Economic Uncertainty Presents Opportunities for Agency & Carrier Partnerships

We all know of the traditional carrier/agent relationship—it may, in fact, be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of insurance distribution partnerships. But rapid technological advancements, changing customer expectations, and economic headwinds are reshaping how insurance products and services are distributed. Today, many agency executives are forging new partnerships and expanding existing ones. While some choose to pare back their number of channel partners and focus on their most successful ones, others are selecting to partner with niche carriers that focus on specific industry verticals.

New research reports from ReSource Pro examine retail agencies’ current channel partnerships, their future channel plans, and their expectations for changes to insurance distribution in both commercial and personal lines based on a survey of agency executives. The number one change that more than half of distributors across the P&C industry agree will happen over the next five years is an increase in agent/broker consolidation. This is despite a decline in M&A transactions in 2022 amid widespread economic uncertainty. Although much of this uncertainty remains in 2023, deal volume may rebound this year due to decreased annual inflation rates and less aggressive interest rate hikes.

In contrast, fewer executives expect major disruption from insurtech, with only about 19% of executives in all P&C lines saying insurtech will bring significant change to distribution within five years. This does not mean that insurtechs aren’t impacting insurance distribution. While prior concerns about the potential elimination of the agent role have mostly abated, agencies still recognize that insurtechs have an important role in distribution, particularly in the personal and small commercial segments. When planning their channel expansion strategies for 2023, a small percentage of agencies—8% in personal lines and zero in commercial lines—are pursuing partnerships with insurtechs and digital agencies. This suggests that agencies are still finding their footing with more innovative partnerships and are currently prioritizing the carrier channel by expanding or adding carrier partners.

The message here is that agencies are mainly sticking with what they know works. In times of economic uncertainty, companies often pull back on innovative initiatives instead of investing in strategies with a history of success. Now is a prime opportunity for personal and commercial lines insurers to strengthen and expand their existing partnerships while also identifying new partnership opportunities.

For more information on agency channel strategies, see our recent research reports, “Channel Strategies and Plans for P&C Agencies: A View of the Commercial Lines Segment in 2023” and “Channel Strategies and Plans for P&C Agencies: A View of the Personal Lines Segments in 2023.” These reports are part of ReSource Pro’s research series designed to provide actionable insights for carriers and agencies on distributor plans and expectations.