Do insurance agents add value? How?

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FeesR-BullNotBullish
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Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by FeesR-BullNotBullish » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:04 am

I missed my six-month auto insurance premium because the bill was filed away, and I just plain forgot it was due. Last night, I found the bill, paid up, and the policy was reinstated. Going forward, I will set up automated payments to prevent this from recurring.

I feel let down that I didn’t get a heads-up call or email from my agent prior to my policy lapsing. Additionally, he missed a scheduled appointment a year ago and never followed up after another agent sat in for him. I no longer wish to do business with my agent. We also have homeowners and a business policy with the same agent.

How do you view the role of an insurance agent? Am I reasonable to expect service from my insurance agent above and beyond pitches for bad investment products and whole life policies? Might I be better served forgoing agents and shopping policies online or through an independent broker?

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nisiprius
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by nisiprius » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:06 am

???? You didn't get a notice from the insurance company itself, in the form of a paper, printed, USPS-mailed letter?
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Dottie57
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:10 am

I don’t expect a call when a bill is due. Bills are my responsibiliy.

Rupert
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Rupert » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:15 am

There are good agents and bad agents. Good agents are often helpful, as they can help you navigate through a claims thicket from time to time, help you negotiate with the insurance company re insured value of a home, etc. (Note, I think this may actually be more true in a small town, where insurance agents really get to know their insureds and even sponsor their kids' sports teams, etc., than in larger communities). Independent life insurance agents can help you get a policy by directing you to the insurance company most likely to insure you (if you have medical issues) and by submitting your application at a propitious time. Agents don't usually get involved in billing matters, so I'm not sure your expectation of a reminder from your agent to pay your bill is reasonable.

z91
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by z91 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:22 am

Title is misleading..you're making it sound like the agent doesn't do anything. For all they know the check is in the mail. I would hate it if an agent called me to tell me to pay my bill. I'm not a child.

But to answer your title question, IMO yes they add value especially for folks that don't want to do research and/or have no idea how insurance works. They can at least provide a gauge on how much of a policy to buy, and assist when you have a claim. I personally avoid agents when I can because I want to be in full control of my insurance choices and don't think it's worth the insurance premium.

The call to cancel sure will be embarrassing. "Hi, I'd like to cancel my insurance with you. Why? Because you didn't call me to tell me to pay my bill.." :confused

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bottlecap
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by bottlecap » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:31 am

This ones on you, although I am surprised the insurance company didn’t send a letter notifying of the impending cancellation.

I have never met with my agent and wouldn’t expect to. I call him and tell him my needs and his office sends me the information and pricing.

The policy, and all billing, is done through the insurance company.

In my opinion, your expectations are way too lofty.

JT

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dm200
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by dm200 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:32 am

We have State Farm - homeowners and auto. The agent (and his staff) are very responsive in dealing with any billing issues and questions, as well as providing information and guidance on things like coverage, deductibles, etc.

Broken Man 1999
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:32 am

nisiprius wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:06 am
???? You didn't get a notice from the insurance company itself, in the form of a paper, printed, USPS-mailed letter?
OP stated they received the bill, filed it away. Then forgot about it. Didn't say how long the period of late payment was, so maybe it was too early to get a "your policy has been cancelled" letter.

OP, I would seek out an independent insurance broker; they have the ability to shop many companies. And, even though I use a full-service broker, I have never been solicited for insurance products other than what I engaged them for originally, home and auto insurance.

I did the same thing you did some months ago. So, is this a early step in losing my cognitive skills? I don't know, BUT I did put my insurance billing on auto-pay status with my rebate credit card. Why I hadn't set up auto-pay before on the account I do not know. :oops:

Honestly I don't think payment reminders should be part of an insurance agents job. All I expect from mine is for her to find me a good policy that meets my need in coverage and cost. And I expect her to get me a suitable policy each and every year! No pressure, here!

Broken Man 1999
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by cheese_breath » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:48 am

FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:04 am
... Additionally, he missed a scheduled appointment a year ago and never followed up after another agent sat in for him...
So he was thoughtful enough to have someone sit in for him? Better than having you sit in the room with an empty chair. Did the other agent take care of everything that needed taking care of? If so, what's the problem?
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

RickBoglehead
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:49 am

In close to 40 years I've never had an insurance agent. AMICA has no agents, you deal directly with the company. No one gets commissions or incentives. Much prefer this manner of insurance.

Dottie57
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 am

I do think an insurance broker may be better.

They can get better prices. And the can tell you which companies are best at paying out on claims.

FeesR-BullNotBullish
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by FeesR-BullNotBullish » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm

OP here. Thank you for the responses. I’m getting my fill of humble pie, which gives me cause to reconsider my attitude towards my agent. Regarding the cancellation letter, that got filed away as well. :oops:

So yeah, it's past time to set up auto-pay and improve our mail filing system.

It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.

Iridium
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Iridium » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:19 pm

Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 am
I do think an insurance broker may be better.

They can get better prices. And the can tell you which companies are best at paying out on claims.
Are there any personal lines brokers out there? So far, all I find are agents. Independent agents, sure, but ones without a fiduciary responsibility to me and different companies pay different commission rates, so I am left wondering whether I actually got the best deal that pops out of the multirater.
FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm
It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.
Which, it should be noted, is not a small thing. Whenever something comes up in life where I am not certain of the insurance implications, having someone who I can email rather than have to call into a call center is great, not just from a convenience standpoint, but also from a paper trail perspective.

BTW, if you look at sites that give advice to insurance agents, they are pretty universal in warning agents NOT call about an overdue premium. Apparently, there is a concern that customers might get dependent upon the 'reminders', so if the agent forgets and a loss happens when the customer was uninsured, they might try to go after the agent's E&O insurance.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:35 pm

If you expect a call from an agent when a bill is due, perhaps have that conversation with your agent. I know with my insurance (through an Independent Agent), I have the choice with every policy to pay in any of 3 ways:
1) In full annually. (agent would not be involved in monitoring)
2) By payment plan annually. (agent would not be involved in monitoring)
3) Through the agent who would forward the money (agent directly involved)

#3 was a common method back in the 60's when people would come by the agency with cash money and pay towards their policy. The agent handled all of the schedule and accounting. Today, who pays anything with cash? Who doesn't use auto-pay? I do know that each of the above have costs (or as the insurance company defines them, discounts). #1 gives me the biggest discount and #3 might have a cost.

A good agent will call you when needed. But not when YOU'VE selected a method to keep them out of the loop. When I buy a car or sell the car and remove plates through our state DMV system, I get a call within an hour from my agent (they get notified) asking if I want to remove the car from my policy. I also get calls when the insurance company I'm with gets bought out by morons who will be raising rates at renewal time. This has saved me the hassle of seeing the new, outrageous bill and dealing with it. The agent will proactively find the best fit for a company and when they call me tell me who that is and why they are the recommended choice.

As much as a company like Amica who (per a poster) has no agents or commissions, what do you think they're going to say when they are not competitive or when you ask for a better company? Do you think they'll say "oh, we'll just move you to Mapfre since they're far less expensive for the same coverage"?

I'm not in insurance myself (I'm an engineer).
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fishmonger
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by fishmonger » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:45 pm

FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm

It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.
Largely you're correct. But to follow up on an earlier post, living in a small town and knowing your agent can pay big dividends. About 10 years ago my in-laws were renovating their kitchen, while they were both active duty military. A pipe burst and was not discovered for days - kitchen was a total loss. Technically they were not covered for such a disaster.

However, their independent agent was a long-time family friend, and is someone they'd done business with for 30+ years. Needless to say he made sure that the adjuster made it happen. I've taken a similar route with our own homeowner's coverage.

Some folks just shop on price (and I get that), but our agent is a friend. If our house burns down tomorrow, I'm not calling some 800 number, I'm calling his personal cell phone. We pay a little bit more for sure, but the piece of mind is worth every penny

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greg24
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by greg24 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:57 pm

Twice we've failed to pay our auto insurance on time. Our agent called us a couple weeks after the due date to let us know.

Other than that, I honestly have received zero value from our agent in the 16 years we've had them.

Jags4186
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Jags4186 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:37 pm

Insurance agents have access to insurance companies that don’t sell direct to consumer. In my experience they always are able to find better rates than you are by shopping around on your own. Your experience may vary depending on what state you live in.

Dottie57
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:14 pm

Iridium wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 am
I do think an insurance broker may be better.

They can get better prices. And the can tell you which companies are best at paying out on claims.
Are there any personal lines brokers out there? So far, all I find are agents. Independent agents, sure, but ones without a fiduciary responsibility to me and different companies pay different commission rates, so I am left wondering whether I actually got the best deal that pops out of the multirater.
FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm
It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.
Which, it should be noted, is not a small thing. Whenever something comes up in life where I am not certain of the insurance implications, having someone who I can email rather than have to call into a call center is great, not just from a convenience standpoint, but also from a paper trail perspective.

BTW, if you look at sites that give advice to insurance agents, they are pretty universal in warning agents NOT call about an overdue premium. Apparently, there is a concern that customers might get dependent upon the 'reminders', so if the agent forgets and a loss happens when the customer was uninsured, they might try to go after the agent's E&O insurance.
I think brokers are positioned to do more for you. They can sell from many companies and know whereeach company is strongest. Maybe you want a policy which is written in plain English versus legalese. A broker can direct you to a company that does that.

Iridium
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Iridium » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:26 pm

Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:14 pm
Iridium wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 am
I do think an insurance broker may be better.

They can get better prices. And the can tell you which companies are best at paying out on claims.
Are there any personal lines brokers out there? So far, all I find are agents. Independent agents, sure, but ones without a fiduciary responsibility to me and different companies pay different commission rates, so I am left wondering whether I actually got the best deal that pops out of the multirater.
FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm
It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.
Which, it should be noted, is not a small thing. Whenever something comes up in life where I am not certain of the insurance implications, having someone who I can email rather than have to call into a call center is great, not just from a convenience standpoint, but also from a paper trail perspective.

BTW, if you look at sites that give advice to insurance agents, they are pretty universal in warning agents NOT call about an overdue premium. Apparently, there is a concern that customers might get dependent upon the 'reminders', so if the agent forgets and a loss happens when the customer was uninsured, they might try to go after the agent's E&O insurance.
I think brokers are positioned to do more for you. They can sell from many companies and know whereeach company is strongest. Maybe you want a policy which is written in plain English versus legalese. A broker can direct you to a company that does that.
How do you find an actual broker having handing personal lines? Every time I look, I just find independent agents who call themselves brokers, but are paid by commission by the insurance companies they place policies with. In investing, Bogleheads are adamant about only hiring fee-only fiduciaries. However, I have been unable to find how to apply this to my insurance. Everyone I can find is commission-based, outside of commercial and, maybe, health insurance.

Dottie57
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:36 pm

Iridium wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:26 pm
Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:14 pm
Iridium wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Dottie57 wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:53 am
I do think an insurance broker may be better.

They can get better prices. And the can tell you which companies are best at paying out on claims.
Are there any personal lines brokers out there? So far, all I find are agents. Independent agents, sure, but ones without a fiduciary responsibility to me and different companies pay different commission rates, so I am left wondering whether I actually got the best deal that pops out of the multirater.
FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 pm
It sounds like an agent's role is to sell and help people understand insurance products. Anything above and beyond should be considered a bonus.
Which, it should be noted, is not a small thing. Whenever something comes up in life where I am not certain of the insurance implications, having someone who I can email rather than have to call into a call center is great, not just from a convenience standpoint, but also from a paper trail perspective.

BTW, if you look at sites that give advice to insurance agents, they are pretty universal in warning agents NOT call about an overdue premium. Apparently, there is a concern that customers might get dependent upon the 'reminders', so if the agent forgets and a loss happens when the customer was uninsured, they might try to go after the agent's E&O insurance.
I think brokers are positioned to do more for you. They can sell from many companies and know whereeach company is strongest. Maybe you want a policy which is written in plain English versus legalese. A broker can direct you to a company that does that.
How do you find an actual broker having handing personal lines? Every time I look, I just find independent agents who call themselves brokers, but are paid by commission by the insurance companies they place policies with. In investing, Bogleheads are adamant about only hiring fee-only fiduciaries. However, I have been unable to find how to apply this to my insurance. Everyone I can find is commission-based, outside of commercial and, maybe, health insurance.
I may have misspoken. My dad called the insurance guy he worked with an insurance broker.

This is the link to the website https://www.coxins.net/about

It looks like it is an insurance agency (independent).

Iridium
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by Iridium » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:55 pm

I misspoke. I had thought that a broker by definition was paid by the customer. Whereas the agent is paid by commission.

After further research, it appears that both are paid by commission. The difference appears to be more that independent agents are able to take some actions on behalf of the companies they represent, whereas brokers have no such right (which probably makes it somewhat easier to work with a wide variety of companies, as you don't have to develop a trust relationship with each one). So, you were right Dottie57 and I appreciate the link!

goodlifer
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by goodlifer » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:19 pm

I just talked to my agent yesterday. I wind up talking to her or her staff pretty often, or just dropping off my payments. I live within walking distance of their office and sometimes the website is too slow for my liking. I would switch agents if I was treated like the OP.

I did forget to pay one of our bills on time and the insurance company mailed a reminder less than 30 days after the due date. After 30 days, they consider my policy in default. I'm surprised they didn't mail a reminder.

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nedsaid
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by nedsaid » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:25 pm

FeesR-BullNotBullish wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:04 am
I missed my six-month auto insurance premium because the bill was filed away, and I just plain forgot it was due. Last night, I found the bill, paid up, and the policy was reinstated. Going forward, I will set up automated payments to prevent this from recurring.

I feel let down that I didn’t get a heads-up call or email from my agent prior to my policy lapsing. Additionally, he missed a scheduled appointment a year ago and never followed up after another agent sat in for him. I no longer wish to do business with my agent. We also have homeowners and a business policy with the same agent.

How do you view the role of an insurance agent? Am I reasonable to expect service from my insurance agent above and beyond pitches for bad investment products and whole life policies? Might I be better served forgoing agents and shopping policies online or through an independent broker?
The trend with insurance is that the Agents are less involved in the claims process now. The days of the agent going to bat for a client in the claims process are going away. In fact, an agent, depending on the company, can get into trouble doing this. Agents are there to sell, the claims department handles the claims. My guess is that the value added provided by the insurance agent is less than it used to be. When I last had a claim, the agent just referred me to the 800 number. I was not pleased.
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pshonore
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by pshonore » Sun Jul 15, 2018 3:13 pm

The term independent agent and broker are used interchangeably at least for CP business written through the independent agency system. Typically an agent would have a contract with probably 3 or 4 of the large national carriers, (The Hartford, Travelers, Farmers, etc) as well as some of the smaller regional carriers. Remember also the bulk of commissions probably comes from Commercial business written through the same carriers. A good agent knows which risks a given company prefers to insure and will place business accordingly. And he probably will probably not place all his subpar risks with the same company or he may lose his contract or profit sharing depending on loss experience. Companies also vary in how aggressive they market depending on rates. A good agent will find coverage although it may be in an industry pool which has its own set of rules and regulations. (Unlike health insurance, companies do not have to insure everybody who walks in the door). A good agent should be able to answer any coverage question you have. I doubt today that any agent can get a claim paid where the peril was not covered by the policy.

HIinvestor
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Re: Do insurance agents add value? How?

Post by HIinvestor » Sun Jul 15, 2018 3:51 pm

We have an independent insurance broker. They do inform us if we have gaps I. Our insurance protection and make recommendations about filling those gaps. They also notify us if we are late in paying any premium. They will also check around and get us additional quotes for any policies if we are interested in comparing costs and coverage.

Overall, we have been pleased with our broker, but I agree they’re not all created equal.

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