On Insurance Rates

what now

After seeing an insured go to the national carrier they are with and lower themselves from our minimum to the state minimum. 

Completely understand this younger person who needs to drive to work, pay other bills, etc.  On the other hand, 8 of our 10 options would not offer a rate so he is left with 2 of our choices and maybe 2-5 others elsewhere.  Now, we have a woefully underinsured driver on the road because this is what he can afford. So, his carrier is doing what they can to take on some of the riskier populations.  But riskier is relative to the criteria they are basing rates on.  Charging for driving infractions versus for paid claims.  But, those other 8 companies of ours, not to mention a few dozen more will then shoulder the cost of the property damage from any claims he is involved in, not to mention the potential for large medical bills.  As I learned this fall, it is very likely, in the event of a claim that exceeds the property damage, the carrier that pays it can then sue, garnish wages, etc.  None of these are positive.  None of these are healthy for the finances of the overall population.  None of these are good activities for expense ratios. But, if a contract is not enforced, if consequences for bad choices are ignored, where are we left?
We’re left where we are now.  With companies who may or may not know who they want to insure.  Then, they apply data to that uncertainty and it seems to be when in doubt, apply a higher rate.  But it gets better, see when they cannot afford that higher rate and then cancel that policy, the new company can choose to negatively impact the rate for this person. This now locks them into a typically higher rate for another six or so months, maybe longer.  Not good for anyone.
Now, in theory, they could have provided him with coverage and collected premium, maybe secured with a telematics device?  What if we took a longer play and said, you know, this person fits all our criteria and seems to have had a rough stretch 2 years ago.  But, no claims were paid out and there were no accidents reported.  Looks like he/she is in college and engaged now(we know because we are using data confidently and to the benefit of the customer, not the carrier) maybe this is a person we should work with?  

No solutions, just concepts that can be used better.

Thoughts circa 2005

Doing an audit/ clean up of my computer.  Lots of satisfaction in finding goal list and projects that were successful but forgotten.  Also, find lots of thoughts that I am thankful I had then and are still valid today.  Some from a goal list I had put together;

My mission is to continually provide my clients with the service that I would expect, the best possible.  Each relationship will be treated as though it is priceless.  My professionalism must always be visible and I cannot sway from my principals.  Purely on principle, I must always give the client everything possible all while being the person who I would want to deal with.  I must be a reliable source for information and provide those who I deal with the utmost of professionalism…….

It will never be about the money, it is the goal that will drive me and I cannot lose sight of the fact that the money can disappear and I have to appreciate the experience and wherever it may lead.  Since it is my clients who will fund my pursuits, they will be priceless to me and therefore I must be unflinching in my resolve to make their experience great enough to share.  Once this is shared I will be in the best position.  It is about the overall financial goal however my clients must know that they are people and not just numbers and I cannot lose sight of this, my production goals are merely the road map, it is the people and the relationships that must be my fuel.

It is simple I will give them the best to start and therefore cannot be questioned later one.  Accountability is extremely important and I will hold myself accountable for everything.

Things for Insurance agents to consider this year….or any year

1. If you work as part of a larger agency; Are you builiding your business or someone elses?
2. What is really a “fair” split on commissions?
3. Why am I more focused on buying leads instead of cultivating referrals?
4. What is the household and PIF growth I am looking for this year?
5. Would you settle for only one option anywhere else in your life?  Than why are you only working with one company?
6. What is the last marketing book I read?
7. Am I regularly reading about marketing concepts or insurance marketing concepts?
8. Are you a part of someone else’s perpetuation plan or do you have your own?
9. How are you dealing with the changing consumer?
10.  The agent/broker has lots of control they are not using.  What about you?
11. Do you still believe in rate increases?  Are they really “a necessary evil”  or part of the business….
12.Are you taking advice and listening to people who have done things before or just people who write/talk about it?
13. If you are paying for some sort of label/qualfication is it really valid?  Was it earned?
14. Why are you not averaging at least half if not one referral from every household you work with?
15. Issuing an insurance policy(ies) is not enough.  What else are you doing for your customer?
Will you be surfing the wave of change that has started or being washed away by it?

Are you for sale?

So it is apparent to most everyone that Mergers and Acquisitions are on the rise in the insurance world.  Soon enough they will have a MASSIVE impact on my piece of it; the independent broker channel.  I’m sure in some pockets it has already started.  Fact is the industry and the American public will be better off with less independent agencies.  Many existing brokers have not ” kept up with the times..” so to speak which reduces the overall customer experience, gives the insurance companies to much power(which most are not using wisely) , reduces the ease to entry into the business and creates where we are today; Non insurance people entering to take over.

So I have been semi-actively looking for agents to buy/merge/acquihire for over four years now.  I limit this to a certain geography and admittedly have been growing to quickly to keep up with a very consistent search.  But, I still have seen lots, researched lots and came up with several criteria I find “interesting” to look at.

In many cases, I am sure most dive right into the “numbers”  What is your gross commission?  What is your loss ratio?  What are your expenses?  blah, blah, blah.  All well and good I suppose, but as they say; if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always gotten…or something like that.  So here are some others, in no particular order since nobody buys the cow when you can get the milk for free;

  1. What is your total “household” or client count?  What has it looked like for the last three years? **Must factor in agency age, owner age, employee tenure and likely adjust the three year look back
  2. What is your PIF(policy in force) count?  Same as above, This is as important as policies per household/client.
  3. How many of your accounts have both commercial and personal insurance with you?  How many could have that with you?
  4. How many have life insurance with you or an affiliate?
  5. If dealing with health insurance; how many of those clients have other (commercial) policies with you?
  6. Agency owner; I was talking with an executive of a large company and we had a conversation about what is really important; the owners age or the owners time in the business?  What is behind this?  Well we all have a life cycle and so does a business.  Plateauing your business, sometimes called maintenance of a book or farming a book instead of actively growing it.  Time in business could be a better indicator
  7. How did you get into the business?  Did you stumble in and buy another agency?  Buying another agency may have set up your expectations for now.  ** Pay attention to Zenefits but not to much.  Must factor in how inexpensively you can acquire customers; less than $20
  8. How big is the space you rent or do you own?  Big difference.
  9. What kind of furniture do you have?
  10. Do you have a large printer and a copier?  All in one?
  11. How about a wall full of file cabinets?
  12. Where do you, the owner, sit?
  13. Do you rely on your company partners for wall decorations or have your own style?
  14. Is your location one that accommodates “walk ins”?
  15. Your website; is it full of stock photos?
  16. Your website; when was your blog last updated, does it read like stock/canned material
  17. Social media presence or lack there of?
  18. What memberships do you pay for?
  19. What are you doing next?
  20. How often do your carrier reps visit you?

Wow, honestly I was surprised when I wrote all my ideas in one place.  I suppose I look at many of these almost subconsciously at this point.  Either way, welcome to your input.



Dont be perfect, just get better

Dear Big National Insurance company who I want to bring more business to;

We have had a nice relationship so far and I think we both like each other.  I’m confused though, some days it seems like you just don’t want my business.  Now I understand you won’t want everyone but I am still left disappointed.  See we know each other pretty well, I have a nice understanding of who you want to be insured but somewhere in there, something is not working.

It’s not you, it’s me?

Not so sure but I really would like to do more with you.  You are nice, your people are nice, you take care of our new mutual friends.  What’s not to like?  Well, I came up with a list, in no particular order;

  • Please, please, please if you are going to look at an insurance score, which is fine by me, please look at both people I put in.  I’ll be able to bring you more people, they’ll be happier when they arrive and your pricing will be more accurate.  Heck, they’ll be more likely to stay as well.
  • Along those lines, our new friends are the key to all this.  You know, for lots of us, it is very important to set up the auto and home policy with one company.  So why is it that you’ll give them the very best rate for auto insurance and a very poor rate for home insurance?  Yes, I know, supposedly homes are different, the age of roof, protection class, blah, blah, blah.  Good people, like you and me, are good people.  Help me bring you more of them.
  • One of my other “friends”, sorry monogamy is not good business when it comes to being an insurance broker, helps save me time with every quote.  One way is to simply have the code in your quotes for EVERY bank that someone may have a car or home loan with.
  • Knowing the right protection class is critical to your home rates.  Why would you not pull this automatically?  I know we both have lots of relationships.  Let’s face it, some of your partners may be misusing this flaw of yours.
  • Do you know how much housing data is available?  More than I ever thought possible.  The moment I give you our friends address you can pull it all for us.  Saves us both time, makes things more accurate.
  • Following up on that; when was the last time you checked the accuracy of the replacement cost evaluator you use?  Try this, look up new(er) homes in your neighborhood or nearby.  Take those details and see what you come up with.  Could be surprising.  Based on a lot of your calculations it seems like every new home being built and sold is sold at a loss.
  • No matter what, I try and make it easy for people to give me money.  Maybe you could as well?  I’m sure the people at Am** or Di****** are not that bad.  Please try and figure out how to take their cards.  Our friends want to use them so let us help them.  Oh and PayPal.  Wow, it would be awesome and open a whole new market for us if you could do that.

Thanks so much.  Glad you are such a good listener.  We’ll have a much better relationship if we both keep working on improving ourselves.  I really want to make this work.


With lots of admiration,


Billy Van Jura

Let’s be friends

So most of us have friends.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  You are closer with some more than others.  Some you hang out with more often.  Some are “on-line” friends or “work” friends but they all get the label friends.  They all on some level have a place in your world.

At the same turn, each of them needs or wants something from you.  Some need/want more than others.  At various times one or more of them may need a lot from you.  Over time some friends sort of increase in value(feelings) while others get less.  But they are  all still your friends.

If you wanted to get morbid about it you can break it down like this;

  • Some friends will come to your funeral to see you one last time
  • Some will come out of respect for your family even though you are not so close
  • Some will not make it but may say a silent prayer and take some time to grieve or celebrate you
  • Some will hear of your passing, feel bad for a moment and move on

I think the key in that scenario is making sure that no one is happy you passed.

So how do you treat your friends.  Like I wrote earlier, they are all treated a little different but on some level they are all the same.  They may have different levels of value and importance but they are all still valuable and important.  We also know that at some point, one or many of them may have some difficult times that you may choose to or have to help with.

Do we charge them a fee for this “extra” help?  NO we know it is part of the equation.  We know that friendship is a long term thing.  We know that if we choose good ones, some would even say the right ones, the good times will far outweigh the bad.  **We know we are not for everybody but we try to be good humans and be flexible.  We don’t treat anyone as a lesser human, we are just friendlier with some more than others** We know that friendships come with a lot of things that really cannot be measured.  We know that most friends know that friendship is a reciprocal relationship.  We know that when we can, we take on a little more responsibility.

So if this is how most of us live life, why should how an insurance company treats a customer be any different?

Dear Insurance agent losing business to me;

I hope this finds you doing well.  It’s been a bit and I know things can be tough for some of us.  Safe to say it could be more challenging now than when you started in the business.   Honestly, if there was an insurance police this would be something they would want to know about, but since there is not I’ll just write this note to you.

For a while, I honestly thought it was mostly the on-line quoting machines that were making such a simple mistake.  Than I started to see more and more captives acting this way.  Yes, indpendents are not completely innocent but  I don’t take as much business from independents.  I’ve always wondered if it was 1) a mistake 2) a lack of knowledge or worse 3) a mandate from the company they work for.  In the case of the local captive agent, I am guessing it is more of a product of desperation. Really needing every phone call to result in business so you cut corners.  You cut corners you wouldn’t cut for your family but would do it in the name of  “low rates” or worse binding a policy today for a commission or some sort of contest.

Here’s the thing, by short changing your customer, you are actually short changing yourself.  In the short term you are costing yourself commission and potentially your customer some much needed coverage.


Honestly, I have no idea.

Now take this from the sales side.  If your fellow agents are doing things one way, why would you want to go down to their level?  You wouldn’t!!!!  So please stop doing it.

How do you fix this?  Simple.  When you are quoting auto insurance, whenever possible you provide the same amount of supplemental un and underinsured motorist coverage as the liability coverage you are providing.  Really not hard.  If you are quoting $500,000 in liability, you quote $500,000 in un/underinsured motorist.  SIMPLE, now just do it.  EVERY TIME.

  • it’s the right thing to do for your customer
  • it’s the right thing to do for your family
  • it’s the right thing to do for your top line
  • it’s the right thing to do for your bottom line
  • it’s the right thing to do for society
  • you’ll close more deals because you’ll stand out
  • you’ll make the industry better

Seriously, if you need more reasons it might be time for another business.  Anyhow, happy selling.




The agent taking your business

An Insurance system fail

When a system fails, consumers and the people they need to run them, we all lose.

Take this example; Mrs. C is an existing customer of an agency.  Came referred and has kept paying her auto, home and umbrella for three years now.  The insurance has gone up in price(failure for a different article) despite the risk not changing.  Now you have one household who has referred other business to the agency and is worth about $800 in gross commission.  Factor in the people who have been referred and this one household easily generates $1000+ in commission.
Now Mrs. C is in need of another policy.  This  is for a small venture she is involved in.  Now keep in mind this small commercial type policy is not one that most agents have an interest in.  The total premium is going to be $455.  Maybe the gross commission is $50.  Keep in mind, she is already a customer, there was no selling.  This was a person who simply wanted to give the agency more money.
So what happened.  The options available to me are via www.theeventhelper.com who although they are very easy to use is written on a claims made form.  Now we can debate claims made versus occurrence but in reality it is the same mistake auto quoting websites are making.
  • They are giving the customer too much to think about.
  • They are allowing poor choices to take place instead of eliminating the possibility of them happening.
  • They are leaving themselves vulnerable for the when/if the customer shops a bit or worse a claim happens.

What is worse about this is they don’t have to do it this way.

So instead of having an easy online option that has a quality product behind it, instead we provide the customer with an application to fill out and return.  She does it.  Then we submit it to the wholesaler and wait, and wait, and wait then we get an offer.  But despite filling out an application, the underwriter has more questions.  So now we go back to the insured and get the answers.  She provides the answers so we give them to the underwriter.  Then they send us an offer but wait, this offer has three more questions that need answers prior to binding.  So back to the insured we go.  She then provides the answer and after a few more hours we get authority to bind.
It gets better, the event is on a Saturday and this is Friday at, you guessed it 4:00 ish.  I have a 5:00 tee time, not looking good.  Now fortunately the insured can make a payment on-line and after another human stepping in, the insured has her certificate. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL  Remember, this was for $50.  But it gets worse, did the existing client lose some faith in your agency?  How much time in total was spent on this by the insured, you, your assistant, the other company as well.  Enough already.  Are we working for free?
Think of it this way, what if instead the customer could simply log into the agents website and have the option of an on-line quote ready and waiting for them.  You already have the customer, you already have their personal information this can upload into a new site  and you can easily build in a feature like this one.  BUT the product needs to be up to standards.  You need to be able to cover 95ish% of the customers you already have.  **Yes, I think you need to impose different standards for people you have not already vetted***   Want an example?  Go look at Amazon, have they ever upsold you anything?  Any chance you’ve ever been on a website that already had your data and made your next purchase easier.  You probably do this once  a week.
Maybe it will all change when more agencies act like businesses and less like insurance agencies.
Maybe it will get better when more agents stop using social media as a crutch?
Maybe it will get better when there are less agents?
The bottom line is still the same; The core piece of any business is having a set of customers who want to pay you.  The next piece of it is keeping this group of customers so they continue to pay you.  I suppose one more piece is continuing to evolve your business in such a way that those customers bring you new customers and instead of spending money on what they call traditional advertising you instead spend a smaller fraction of money on making the user experience better then you ever would need to on advertising.
Just some thoughts, on going work in progress.

Dear State Farm,

One thing that seems to continually bother me is when the wealthiest people and companies choose not to really do the world some good.  When they choose profits over people.  When they are genuinely in a position to change an industry for the better which will increase their profits and genuinely help the American public and they choose not to.  Baffled by it.

Why write today?

  • Because every time I receive another letter from you I wonder why another tree branch had to die.
  • Because I wonder why a huge company allows their product to be so diluted by advertising.
  • Because I wonder about the last time you or I calculated any savings in percentages.
  • Because I am wondering if there is anyone who can accurately calculate a discount on an insurance policy.
  • Because I am wondering why, in the age of specialization, personalization and niches you still send to “or Current Resident”
  • Because I am wondering why, if you are really a good neighbor, you don’t use local printers and mailing operations.
  • Because I am wondering why you are still using white envelopes when there is science behind using colored envelopes.
  • Because I am wondering why you use a standard #10 envelope when you can mail one twice the size for the same cost.

Oh, and your copy stinks.  Seriously, do any of your agents have enough time to “take a long, hard look at all the possible ways you can save….” Really, if you are still combing through policies you have bigger issues.

But then again you are the largest insurer in the U.S.A.  You also have fifteen agents within about ten miles of my home.  **That is scary**  What do I know.  Either way, thanks for reading.



Billy Van Jura


Disclaimer; There is good and bad in everything and advertising/marketing is no exception.  We are reminded of this every time we open our inbox, our mailbox, drive around, listen to the radio, watch T.V. etc.  I suppose the other side of this is that the lazy, spam like advertising perpetrated by many companies actually makes average advertising look good and good look great.

Not ready yet?

So in a previous post I dove into some things I thought were not so good about the shopping sites I tried to use.   Most of those comments were positioned from the consumer angle.  Yes, a little slanted since I have been helping people with insurance for eleven years but still from the consumer angle.  Well how about from the agent side

1. Its proven time and time again that the more policies a person/household has with an agent/company the more likely they are to stay.  That being said, quoting one line of business will not cut it.

2. Insurance is pretty ruthless.  Simply building a business around generating traffic/leads is an expensive proposition.

3. Back to that whole ruthless thing and factoring in combining lines; if you can only quote my auto insurance your sunk. The pool of people only wanting/needing auto insurance is not so big and for the most part is made up of price shoppers not people shopping for value.

4. Oh and if you do get someone interested you/the consumer needs to factor in losing a multi-policy discount.  YES, it is possible in fact I am about to do it but it is not often.  Figure you are on average in need of at least $100 in savings just to break even.  That’s tough considering a good savings on an auto/home/umbrella package is $300.

5. So the one company is basically on its way out so you would think the shopping model makes sense.  But then again State Farm owns all their data and Allstate can buy out their agents whenever they want.  In fact they might be able to do it for less than what you pay for a lead.  Could be interesting

6. I’ve stumbled into people bringing a lot of tech into the insurance world.  This is a good thing.  But then again old habits can die hard.  You/we can flip the industry on its proverbial head but we need to do it gently.

7.  PLEASE think more like Zappo and Amazon and less like the Lead providers of the early 2000’s

8. Oh and on the note of lead providers, it worked for me for a while.  Right up until I realized how poorly the companies were treating their “leads”  HUMANS that is who we are serving not leads.

9. And another thing, the insurance industry is not exactly growing.  Remember, each year people stop driving and each year people start driving.  If the total dollar volume grows it is a reflection on lazy consumers and greedy companies not a growing customer base.

10. You can bring tech to the insurance industry but not all at once.  Remember, the majority, which is where a lot of the money is, will not change all at once.  One step at at time.

The personal insurance industry is long overdue for improvements.  But, the way you are doing it now is ignoring some basic financial laws/rules.  In many cases you have needlessly lowered the bar and are actually making the customer worse off.  NOT GOOD, please stop this.  Help the customer and you’ll benefit for much longer than if you don’t.

Just some thoughts.