good news Monday: independent agencies organically profitable 2015

Independent agencies are enjoying a period of high profitability boosted by healthy organic growth despite continued soft pricing in commercial lines.

Independent insurance agents/brokers posted median organic growth of 5.9 percent for the second quarter of 2015, slightly higher than 5.8 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2015 and second quarter of 2014, as measured by the Reagan Consulting Organic Growth and Profitability (OGP) quarterly survey.

“Industry organic growth has now been in a relatively tight band of five percent to seven percent for 14 consecutive quarters,” said Kevin Stipe, president of Reagan Consulting, an Atlanta-based management consulting and merger-and-acquisition advisory firm for the insurance distribution system. “Times are good for insurance brokers.”

To continue reading, click here.

agent to agent: why your agency should be using social media

Article can be found HERE.

It’s a small world after all.

What if you could get every client that you insure — and all of their friends and family — to drive by your business every day and see your latest message on your sign out front?

Well, you can.

My most popular post on my Mansfield Insurance Agency Facebook page this year was very simple: I “checked in” at 24244 Stateline Road and posted [a photo] of my sign out front.

Suddenly, clients who live hundreds of miles away were virtually at my doorstep. Not only that, but those clients who both saw the post and “liked” it — their friends and family saw that activity, expanding the reach of my business.

At Mansfield Insurance Agency, we use social media to flame the marketing plans that help us meet our sales goals. In the last five years, there is no doubt from our sales increase and overall growth that social media has had an impact. Since 2009, when we first started getting involved in social media, our sales have increased every year, along with an increase in retention and thus an overall growth. Our website is a rock solid placement on the first page of local searches which is one of the main goals of using social media.

If you are not involved in social media you might think that accessing the Internet or search engines are mainly accomplished on a desktop computer or through Google searches. This is not true. Over 75% of consumers use some form of social media to search the Internet, and a majority of them are accessing it through Apps on mobile devices. This is crucial in that just having a website and using social media on your computer is a good first step, but you need to make sure you have the right kind of website and are preparing to have your own app or use your parent company’s app.

What’s up?

The following is an assessment from one of our district sales managers from the Erie Insurance Group:

“Jim has embraced social media and has made it an integral part of his marketing strategy. He is able to promote what’s going on in the insurance industry and in his local community in a fun, easy way that lets him interact with current and potential clients. He also uses social media to promote agency events, such as a recent flat-screen TV giveaway. Thanks to this activity, Jim is seen as someone who is ‘in the know’ and who can be trusted to give the most up-to-date advice when it comes to insurance needs. In 2013, he grew new P&C premium by over 31%, new policies-in-force by 26%, and increased his retention to 91%.”

— Rachel J. White, CIC, CLU®, AINS, Erie Insurance, District Sales Manager

As Rachel pointed out in the quote above, it’s important to “promote what’s going on.” My first rule of using social media is to give. To give you must be informed, which is why I rely heavily on my professional associations, PIA of Indiana and the National organization and the AIMS Society, which distributes the CPIA designation and classes. Those two organizations are constantly giving information that is vital to our customers. Not only do they give information but, more importantly, I am surrounded by the best leaders of our industry by being a part of them. My lead company, Erie Insurance, also has an awesome social media marketing resource.

Getting started

Steve Andersen, at a PRO to PRO (AIMS SOCIETY) meeting in Tampa: “It is like dancing,” he said. “At first you feel awkward and not sure what you are doing, but the more you participate the better you become.”

Our agency is signed up for almost every social media outlet you can think of, and we remain active in four of them. Creating a presence on each of the social media outlets is relatively easy: Just follow the prompts to create an account. As soon as you accomplish the basic setup, follow other similar organizations to get ideas for refining yours or consult with your web developer.

Mansfield Insurance Agency mainly uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Another important platform is blogging, which we have used in the past and is great for content marketing. In 2012, 78.6% of sales people using social media to sell out-performed those who weren’t using social media.¹

There are several reasons to acquire more than one social media site. First, you need them to help promote your website, so don’t forget to include your URL on every application and also to link to it when you post various items. You also need these sites to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which gets your business to the front page of a Google search. If done correctly you get your website on the very first page of all Internet searches in your area. Our agency is there and we are constantly tweaking our plans to stay there.

Finally, most searches are now done on mobile devices, not traditional personal computers. Most consumers use social media apps on their mobile devices to get updates on what is happening in the world, so you need to have an Internet location that is responsive to that. If you do not have a professional website designer hosting your website and social media sites, I highly recommend getting one.

If you’re not sure where to start with all of this, I recommend creating a Facebook business page, the easiest and most popular for the most part. One million web pages are accessed using the “Login with Facebook” feature and 23 percent of Facebook users login at least 5 times per day. ²

We use our business Facebook to give information to our customers about texting and driving, tornado safety, fire safety, car safety, etc. We get this information from our associations, insurance companies, and magazine articles in professional publications. Most insurance companies and our associations give you this information on social media already — all you have to do is copy and paste to share the information with your customers.

My second rule of using social media is to make it fun or make it seriously informative. Do not combine those two concepts. There is nothing funny about texting and driving.

If you’re wondering how putting this information out there would help you make a sale, that is often not immediately foreseeable. The goal is to establish yourself as a professional and an expert that social media users can contact if they have a question about the field of insurance.

Taking advantage of resources

Most companies, like my lead company Erie Insurance Group, will pay co-op money to advertise and get you paid advertisements on social media, which is a whole different level of social media. Why would you not take that money?The best reason to use social media is that it is free! It is similar to having a storefront, a huge billboard, a daily reminder delivered to hundreds if not thousands every day, all at no extra cost. Your name is in front of all these friends and followers, expanding to their friends and followers. My very first advertisement on my business Facebook page netted a sale. I simply posted that we sell Landlords Property and Liability Insurance, and a neighbor of mine (and a friend on Facebook) who did not have insurance with me called me up within an hour and said, “Jim, I didn’t know you sold insurance for rentals!” Boom!

Social media is not hard, but it takes time for you to get followers and get others to share your information. When you look at your “insights,” stats about your page that are only visible to you, you’ll often see that more people see your post than like your page. This is a result of your followers sharing, liking, or commenting on your posts. Also, you can discover information about the demographics that follow your page: My largest demographic on my Facebook business page is women ages 35-44. Information like that at my fingertips is extremely valuable when I am designing our marketing strategy.

Have fun!

The most important rule is to have fun. This is the “social” part of social media. Many days I will read about an interesting story and I will then ask my followers for an answer to some aspect of that story. The first one to respond through my email on my website will get a free lunch. No quotes, no insurance, just something fun. As a result, they are likely to look for my future postings, more serious posts that could result in a sale. When we ask people how they discovered us, they usually say our website or our social media accounts.

I owe much of my success as I have said to the AIMS Society, PIA of Indiana and several individuals such as Steve Anderson and my fellow board member at AIMS, Chris Paradiso.

Start your social media marketing now, get engaged with associations and watch your business grow!

Jim Mansfield is an insurance agent (CPIA) with more than 35 years of experience in the industry. In 1981, he opened Mansfield Insurance Agency in his town of Bright, Indiana, where he has served as owner and president ever since. Jim began his career as a teacher in the public school system, and this background has greatly influenced how he has grown in the insurance industry. He enjoys educating his clients about different insurance policies and how best he can help them. He also is a facilitator for the CPIA classes and has led several social media events. Jim’s professional affiliations include the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Indiana, where he recently served as president from 2012-2013. He is currently serving as one of two vice presidents of the AIMS Society. He also serves on the board of the local Bright Area Business Association.

¹  Forbes, May 19, 2013, “Study: 78% of Salespeople Using Social Media Outsell Their Peers

²  Jeff Bullas, “22 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2014”

huge vehicle recall due to – internet hackers?

Fiat Chrysler will recall 1.4 million vehicles in the United States to install software to prevent hackers from gaining remote control of the engine, steering or other systems. The recall comes just days after reports that cybersecurity researchers used a wireless connection to turn off a Jeep Cherokee’s engine as it drove, increasing concerns about the safety of Internet-enabled vehicles. The researchers used Fiat Chrysler’s telematics system to break into a volunteer’s Cherokee being driven on the highway and issue commands to the engine, steering and brakes. While hackers had previously demonstrated the ability to tamper with onboard systems using a physical connection to the car’s diagnostic system, these researchers were able to control the Jeep Cherokee remotely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it would investigate whether Fiat Chrysler’s solution to upgrade software was enough to protect consumers from hackers.

What It Means to Agents: For at least the last five years, technological changes have redefined the nature of insured risk, including the scope of liability exposure and how insurance policy provisions and claims practices will need to adjust. As such, PIA agencies should be absolutely sure that they have received written assessments and explanations from each of their carriers on the various policies under which such evolving risk may arise. Such bulletins must provide the agency with complete guidance of how each carrier’s policy responds (or not) in claims situations.

is that a little doggy in the window?

Every summer, the media gets swamped with stories of children and animals trapped in hot cars, and, as if that were not enough, the drivers of the vehicles SUING rescuers who had to break the windows out of the cars and/or break in to save these poor victims. In many states, these law suits are valid. You see, it doesn’t matter what the intent is – so long as there is no law protecting those good citizens from doing what is right.

Now, in MANY states there are laws in place protecting those who have to break windows out of vehicles to rescue trapped children; but what about animals? According to the Humane Society, on an 85-degree day, temperatures inside a car – even with its windows slightly opened – can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes, and 120 degrees after 30 minutes. These temperatures are just as unsafe for animals as they are for children, and the longer they’re trapped, the higher the likelihood they will have a heat stroke and, in many cases, die. Because of this, starting this month, Tennessee is added to the list of 16 total states that provide protection to the rescuers of children AND animals.

“As an extension to Tennessee’s “Good Samaritan law” that allows people to break into cars to save children makes it legal to do the same for animals. Specific steps, including searching for the owner and notifying law enforcement, must be taken to qualify for protection under the law.”  Source: Time.com.

In order to be protected, the rescuer must ensure that the car is in fact locked by checking all doors and hatches when applicable. He or she must contact law enforcement or enlist someone nearby to do so. He or she must try to find the owner of the vehicle or enlist someone nearby to do so. If it is likely that the victim is in imminent danger and cannot wait until the owner of the vehicle is located or law enforcement arrives (if the victim is already unconscious and unresponsive, lethargic, etc.), the citizen can break into the car to rescue the victim. Always have the person talking with 9-1-1 notify them that a break in is necessary and occurring.

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July from the PIA of Chattanooga!

Here’s an article with a few safety tips to share with your clients about being safe and reducing claims this holiday.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

raining cats and dogs.

[Image above from radar prediction of super storm]

Be prepared for a potential uptick in claims this week, both homeowners and auto. Remember, the key to protecting your clients and your loss ratios in an event like this is to know what caused the damage, when the damage occurred, and how extensive the damage is.

The information below was copied from an article in the Times Free Press. Check it out here.

“Starting [yesterday] and continuing through Monday, forecasters from the National Weather Service have warned of severe thunderstorms moving through the Chattanooga region, a prediction that means residents could face a full week of rain, thunder, lightning and even hail in some cases.

Beginning [yesterday] afternoon, the agency has called for numerous showers as a large low pressure area moves into the eastern U.S. But it won’t be moving through, forecasters warn. It’s here for an extended visit.

The potential exists for several severe storms, which could bring large hail and damaging wind gusts, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy rain and frequent lightning can be expected.

For the rest of the week, several rounds of what the NWS calls “disturbances” will bring scattered showers and thunderstorms each day, especially during the afternoon and evening hours.

There’s a chance of a strong to severe thunderstorms each day until Monday, including strong downbursts, torrential rains and frequent lighting.

Flash flooding is possible, with the greatest risk of flooding expected on Wednesday afternoon through Thursday evening, according to the NWS.

The agency has warned that it may activate its storm spotter network this week.”

Local areas affected

Knox
Jefferson
Blount
Sevier
Sequatchie
Bledsoe
Rhea
Meigs
McMinn
Monroe
Marion
Hamilton
Bradley
Polk

new uninsured driver laws to go into effect TOMORROW in Tennessee

As of tomorrow, a new law in Tennessee will go into effect revolving around higher penalties for those driving uninsured.

According to an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Penalties start with a $25 ‘coverage failure fee’ if an uninsured vehicle is detected. Another $100 fine kicks in if proof of insurance is not provided within 30 days. The maximum general fine is $300, though the state Department of Commerce and Insurance may seek a special “civil penalty” of up to $250 per day of uninsured driving in some situations.”

Drivers that aren’t able to provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop may risk having their car towed on-scene as well as having their registration revoked if they do not show proof of insurance within 30 days.

Right now, an estimated 1.1 million drivers of the registered 5.5 million vehicles are without insurance in Tennessee alone.  The hope is that “…the bill will bring many who now simply ignore the state’s poorly enforced law into compliance at a relatively modest cost, lowering insurance rates for law-abiding Tennesseans who pay higher rates because of uninsured motorists.”

Source: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/apr/27/no-insurance-no-car-tag-coverage-requirement-will-be-enforced-if-governor-signs-new-law/301313/

convene with us at our convention!

The Professional Insurance Agents Association of Tennessee will be hosting it’s 80th Annual Convention and Trade Show this year at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee from July 27 – July 29!

This year’s theme will be all about taking your agency to new heights!  Please join the top insurance professionals from across Tennessee for three days of development, networking, and celebration.

The convention will kick off Monday, July 27 with a golf tournament at 8 a.m. Tuesday is the Agency Staff Day, so bring your CSRs! Aside from the educational opportunities the convention brings, be sure to stop in the trade show Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday!

For more information and to register (as an attendee or exhibitor) and to book your hotel, please go to http://www.piatnconvention.com.

the end of the hurricane era?

Colorado State University’s annual benchmark forecast for Atlantic hurricanes is unlikely to change significantly when it is updated June 1, according to CSU hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach, as the increasing likelihood of moderate to strong El Nino conditions in the Pacific reinforces the original prediction of a season of relatively few storms.

There is increasing evidence over the past few years, along with the expected below-normal activity this year, that may indicate the close of a 20-year period in which active hurricane seasons were the norm.

“The environment is as non-conducive for hurricanes as we’ve ever seen,” research scientist Klotzbach told a crowd of about 150 actuaries at a session titled “Predicting Hurricanes” at the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) Spring Meeting in Colorado Springs.

Many property actuaries work with catastrophe models, which attempt to estimate how much insured loss a hurricane will cause. At the session, Prasad Gunturi, a senior vice president at Willis Re, discussed how catastrophe modelers try to forecast medium- and long-term storm frequency.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2015/05/29/369925.htm

Every April, Colorado State forecasts the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and severe hurricanes for the June-to-November season, then makes updates in early June, July and August. The 2015 forecast of storms is likely to increase by one, Klotzbach said, to account for May’s Tropical Storm Ana. Updating the prediction for Ana would mean the forecast predicts eight named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane with winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

That doesn’t mean coastal residents and insurers can relax. In 1992, the founder of CSU’s seasonal forecasts, William Gray, correctly predicted just one major hurricane. That storm,Hurricane Andrew, struck the Miami area with Category 5 winds and became, at the time, the most destructive event in insurance history.

“It just takes that one storm to make it an active season,” Klotzbach reinforced, which is a message that bears remembering as the United States hasn’t been struck by a major hurricane since Hurricane Wilma in 2005 – a record stretch.

An active season needs warmer-than-normal water in the tropical Atlantic. These warmer waters provide more fuel for developing hurricanes. They also create a more unstable atmospheric environment, thereby promoting thunderstorm development, which helps sustain hurricanes.

An anticipated moderate to strong El Nino, the warming of Pacific waters near the equator, reinforces the mild-season prediction. The warm waters create stronger upper-level winds, which “tear apart” storms and forestall hurricane development, he said.

End of Era?

“The environment is as non-conducive for hurricanes as we’ve ever seen. – Klotzbach”

If the forecast proves out, 2015 will be the third straight year of mild hurricane activity. This would be a large anomaly given the Atlantic is considered to be in a 20-plus-year era in which active seasons are the norm. The lull has caused scientists to ask whether the active Atlantic hurricane era has come to an end. The North Atlantic has gotten colder over the past decade and ocean salinity appears to be dropping, both of which would indicate that lower hurricane activity may be in store for the Atlantic basin.

Still, Klotzbach said, other active storm eras have had fallow periods like this one. And he noted that the active/inactive rubric really doesn’t apply to storms forming in the Gulf of Mexico or hitting the Gulf States. Storms that form in the Gulf are governed by a different dynamic.

“Your odds of Gulf landfall and Gulf formation don’t really change,” in an inactive period.  The odds of landfall decrease significantly along the Florida Peninsula and East Coast, however.

In his talk, Gunturi noted that catastrophe models have both short-term and long-term event frequency forecasts. The long-term event frequencies use historical averages, he said, while short-term event frequencies use forecasts of meteorological phenomena like El Nino.

The frequency forecast constitutes part of the models’ event set, a sort of encyclopedia of all storms that have hit, augmented by computer-simulated storms that incorporate the patterns of historical storms.

For their forecasts, Gunturi said, the models split the coastline into a series of gates and predict the frequency and severity of storms at each gate.

The models further include a hurricane windfield module that estimates windspeed at a location for any given storm, accounting for surface roughness, Gunturi said – a measure of how built up an area is. Winds passing over urban areas weaken faster than winds passing over a barren plain.

To estimate insurance losses, the models also include a damage module, which indicates how well a specific building type will withstand any storm.

Short-term event frequency forecasts use a five-year forward-looking time horizon, a standard forecast length in the insurance industry for hurricane, earthquake, and other types of natural peril risks, Gunturi said.