How to Pick an Insurance Cluster That's Right for Your Agency
There are many benefits to joining an insurance cluster, but how do you know which one is the best fit?
Making the choice to join an insurance cluster can be a difficult decision, but there are many benefits of doing so. As a member of a cluster, you typically remain an independent agent while gaining access to improved commission structures, profit sharing, great networking opportunities, and desirable carrier relationships. If you’ve decided to join a cluster, there are several things you can do to ensure your choice is the best fit for you and your agency.
How to Research Potential Insurance Clusters
Thoroughly conducting research on each option you are considering is the best starting point. No two organizations are alike, so it is essential to perform due diligence. Begin by visiting each organization's website. Most established insurance clusters have pages on their website outlining the various components of membership. Read about the benefits, requirements and application process. Once you have narrowed down your list, call each cluster and ask to speak with a membership consultant or coordinator. Ask many questions to get a feel for the setup and culture. Fit is critical and it can be difficult to gauge culture by web presence alone. Speaking directly to a live person can either put your mind at ease or raise a bunch of red flags. Next, call existing cluster members. A good practice is to call not only those predefined references provided by the cluster but call a few on your own. Look for agencies with similar books and in the same general geographical area as you. Some cluster websites list their members, but some do not. If you cannot find a list on the website, look up the license on your state’s website to get more information. When you call other agencies, ask to speak to an agency principal and ask the important questions. Find out what the agency is most happy with and least happy with. Ask if they plan to renew their membership and if the benefits have outweighed the membership fees and commissions. You know what you are looking for and what is most important to you, so ask away!
Picking the Best Option from Your Top Insurance Clusters
Once you have done research and gathered data on each of your possible choices, create a list and prioritize the elements that are most important to you and your agency. Remember, one size does not fit all – each agency is unique and agreements are different for one group to the next. It is a good idea to create a comparison spreadsheet to keep track of your data and research. You should also review what carriers the cluster has appointments with and whether or not those carriers are going to meet the needs of your target markets. Lastly, here are a few things we believe are very important to know before making your final decision to apply:
- Membership application process. Save yourself some time and find out if the cluster has open enrollment and is actively accepting new members to their group. After that, investigate the application process. You may need to provide income figures around your commercial, personal and health lines and provide details on why you are interested in joining the cluster.
- Minimum qualifications to join. Most clusters have a list of requirements potential members must meet before joining. This list generally includes things like: licensure in particular states, number of years in business, profitable book of business, experience with or focus on certain types of insurance policies and a positive reputation with existing carriers. Do you meet the all the requirements for the cluster you want to join?
- Fees and costs associated with joining. Clusters and networks may have an established joining fee and/or monthly payments, which can vary from a percentage of commissions to a fixed rate fee (or a combination of both). This component will most likely be an important decision factor in making the final call on choosing which insurance cluster is right for you.
If you would like more information about United Valley Insurance Services and our membership benefits, check out this page or call our toll free at 800-401-8847.