Insurance Agent Job Description - Duties, Skills and Career Path
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Insurance Agent Job Description
An insurance agent is a person who sells insurance products and services. Insurance agents operate as authorized brokers on behalf of one or more insurance companies (or ‘carriers’) and manage a portfolio of clients. Their job involves acquiring new clients and maintaining existing ones, encouraging people to purchase insurance policies and providing them with insurance advice and assistance.
Insurance can be broadly divided into two types, called life and non-life insurance. Non-life insurance (also sometimes called general insurance and property and casualty insurance) includes cover such as third-party motor insurance and house insurance. Life insurance (sometimes known as personal insurance) is cover that protects the life of the insured person, their savings and their assets. In addition to insuring against the death of the insured person, life insurance policies may also cover against illness and disability, loss of retirement income and loss of savings (e.g. supplementary and private pensions).
So, what does an Insurance agent do?
The role of an insurance agent is an important and delicate one, founded upon a relationship of trust with their clients. Insurance agents offer their clients a wide range of services, including performing risk analyses to evaluate client risk exposure, identifying insurance coverage solutions for a variety of risks (e.g. a client’s life, assets or business) and ensuring policyholders receive an adequate level of coverage for their needs. They also offer their clients advice and support with a range of insurance issues - for example helping them to understand the details of a policy by explaining it in plain, intelligible language - and are responsible for collecting insurance premiums and dealing with late payments. Another key function performed by insurance agents is guiding their clients through the claims process, helping to determine whether there are grounds for a claim application and working to obtain a swift settlement from the insurance company.
Insurance agents operate on a self-employed basis, selling and promoting insurance to potential clients within an assigned territory. They can usually be divided into two categories: captive agents, who work for a single insurance company, and independent agents, who represent several companies. Both types of insurance agent are paid for their work in commission, which is to say that they receive a percentage of the value of each of the policies they sell.
Insurance Agent Responsibilities and Tasks
The tasks of an insurance agent include:
- Selling insurance products and services within their assigned territory
- Identifying the insurance needs of clients and selling them suitable cover based on those needs
- Assisting clients and providing them with advice on insurance and financial issues
- Guiding clients through the claims process, taking care of all paperwork and procedures
- Mediating between clients and insurance companies
- Maintaining and growing their client portfolio, e.g. looking for and meeting with potential new clients
- Keeping up-to-date with insurance industry news and regulatory developments
Insurance agents who operate their own insurance agency also typically have the following additional responsibilities:
- Handling the day-to-day running of the agency, e.g. planning, organizing and and keeping track of business
- Coordinating the work of other agents and back office personnel)
- Handling financial and administrative transactions between the agency, insured parties and insurance companies
How to Become an Insurance Agent - Training and Requirements
Typically, to become an insurance agent requires either a high school diploma with an emphasis on business or a degree in a related field (e.g. law or economics). Essential for the role is an in-depth understanding of the complex technical, legal and financial aspects of the insurance brokerage industry, while other important requirements are strong business acumen and commercial sense.
To learn the trade and become a competent and successful insurance professional, a period of practical experience at an insurance agency - for example in an entry-level role, such as junior insurance advisor - is invaluable, enabling the trainee insurance agent to acquire familiarity with the range of insurance and reinsurance products available on the market and thus provide clients with knowledgeable, informed advice, ensuring they get the most appropriate coverage for their needs.
Often, new hires at an agency are given theoretical and practical training in-house, with the aim of expanding their knowledge of the insurance industry and honing their sales skills. For example, they may be taught about acquiring new clients, managing their contacts and leads, conducting negotiations, growing a client portfolio and providing after-sales support.
In many countries, insurance brokerage is regulated by specific legislation, under which agents may be required to obtain a license before they can legally practice.
Insurance Agent Skills and Qualifications
An insurance agent typically requires the following skills:
- Knowledge of insurance products
- Ability to use common computer software applications
- Business acumen and sales skills
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Entrepreneurial spirit, positive attitude and sense of initiative
- Goal-oriented approach
- Organizational skills
- Flexible approach to working hours, ability to adapt to client’s schedule
- Willingness to travel to visit clients
Insurance Agent Career Path
Key factors for a successful career selling insurance include a talent for sales, the ability to build a network of clients and contacts, and a willingness to keep up-to-date with the latest insurance industry news and regulatory developments.
Career growth in the insurance brokerage industry typically comes through one of two routes:
- growth in size and profitability of a sales territory
- assumption of additional responsibilities, e.g. as area sales coordinator or agency manager
Another source of interesting opportunities for career development are insurance companies, where many former insurance agents opt to take up managerial roles, for example in business development, marketing or finance.
Top Reasons to Work as an Insurance Agent
Why should you consider working as an insurance agent?
One of the key attractions of a career as an insurance agent is the chance to play a key role in protecting clients and their assets, by ensuring they have appropriate insurance coverage.
Another reason to choose the profession is the possibility to set up one’s own independent business, enjoying financial and decisional autonomy and even the chance to establish one’s own sales network over time.
Finally, insurance agents can also enjoy the satisfaction that comes from being part of a team and sharing values and sales targets with the other team members (i.e. the agency and/or the company).