Buying insurance from independent agents

Why Middle Men (and Women) are Important

By: John “Josh” Fitzhugh
Board Chairman, Former President and CEO, Union Mutual

You’ve all heard the ads with the cute little reptile and the friendly woman – “cut out the middle man”, call us and save yourself up to 15%.  Well, I’m here to say you’d be crazy to do so.

The middle man or woman in these ads are independent insurance agents. Since those companies’ business models don’t include agents, they argue they are not important. Not so. And since we offer insurance exclusively through independent agents, here is, as newscaster Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story,” with five reasons why you should buy your insurance through such an agent:

  • Reason one:  Buying insurance is not like buying a toaster. Although we try to keep our policies simple, they have to address life’s many complications. You also don’t really know what you’ve bought until you have a claim, which can be years into the future. An agent can help you understand what the policy does and does not cover, what kind of deductibles you should carry, how much coverage you should buy. When you are protecting your life’s savings (your investment in a house, for example) you want to do it right.
  • Reason two:  Should you have a claim, your agent will knowledgeably advise you with respect to the coverages and conditions in your policy. The agent will then either report for you or help you to do so yourself. If you need immediate assistance after a loss (for example, in finding a remediation company to begin water cleanup or in putting you in contact with an adjuster), the agent will assist you there as well.  In short, the work of an independent agent is not done when the policy is sold.
  • Reason three:  An independent agent supports your community by volunteering services to the local Rotary or school or library, or by contributing money to charities and other important causes. When was the last time a direct, national carrier helped out a local family whose son or daughter was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan or contributed to the town’s annual basketball tournament? Buying insurance through a local agent supports and improves your community.
  • Reason four:  An independent agent can help you choose the right insurance company for your risk.  One size does not fit all, when it comes to companies, and some are better at one type of coverage than another. Some are more secure than others; some do better at adjusting claims.  A good agent knows which is which, and an independent agent can mix and match. Some companies emphasize price; some service; some security. Which is most important to you?  An independent agent can be a tremendous benefit in getting you the best coverage at the best price.
  • Reason five: The local agent knows your community, and that knowledge will help you assess your risks.  A good agent, for example, will let you know when snow loads are high and that it might be advisable to rake your roof, or whether it is time to add umbrella coverage to your home and auto coverage. Someone moving to New England from the American southwest might not know, for example, that water tables are generally high in New England and thus basement water coverage might be advisable and is not generally included in standard homeowner’s policies.

The Internet makes many daily tasks easier and I personally use it often.  But when it comes to decisions where the wrong choice can mean thousands of dollars lost I consult with an expert – and in insurance that expert is an independent agent. Television ads for insurance can be very alluring but how many offer products sold by an expert in your community backed by the financial stability of a company in business since 1874?