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August 5, 2022

What Are Insurance Clusters for New Agents and Should You Join One?

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Becoming an independent insurance agent is an exciting career choice with many growth opportunities. However, getting started can be difficult. Along with marketing responsibilities, you must be able to secure a line of products to sell to clients. By taking advantage of resources that help you connect with other agents and build credibility with combined efforts, you can achieve faster growth. Insurance clusters help advance professional growth and provide access to products and commissions that insurance carriers typically reserve for large agencies. This guide can help you understand insurance clusters, their benefits, and how to get started.

What Are Insurance Clusters?

An insurance cluster is a group of agents, brokers, or agencies that have joined together to form a professional network for benefits and support. When these groups join together, they can divide expenses, improve access to insurance products, share profits, pool resources, and share training and advice for continued support. New and experienced agents and insurance agencies find it beneficial to join established insurance clusters at different growth periods to achieve various goals. 

What is the Difference Between an Insurance Cluster versus an Aggregator?

The terms insurance aggregator, agency network, and insurance cluster are used interchangeably in the insurance industry. When considering the choice between an insurance cluster vs an aggregator, the real difference is in the internal workings of the group you choose. Aggregators and clusters are networks that form an insurance collective to provide more opportunities for each member. However, each established group has specific goals, priorities, and requirements. Determining which group best aligns with your goals will be the most likely factor in your satisfaction with the network you join, regardless of the title.

Should New Agents Join Clusters? Top Questions to Ask Yourself

One of the most common tips for new agents is to join a cluster. One of the most significant advantages is gaining access to more products and potentially growing your business more rapidly. However, there are specific requirements to join an insurance cluster and it's important to determine if the benefits align with your business goals. The choice is not the same for every agency, so by answering these questions you can decide whether you should join a cluster as a new agent..

Would it be helpful to have access to new markets or relieve pressure to satisfy existing ones?

Insurance agents get new clients by advertising insurance products and following leads. Yet, without market access to various products, it can be difficult to grow your client base. If you've ever lost a prospect because you didn't have the right market, membership in an insurance cluster could help you gain access to the products your customers seek. On the other hand, if you're looking for ways to increase your profit sharing and create stable recurring income, the partnership provided by a cluster can provide much-needed balance with access to carrier overrides.

Do you want to compete against larger agencies?

As an independent agency, it can be challenging to be taken seriously in a world of massive mergers and acquisitions. Joining a network cluster will give you the power of numbers and sales potential of a more prominent agency without changing how you run your business. Instead of merging your agency with another organization, you can build an insurance agency team to generate valuable credibility in the industry.

Do you need a more extensive support system?

Promoting yourself as an independent insurance agent can be difficult. Different insurance clusters and aggregators offer various levels of support for marketing and other growth opportunities. For instance, some clusters offer added services like marketing and technology to streamline workflows or data measurement tools to track growth.

Independent Insurance Agents: Are you or your staff at maximum capacity?

If you are already stretched thin or your staff is at maximum capacity, you may think you're already growing too fast to need the assistance an insurance cluster provides. However, some agency groups offer services and technologies that work within your agency to automate tasks and limit your team's responsibilities.

Are you meeting your growth goals?

Ongoing business growth is vital for success in the insurance sector. An essential part of an insurance agent's daily schedule is devoted to generating and following up on leads to increase your book of business. While the benefits of joining an insurance cluster are typically focused on increased market access, some clusters can help you grow your revenue and agency value with tailored plans.

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Are There Any Costs Associated with Joining an Insurance Cluster?

Whether you're facing startup costs, sharing expenses, or a monthly fee, some costs will likely be associated with joining an insurance cluster. A startup fee may seem expensive, but it's important to watch for hidden costs when clusters or aggregators appear to charge no fee. These are some of the fees commonly charged by different insurance clusters.

Monthly Fees for Insurance Clusters

Monthly fees could be a fixed rate, a percentage of your sales, or both. If your monthly sales are inconsistent, keeping up with a fixed monthly fee can be difficult. When this is the case, it's advisable to seek a cluster that collects a percentage of sales.

Fees for startup/Initiation

Initiation fees are startup fees designed to be transparent and help agencies avoid concerns about hidden costs. However, depending on the structure of the cluster and other costs, the fee can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Steep startup costs can be a barrier for small agencies without considerable assets. If startup fees will prevent you from joining, seek a cluster with no upfront costs.

Maintenance Fees

Most insurance clusters provide specific benefits and services to members. Maintenance fees cover the cost of benefits like advertising and agency management software. Do your homework when signing up with a group to evaluate the provided services and determine whether the fees are reasonable for the benefits you'll receive.

Exit Fee

Many insurance clusters charge elevated exit fees to discourage agents from leaving the group. Exit fees can be composed of the requirement to buy back your portfolio or enforcing clauses that might compromise your business if you decide to leave. These fees may not be discussed before joining, so you must do your homework and learn about all the costs for yourself.

Get Started: A Few Insurance Clusters to Consider

As a new insurance agent, it can be difficult to navigate all the information surrounding insurance clusters to find the best one to meet your needs. When choosing between different clusters or aggregators, it's important to research each option you're considering. Consider your goals and how their benefits will help you reach them. Examine the costs, and compare them to your earnings history. Gather as much data as possible before making a decision. Some insurance clusters have grown in numbers and popularity due to various benefits. Consider these popular insurance clusters when forming your list.

ISU Insurance Agency Network

ISU Insurance Agency Network is the second largest insurance network in the country. For over 40 years, ISU has focused on helping independent agents stay independent. ISU Agency Network and its member agencies take advantage of the utilization of technology and the insurance companies’ willingness to  explore innovative distribution methods. The network offers revenue growth opportunities, professional insights, events, etc. 

While there is no direct information about fees for joining, the ISU website makes it clear that there are no exit fees if you decide to leave.

SIAA

SIAA is the #1 alliance of independent insurance agencies, powered by 48 master regional agencies across the US. Benefits include multiple revenue streams, training and learning opportunities, and ways to help you grow your book of business. With access to over 30 of the top national and regional insurance companies, you can gain access to more products and participate in profit sharing. The group also provides insurance agency management systems and digital solutions designed to increase service capabilities, streamline operations and attract more clients.

SIAA does not provide information about associated fees on the website. However, the FAQ page seems to suggest there are no exit fees.

Keystone

Keystone offers access to industry expertise, carriers, and connection to a community of like-minded agencies. Benefits include community training from other industry professionals, expanded access to products and services, capital sharing, training platforms, support teams, sales management tools, etc. 

Keystone provides no information about relevant fees.

Insurance Clusters Are One of Many Opportunities for New Agents

Joining an insurance cluster can give you access to more products and services that will help you grow your book of business. To determine whether joining an insurance cluster is the right choice for your agency, it's important to consider your goals and the way the provided services align with those goals. Research every cluster thoroughly to determine associated costs and hidden fees or other clauses you may be unaware of. If you can't find the information you need, it's a good idea to speak with someone directly before attempting to join. 

Joining an insurance cluster can allow you to work the way you want and gain additional support for your agency. To get started, research multiple clusters and aggregators before making a decision. Reach out to us to learn more about tools and technologies that can streamline your agency practices. Our unique software allows you to collect dec pages in a fraction of the time of traditional procedures, increasing closing rates and improving the customer experience. Use InsurGrid for free!