10 Tips for New Insurance Agents
The decision to become an insurance agent can be the
beginning of a fulfilling and lucrative career. As a
new professional in the insurance industry, it is imperative to know
the "basics" and to inquire about other important aspects of
the job. As an Errors & Omissions claims handler, I see
hundreds of claims every year pass across my desk. Below are 10
suggestions for new agents that, if followed, may reduce the chances of
having an Errors and Omissions claim being brought against you and/or
1) Know the Marketplace – Take the time to know the
products you are selling, the differences in coverages of those products,
and what your competitors are up to. The more you stay on top of
what is happening in the industry, the better you are able to provide a
high level of customer service to your clients and ensure success in
marketing new business.
2) Know the Standard of Care in the state(s) where you are
licensed - Know what your legal duties are to your customers, as well as
what they are not. – Is your state an "order-taker" state? Do
you have a duty to pro-actively advise customers of exposures and the
need for specific coverages? What is a "special relationship"?
An awareness of the basic laws of your state can prevent many potential
claims of negligence in the future.
3) Listen to Your Customer – Being a good listener is an
underrated skill in the business world. Not only does being an
attentive listener avoid errors in the placement of coverage, it also
shows your customer that you care about them personally and that you are
attempting to meet their insurance needs.
4) Properly Assess the Risk/Exposure – Listening carefully
to the insurance needs of your client will assist in assuring the proper
coverage is obtained. Additional investigation, such as viewing the
risk that is to be insured, may be advisable, if not required. Know
the insured's personal needs and/or the type of business they
5) Document Everything – One of the simplest things to do
as an agent is to document your file with emails, documents received,
calls made, etc. However, this is often not done on a regular
basis. Many E&O claims can be dismissed with the production of
a single document that will prove an otherwise problematic claim to be
6) Review your Customer's Policy – Review your customer's
policy when it is issued for errors in coverage, limits, typos,
etc. Insureds usually have a "duty to read" their
policies but seldom do. The expectation is for the agent to make
sure everything is correct.
7) Use Caution in Email Correspondence – Use caution with
both external and internal emails. Always be thorough and
professional. Remind yourself that everything you write and send
could be used as an exhibit in a courtroom someday if an E&O claim
was to be litigated.
8) Never Assure Your Customer That "Everything will
be Covered" – When a customer files a claim, it can be a stressful
time for both the insured and the agent. Sometimes the claim
involves catastrophic circumstances. Often, it is natural to want
to assure customers that "everything will be okay."
Assist customers with reporting their claims in these circumstances but
refrain from taking a stance on coverage opinions. This is the carrier's
9) Be Responsible with Website Content – If you are
responsible for a website for your agency or an agency where you work, be
careful in the use of language on the sites. Holding oneself out as
a specialist in particular coverages can be misleading to customers and
result in errors in risk assessment. These websites can be used to
your disadvantage in defending a claim.
10) Continue Your
Education as an Insurance Professional – All 50 states require insurance
agents to be licensed. The requirements of licensing vary state by state.
However, don't stop there! Continuing to pursue a variety of
professional designations can do nothing but enhance your skills as an
agent and boost your reputation in the community.
This article is intended to be used for general
informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any
particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any
way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in
any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information
contained or referenced in this article. The information contained
or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should
not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it
serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice.
Julie Carter is an assistant vice president, claims
specialist with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and works out of the office
in Kansas City, Missouri. Insurance products underwritten by Westport
Insurance Corporation, Kansas City, Missouri, a member of Swiss Re