Insurance Agent Contracting – Direct Or Not Direct?

I have been asked this question many times over the years by new insurance agents. I have also been on many online Insurance Forums were I’ve seen some very bias opinions on the subject. So, I’d like to offer my opinion as it relates to the suggestion that it is better to contract directly with the insurance carrier rather than an MGA (Managing General Agent) or IMO (Insurance Marketing Organization).

There are a lot of very good MGA’s and IMO’s around the country that offer some very good (vested) contracts, services, incentives and support. You would not have these additional services, incentives and support being directly contracted with the carriers. Some examples would include weekly webinar sales and product training. Most insurance carriers do offer some product training but it’s nice to have access to much more and from a variety of experienced professionals in the insurance business.

Another would be incentive trips. Let’s use Assurant as the example. They do not offer sales incentive trips to agents. But many of our contracted agents have enjoyed very nice All-inclusive trips for years for their Assurant sales business they sold under our MGA channel. That’s in addition to getting 20% and 25% fully vested commission contracts with optional advancing. For carriers like Golden Rule, World or American Community that have offered agent sales incentive trips, many agents have qualified for two trips (the carriers’ and ours) with the same sales premium!

Other great value added benefits most quality MGA’s or IMO’s may offer (I know we do) is underwriting, product and quoting support, lead credits and marketing allowances. They enjoy as good or better commission levels than what they can get if they were direct to the carriers. On 98% of the products they are paid directly from the carriers just like they would be if they were contracted directly with them. Our contracted agents know at any time they could ask for a release to contract direct to the carriers of their choice. They choose not to do so because of all the reasons mentioned above. You do need to be sure you’re vested on your block of business under the MGA or IMO. This way if you choose to change your contracts later your renewals follow you.

Let me use Golden Rule as another example why we have many agents prefer to due their GR business through us then direct to the carrier. They get paid twice per month through us. Direct to the carrier is only once per month. They can qualify for 24% commission at five sales per month (60 per year) instead of 100 per year direct. They can have a 9 month advance commission contract. Direct they only get offered an “as earned contract”. Their GR premium qualifies for our annual sales incentive trips in addition to qualifies them for any cash bonuses or incentives trips GR may be running at the same time. Finally, they still own (are vested on) their business and can move at any time.

So don’t just believe the notion that it’s always better to contract direct with the carrier. Instead, do your homework, know what the contract your signing says, weight all the pro’s and con’s and make the best decision that is right for you. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for an unconditional release letter from the MGA or IMO before signing on with them in case things did not work the way you expected. If the MGA’s and IMO’s are worth their salt, they will not have a problem giving you one. Hope it helps you in whatever decision you make moving forward.