carrier access, then you can find a MAP that does only that, and use your new products to sell and grow your customer base.
However, if you really want to join forces with like-minded insurance agents and make your agency grow in the short or long term, joining an insurance agency cluster may be a better fit, as long as it’s one that offers additional services such as customer service, shared expenses, training, coaching and management lessons.
Are All Insurance Groups the Same?
Like we said earlier, MAPs and insurance clusters can be different from one another. It all depends on their members’ priorities.
Some insurance agency networks will focus on revenue and profits, while others may place more importance on a shared service center, for example.
Some insurance networks value training and mentoring and will have many learning and coaching programs in place to boost the growth of all of their members.
SIAA does all the above and more.
How to Choose an Insurance Agency Cluster Group
Choosing the right insurance market access provider or cluster will take some legwork, and nobody is going to make it easy for you. Take the time to do your research, interview current and former members, and ask until you get real answers - preferably in writing.
In order to make sure your goals and values are aligned with the cluster you are considering, make sure your own goals are clear. What do you want to get out of joining an Insurance agency network?
- Access to carriers and products
- More revenue, better commissions, and profit-sharing
- Economies of scale: paying less for customer service, data entering and agency management software
- Networking with like-minded agents to have a support network and get second opinions
- Learn about the newest insurance products, enhance your sales techniques, improve your managerial style and become a better leader
- Find a coach or mentor with lots of experience in the area, from whom you can learn
Once your goals are clear, you can start shopping for market access providers and insurance clusters; and focus on the ones that offer everything you are looking for.
Things You Should Know Before You Join
While the perks are always attractive, everything in life has a price, and so does membership in an insurance cluster.
Before you sign in, make sure to know and understand the fees, contract, and exit process - you don’t want to end up trapped in a contract with a non-compete clause or a prohibitive fee to exit the group.
Look at the price tag and ask, ask, ask. Some clusters charge a start-up fee, which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Most clusters charge a monthly fee, which can be a flat fee or a percentage of your commissions, decide which one suits you best before joining. Additionally, many clusters charge maintenance fees for shared services, and finally, many insurance networks have exit fees you have to pay before you can leave.
Ask for a copy of the agreement and go over it with your lawyer. Will you retain full ownership of your portfolio? Some clusters require that you sign over a percentage of your portfolio to the group, which you will then have to “buy back” if you choose to leave.
Another point to look out for is whether you will be doing business directly with the carriers, or whether all business is done under the cluster’s name. Depending on your business goals this may make a big difference.