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By Rachel Bannister
Independent insurance agents remain vitally important to the industry because of the professional insurance counsel they provide and the relationships they cultivate with consumers and in the communities where they live and work.
In addition to explaining all of the nuts and bolts of insurance protection, independent agents cultivate relationships with their clients and work to become trusted advocates for them. Although consumers often feel that it is essential to have a doctor they know and a banker or financial advisor they trust, they sometimes overlook the need for developing a similar relationship with their insurance agent.
As author and motivational speaker Bob Burg says, “All things equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, trust and like.”
A relationship with an independent agent is equally as important in helping clients protect their families and property should an unfortunate event happen.  Independent agents do more than sell insurance; they help identify exposures, find the insurance carriers that offer the needed coverage at the best premiums, and manage all policies to be sure they are working together for maximum protection.
Although it is true that some insurance coverages can be purchased at the click of a button and consumers can decide to go it alone, there is no substitute for the expertise that comes from choosing to work with an independent agent. In working with a variety of carriers, independent agents are well trained and equipped to handle the unique situations that arise over time and can review coverages to make sure that consumers’ needs are being met as their lives change.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that local independent agents are often among the first people to respond when there is a loss, working to provide prompt service and to handle all aspects of a claim with insureds. That kind of experience is far superior to going it alone.
Nearly every independent insurance agency is involved in their community. Interests may vary from taking part in organizations such as the local chamber of commerce or networking groups to having a seat on hospital and school boards to being actively involved in the local culture and arts scene to coaching or sponsoring sports teams or volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
No matter the vehicle, independent insurance agents are contributing members of their communities. Independent agents care about the area in which they serve and give of their time and resources to support them. Just listen to agents talk about their city or town and you will know that the people in it are important to them, and their work is more fulfilling than simply providing a paycheck.
Above all, insurance is a relationship business. The independent agent will continue to work with insurance carriers to innovate and become more efficient, all the while embracing long-standing community partnerships and creating new ones – all to the benefit of their customers and communities.
Rachel Bannister, CPCU, CIC, AIS, API, AIM, is marketing supervisor at Patrons Oxford Insurance Company in Auburn.