Insurance agents usually must choose between two paths: being a captive agent or an independent agent. Captive agents contract with a single insurance company, selling only insurance specific to that company. Independent agents work with multiple insurance companies. There are clear pros and cons to each path, and you should understand the differences before making a choice.
When comparing being a captive agent vs. independent agent, exclusivity is the main difference. Captive agents work exclusively with one insurance company. They often receive a regular paycheck and product support in exchange for the exclusivity, along with other benefits. It’s common for new agents to start as captive agents, while building experience in the industry.
By comparison, independent agents have the freedom to work with multiple insurance companies. Independent insurance agents can determine the types of insurance they want to offer with the ability to expand into additional specialties over time. Agents can start as independent agents, but they may also choose that path after being a captive agent for a few years.
Support and referrals are two of the biggest reasons that people are more likely to start out as captive agents. As a captive agent, you may get access to product experts, which can help to increase your own expertise on each offering. You may also have the benefit of automatic referrals, making it easier to build a list of regular clients.
As an independent agent, you probably won’t receive much support from individual companies. Independent agents have the freedom to choose their own paths. That freedom can let you tailor a plan for your long-term goals, but a lack of boundaries can be difficult to direct. As such, you may need to research other options to support your business as it grows.
As an agent, do you prefer to build a deep well of knowledge? This aspect is another chief comparison of captive vs. independent insurance agent. By definition, captive agents have the ability to invest heavily into the understanding of each product available from the company. You can provide in-depth explanations of each one to prospective clients.
Independent agents often build a much broader understanding of a wider variety of products. With enough time, it is possible to generate a deeper knowledge base of particular products. From the outset, a general knowledge of the products available from different companies makes it easier for you to find the perfect one for your clients.
Captive agents have greater income security. Your income arrangement may include a combination of salary, commission and bonuses. This greater security, however, comes with an important caveat. If a client chooses another insurance company for service, it’s likely that you will lose access to them. Similarly, if you decide to change course in your career, your clients may revert to the company.
As an independent agent, your clients are your own. If a client decides that a current product no longer serves them, you have the option of continuing to provide service through another insurer. You’re not restricted to the limited selections of one company, which means that you can do more to build long-term client relationships.
The ability to set your own financial goals for the future is a major benefit of being an independent agent. You’re not responsible to meet specific sales quotas in the same way as a captive agent, which allows you greater freedom to determine where to put your focus. As a result, you have more responsibility for handling your overhead expenses such as marketing or the costs to maintain a brick-and-mortar location.
In exchange for a higher degree of predictability in income, captive agents must meet the expectations of their insurance company. Captive agents aren’t as worried about how they will make ends meet during a lean month, but they often have to secure more contracts to reach the benchmarks for higher commissions.
Commission splits are one of the most obvious differences between captive and independent agents. Generally, independent agents get higher commission splits. They have the potential to keep more of their profits, which rewards them directly for putting in more work to secure more clients. Of course, they have to run their businesses out of those commissions, although there are ways that independent agents can minimize the burden.
Because captive agents usually get a regular salary, their commission splits tend to be much lower than independent agents. They may also have to sell more policies to get a commission at all. As such, captive agent pay tends to be more consistent, and sometimes higher than that of independent agents.
Captive agents get the benefit of referrals and marketing support, but this does not always translate into a greater likelihood of a sale. Captive agents don’t have to work as hard to bring in new leads, but they have a limited selections of products to offer prospective clients. If a client needs something different, they are more likely to look elsewhere.
Independent agents can leverage variety among insurance companies, to ensure that each client gets a policy that is most likely to meet their needs. They have to do more work to cultivate a clientele, but they are more likely to secure a sale. Success depends on a variety of factors, including the companies that an independent agent works with and their knowledge of each product line.
Freedom to expand is one of the biggest reasons agents choose to work independently. Independent agents may start by offering products from one or two companies and grow to offer much more over time. They get all the benefits of their regular clients, and they can do more to keep those clients satisfied. At the end of a long career, independent agents have the ability to sell the business and clients to another agent.
The future of captive insurance agents is more predictable, but also more confining. Captive agents may be able to expand into different lines of authority, but it depends on the company. Once captive agents are ready to retire, their clients usually shift to other agents for the same company.
Although being a captive agent can be a safer and more predictable way to start out, it’s not surprising that many agents decide to become independent agents through their careers. The freedom to expand and the rewards for success are greater, even if the expenses and work to build a book of business take more. Renegade Insurance offers a cutting-edge, convenient platform that makes it easier for independent agents to grow and maintain their businesses. Contact us to learn more about our services or become an agent today.