Wow. What a year it has been. You’ve all seen the memes out there saying how down the road our grandchildren are going to be rolling their eyes at us when we tell them yet another story about 2020 and how we all lived through this crazy year…
While this certainly wasn’t anything like what we wanted or expected, we should now shift our thinking to the future and get excited about what is to come for our great association and the independent agency system.
As we look back on each year (with or without a pandemic), IIANC’s staff and leadership asks ourselves the same questions: How do we evolve to better serve our members? How do we change our value proposition? How do we help independent insurance agents operate more efficiently and effectively in the future so they can be successful?
We know one thing is for sure: we want to be solution-providers for our members. Our IIANC Board of Directors has been very forward-thinking in terms of evolving, changing and advocating for independent agents. As a member-driven organization, we are able to seek unique solutions that can help address the pain points our members present to us. As our newest Chairman of the Board, Monty Ross, recently said: “our membership gives us the runway.” This couldn’t be more true.
The Future of Technology
As we look ahead, IIANC has decided to invest into the future of technology within our industry, since we know the IA system’s success hinges upon this very principle. We have been diligent about trying to stay on top of the latest tech trends that are working to support the IA channel, which has put IIANC in position to get in early on some of the most important conversations that are taking place in this space. These conversations have allowed to get to know the people behind these companies and establish great, personal relationships. In many ways, the decisions behind which companies we’ve chosen to invest in have been every bit as much about the people behind these companies as it has been about the technology. Thanks to the incredible support from IIANC’s Board of Directors, we’ve been able to make a few modest capital investments in some of these companies, which has allowed us to obtain preferred pricing options for IIANC’s members with some of the most innovative tech companies supporting agents.
Tech is already extremely important for agencies and that importance is only going to expand. When it comes to looking at tech solutions for IAs we’ve looked at two things: does it have the opportunity to “change the game” for agencies? Will the tech help agencies grow their business and/or improve margins? It was these two questions that led us to two amazing up-and-coming companies of the future: Tarmika and neon.
For our members that are not yet familiar with Tarmika, you’ve got to keep your eye on this company. I do believe that Tarmika is going to revolutionize how commercial lines insurance is rated by independent agencies. In addition to acting as a comparative rater, Tarmika also has the ability to pull in data from multiple third party data sources in order to make the application process much easier and more efficient for both the agent and the customer. Raghav Tanna, the Founder/CEO, is the son of an independent agent in the Boston area and is a great guy. He is looking for ways to help make IAs more relevant and better equipped to meet the expectations of the modern insurance consumer. Make sure you check this company out on the IIANC website (iianc.com/tarmika) – we are offering a great incentive for our member agencies who take advantage of this partnership.
Hopefully, many of you have heard of the great things that Seth Zaremba is doing with B Atomic and their newest venture, neon. What B Atomic and Seth are doing with neon may be the most significant initiative for independent insurance agencies in the last 75 years. Every agency owner should be paying attention to what they’re building. Imagine having software within an agency that would allow an agency owner to: capture and monetize customer activity data; conduct data analytics and predictive modeling on things such as the likelihood of a particular account renewing its policy with the agency; have the ability to measure the expense ratio of each of his carriers; and do activity-based costing so they would know how much it costs to service each of your accounts. The things that neon will be able do to could revolutionize how IAs conduct business, and it will give those agency owners that see the potential in conducting business that way a tremendous advantage.
We also continue to be very excited about the investments that we’ve made in data analytics and business intelligence through our partnership with IntellAgents. Providing agency owners with the best benchmarking data so that they can gain important insights into their agencies is really important work. Through IIANC’s consulting services, we’re now equipped to go beyond just giving the insights into the agency, as we can really help agents solve problems and get positioned for growth. Additionally, we can offer a full range of agency valuation and perpetuation planning, which we know are going to be important to many agencies over the next five years.
IIANC’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee has quickly become one of IIANC’s most active committees. We’ve got a great group of agents that are (virtually) getting together monthly and developing plans on how IIANC can be helpful in promoting more diversity within our association, membership and the insurance industry as a whole.
The committee is focused on three new initiatives. The first of these is a Diversity Scholarship that will be available to member agencies that make a new hire of an employee (from an underrepresented minority group/that is a person of color.) The intentions here are to create a little incentive for our members to consider making more minority hires, and to reward those agencies that do so. The scholarship(s) will be available to cover the cost of that employee going through the Pre-Licensing class as well as other first-year training costs.
Secondly, we want to be involved in community outreach programs designed to raise awareness within underrepresented communities about the career options available in the insurance industry. Our early efforts with this initiative are focused on outreach at some of the local Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We are in the early stages of developing a special internship program that will be intended to introduce the insurance industry to non-insurance majors at these institutions.
Finally, we are exploring ways in which IIANC can increase participation from minority-owned agencies and from minority employees of member agencies within our association. Our main thrust with this initiative is to start collecting various demographic data on our membership so that we can benchmark where we are and then put measures in place to increase engagement with the minority agents that we may not know about right now.
Events… In Person?!
It truly goes without saying, but we CAN NOT WAIT to get back together face-to-face with our members and company PARTNERS. And we know you all feel the same! We’re launching a brand new event in March 2021, the Agency Leaders Executive Retreat at the beautiful Grove Park Inn in Asheville. You can expect details on this new event in early 2021. And we’re also more excited than ever for InsurEXPO21, which will be held at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem in May. In addition to these two events, you can also expect our annual Charity Golf Tournament, the Tech Symposium, and our Young Agents Conference coming in 2021.
A Look Ahead: 2021 Initiatives
One of our biggest initiatives in 2021 is to continue to expand upon the solutions that we will be offering to our members in the way of technology. IIANC has partnered with six other Big “I” state associations to create a new technology consulting company called CatalyIT. We’re still in the formation stage, but suffice it to say that you’ll be hearing a lot about this initiative in the coming months. We expect CatalyIT to quickly become the premier resource for independent agencies that want to better understand how technology can drive ROI for their agencies.
The other big area we’ll continue to work on is to continue to provide hiring resources for member agencies. How can IIANC solve the problems our members are having in locating, hiring, onboarding, training and retaining that next great employee for their agency?
The IIANC Board of Directors has set IIANC’s number one priority in 2021 to build out an insurance school that can recruit people from outside the insurance industry. InsurAcademy will give them the necessary training to be “job ready” to work in a member agency’s office as an account manager. We are incredibly excited about the possibilities associated with this strategic initiative. It’s a very ambitious task. We are currently in the final stages of evaluating curriculum and learning management systems. Our ultimate goal is to provide training in such a way that the student comes out of the program with an insurance license, knowledge and experience on how to use a comparative rater, experience completing ACORD forms, soft skills related to customer service, email and business etiquette, phone skills, and more. We hope to be able to launch this program in the middle of 2021.
Other exciting things that you can expect from IIANC in 2021:
Know and Grow Wednesday Webinar series – beginning in January, we will launch a weekly series of free webinars for our members designed to give you the knowledge on topics that are not CE-related, but will give you skills that you need to know! You can look forward to webinars on topics that include social media campaigns, using Excel, creating an effective referral process, email marketing and more!
Our business consultant, Jason Sabo, is launching free agency assessments that will help agency owners develop a roadmap filled with opportunities and resources to help make improvements to your agency.
The Agency Activate course from Charlotte Hicks is now available at no cost to our members! You will gain the tools and knowledge to build an agency that leverages your unique skills and interest for maximum success. If you are in the first few years of operating an independent agency or even longer, but need a refresher or new ideas in some areas, check out Agency Activate for critical information to help your agency thrive.
We know this hasn’t been an easy year for anyone! But, we’re taking a deep breath at IIANC and looking ahead to a fantastic 2021! Best wishes to you and your families, and have a happy and healthy new year.