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.

Some easy gin cocktails to try while you’re stuck at home

Craft Gin is the quintessential spirit of summer. Cool, refreshing, and often paired with tonic water or citrusy flavours like lemon or lime, gin is a favourite among many people throughout the world. Gin cocktails are also easy to make at home; just grab your gin-based spirit of choice like Old Bakery Gin, some ice cubes, and flavourings like cucumber slices for an easy gin cocktail that’s perfect for warm weather entertaining!

Some easy craft gin cocktails to try at home include:

- Gin and tonic: one of the most popular gin cocktails in the world, a simple gin and tonic is perfect for when you want something easy but still refreshing. It’s also great to serve at parties! To make it yourself, add two ounces of a good quality gin with three ounces club soda over ice cubes. Top off your glass with half an ounce of lime juice (or lemon if that’s what you prefer) and enjoy!

- The Aviation cocktail: this classic drink was created by Hugo Ensslin back in 1916. He called it This recipe calls for equal quantities of gin and maraschino liqueur with a few dashes of Crème de Violette, but you can use less or more to suit your tastes.

- Gin Rickey: this is another great drink for summertime and was created in the 19th century by Ted Saucier who worked at The Players Club in New York. All you need are two ounces of gin, four ounces of freshly squeezed lime juice (strained), one-ounce simple syrup, ice cubes and soda water to top off. Add everything into a highball glass over ice except for the soda then stir before topping off with some cold fizzy water. You will love sipping this cocktail in the evenings or with some friends on the weekend.

- Tom Collins: this is another common cocktail served up in bars across the world and it was even voted as one of the top five cocktails you should try before you die! This drink uses two ounces of gin, four ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice (strained), half an ounce simple syrup, ice cubes and soda water to top off. Add everything into a shaker then shake hard before pouring over some fresh ice into a highball glass!

The New, All-in-One Brand Marketing Model

Imagine a marketing and branding concept that provides a completely holistic approach to the brand experience, based on a deep knowledge of the consumer. While this makes perfect sense to a person with any business savvy today, the message was not such an easy sell just 5 years ago. Then, an approach so simple and clear sounded like a foreign language.The conversation would go something like this:Client: “We have an advertising agency of record that handles our branding and marketing needs.”Agency: “So your ad agency completely understands your consumers, develops brand insights, and manages your internet, in-store marketing, direct, customer intimacy, store design, viral, sales, special events, sponsorships, product placements, and PR strategies along with all the other brand touch points?”Client: “Hell no! We have different agencies and different internal decision-makers for each of those areas.”Agency: “So your agency of record (AOR) defined the brand and manages all those firms to ensure brand consistency?”Client: “No way. One firm can’t do all that.”Agency: “Then who owns the total brand experience?”Client: “I guess our CEO is ultimately responsible for that.”Agency: “Oh, so he/she works with all the firms to make sure everything is on track?”Client: “He/she doesn’t have time for that. He/she mostly deals with financial decisions, acquisitions, Wall Street and stuff like that.”Well times have changed haven’t they? The fact is the traditional agency model has completely fallen apart. If an agency does not propose an integrated branding and marketing model in today’s day and age, what chance would they have to get a gig? And who is the AOR anymore? Is it the media agency, advertising agency (now often separate), the digital agency, the retail design group or a brand consultancy?Today’s business world demands a clearer and simpler approach from agencies. Marketing and branding plans must be explained clearly, executed quickly and measured precisely. It also helps that they are wildly successful. So how can a marketing / branding agency accomplish what was once the job of as many as five separate agencies?A good idea is to start with the concept that your best customers own and drive all great brands. These are the people who are already excited and fired up about your brand. These “brand warriors” come in many different types and can be found all over the place, especially online: Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc. These people are valuable because they provide insight into what aspects of your current branding are desirable and are creating a positive impact on your target audience – essentially, free market research. The 80-20 rule is still as solid today as when it was first identified.The point is, you might as well understand this cult customer subculture and their relationship with your brand. Once you do, you can go out and attempt to clone the behavior. Before you know it, your small cult of followers and brand warriors is growing. Make sense?