flo from progressive and jake from state farm are household names now. How does the perceived value of larger companies affect smaller but potentially equally competitive ones?
The insurance industry is naturally highly segmented. there are approximately 6,000 companies active in the industry, but the 10 largest companies control more than 50% of premium income. so we have an industry that has a few very large companies, like progressive and state farms, and numerous small companies. The goal of success for smaller companies should not be to compete with large companies, but to find a niche market and develop superior expertise in that market.
The insurance industry is divided into two segments. There are several names to describe these two segments: standard/specialty, supported/unsupported, standard/excess, and surplus. I will use the terms standard and specialty. the standard market is characterized by large groups of policyholders who have risks of a very similar nature. This market includes personal home, auto, life, and health lines. These are the insurers that the public is familiar with because they advertise heavily to the public with catchy slogans and endearing spokespersons and mascots.
The standard market comprises approximately 90% of total market premiums. the specialty market takes the remaining 10% but is much more diverse. Examples of perils insured in the specialty market include commercial property, trucking, shipping, product liability, workers’ compensation, and professional liability (eg, doctors, attorneys, building contractors). this is just a small sample of the types of risks insured in this market that offer ample return opportunities for smaller companies.
Even home insurance, for example, offers niche opportunities. standard market insurers, such as progressive and state, will only insure single-family residences (up to four units) where the owner/insured lives year-round. they will not insure a vacant home, seasonal residence, or rental property. People looking for insurance in these situations should go to a specialized insurer.
the specialty market includes a huge subdivision where the companies don’t even exist! Lloyd’s insurance market is characterized by syndicates that are just loose affiliations of investors looking to insure risk. Although companies can participate in these unions along with individuals, the union itself has a useful life of only three years before dissolving. the risks insured in this market are usually very different and diverse. Lloyd’s Syndicates have, in the past, insured such unique and divergent ventures as Bruce Springsteen’s voice, Tina Turner’s legs, and the Loch Ness Monster!
There are also opportunities in reinsurance: insuring insurers! so we can see that the insurance industry is a vast and diverse world with a wide variety of opportunities and markets. the strength of a company’s advertising campaign should not negatively affect the profitability of a smaller player if that player is smart and nimble.
Living in this digital revolution, do companies like insurance providers need to maintain localized agents and personalized experiences?
I would say that insurance companies could reduce their offer of localized agents, but not eliminate them completely. there is still a large part of the population that does not have a good and reliable internet service. In addition, there are many people who have a good internet service but still do not feel comfortable with electronic commerce.
Insurance is complicated and sometimes confusing, and quite often potential clients will want to speak directly with a person to explain the policies before they are sure it is right for them. Personal service is also an important feature for some clients as they build a relationship with a particular insurer, and someone the client has met and knows may gain more trust than an anonymous call center person.
I don’t see the personal touch in insurance purchasing going away anytime soon and believe localized offices will remain an important, albeit diminished, facet of policy distribution and servicing for the foreseeable future.