Starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent is a challenging a long process. While thousands of agents enjoy success in insurance sales, many have difficulty meeting commission and income goals—and eventually transfer to other careers. Starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent correctly requires following a sound business and marketing plan.
Becoming an Insurance Agent
- First, when starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent you must take a formal training class (either online, self-study, or classroom setting) that requires you to pass a test. In New York the class needs to be a Department Of Financial Services approved prelicensing education course totaling not less than 90 hours of instruction hours Each insurance agent licensing school will give different requirements for you to take the test, re-test procedures, etc.
- After you pass that class you will be allowed to sit for the property and/or casualty license exam. The test is multiple-choice and will ask you New York state-specific questions about insurance.
- After you complete the test you pay some fees and fill out some forms and you will get your license. In New York, the fee for a resident license is $80.00 for an individual/tba, or $80.00 for each sub licensee of a partnership, corporation or limited liability company for a license issued for a period greater than one year and $40.00 if issued for one year or less. For non-residents, see fee list for information regarding reciprocity and fee amounts. Information regarding examinations and licensing may be requested from the Department of Financial Services by telephone, (518) 474-6630, or by e-mail, email@example.com.
- To learn about the requirements in New York, please go to http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/abindx.htm
You Have A License, So Now What?
While you may want to read up on a number of things you will be do better when starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent by going out and trying to sell insurance products.
- When starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent Do NOT go out on your own immediately. You need to work for someone before working for yourself.
- Locate an agent who is already established and work for him or her for 2-3 years to learn the ropes.
- A Captive Agent’s priority is to develop business for the parent company above all others.
There are several strong reasons for working for an agent when starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent.
- You have a mentor that will always check what you are doing to make sure it is done right. He or she will teach you how to add coverages, remove them, say why they are important, and how to ask the right questions to make sure you cross-sell properly while also effectively protecting your client.
- He or she will also have carriers already provided for you (if independent), support in some fashion, and malpractice insurance to protect you. Some agencies might actually provide you benefits or a salary or the chance to own your own clients after a period of time working for them.
Some of the downsides to working for an agent:
- You most likely cannot sell insurance unless it is through the agency.
- You will not earn 100% of the commission owed to you as your manager will get part of what you earn for his time and to justify the expenses he incurs taking you on.
- Most of the issues with working for an agency stem with a work environment problem, a perceived feeling of lacking agent support, or agents wanting to make 100% of the money from a sale.
Going the Captive Insurance Route
- When starting off as a property and casualty insurance agent, it is often best to begin as a captive agent. A “captive” agent is someone who can only represent one or a limited amount of companies, usually with requirements attached to it. Captive agents sign a contract agreeing to represent one company exclusively or semi-exclusively with access to other carriers ONLY with the permission of the mother captive company first.
- Some companies will make you a W-2 employee rather than a 1099 contractor, such as Liberty Mutual. You also get exclusivity of the company because not everyone down the road represents that company (in theory, anyway) including the independent agencies. Often it is better for some newer agents since everything runs through one company.
- You will be held to production requirements for property, casualty, and possibly life, health, or securities products as well that could affect your compensation. Many insurance agents learn the ropes as a captive and then move on to be an “independent agent.”
For a good definition of a captive agent, please read http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/captive-agent.asp
Going the Independent Insurance Route
- You can work for independent insurance agencies as an employee/contractor as well, though many people don’t do it until they worked for a captive first. Independent insurance agents are just that- independent. They can choose what companies to represent and what companies to write business with. An independent can go solicit any company because they don’t have a contract forbidding them from doing so. You have multiple companies to write with instead of just one.
Independent Agents are completely independent of a primary company. This results in the following benefits:
- Freedom from stringent regulations of a parent company
- Freedom to cross-sell into other lines of insurance
- Ability to compare price, product and service from a variety of insurers
- Ability to sell a policy through another insurer if a primary insurer cannot write the policy
- And Much More…
- As an Independent Agent you must be financially strong to maintain a successful agency. Independent Agents receive the majority of their earnings through the commission of policies sold.
For an explanation of the differences between being a captive agent and an independent agent, here is an excellent blog post: https://www.frontlineinsurance.com/frontline-community/blog/homeowners-insurance/what-is-the-difference-between-a-captive-agent-and-an-independent-agent/
For an overview of becoming a New York property and casualty insurance agent, please see https://www.reedc.com/blog/career/becoming-a-new-york-insurance-agent/