As a second-generation owner of the Morse Insurance Agency, based in Easton, Mass., Daniel Morse knows first-hand about what it takes to grow and sustain a successful agency. Mr. Morse, along with his two brothers Brian and Tim, is the co-owner of the Morse Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency with four locations throughout Southeastern Massachusetts.
In a day and age when agencies are being told to find their niche and to specialize, specialize, specialize, the Morse Insurance Agency has found success as a generalist agency through creating a strong brand image and marketing which has connected both with clients and the community.
In addition to his agency business, Mr. Morse also has been active in the Massachusetts insurance industry, taking over this year as the Chair of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents Board of Directors. One of the major issues that Mr. Morse would like to address while Chairman this year is how to attract and retain more talent in the insurance industry.
He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share both his story and insights on insurance below:
Could you share a little bit about the history of your agency and your family’s involvement with it?
My dad, David Morse, started his agency, David R. Morse Insurance Agency, thirty-two years ago in 1988. After a few years in business, he merged the agency with the John I Lowndes Insurance Agency, which dated back to 1950, forming the Lowndes-Morse Agency. However, as our family grew and became more involved with the business, my father decided to rename the company to Morse Insurance Agency to better reflect its evolution into a wholly family-owned and operated business. I officially joined the agency in the Fall of 1992 after graduating from college. In 2004, my brothers, Tim and Brian, and I bought the agency from our dad. Today, sixteen years later, we continuously strive to build on the strong reputation and legacy our dad created.
How did you get your start in insurance? Did you always plan to go into the “family business”?
When I started college, my dad was just opening the agency, so I technically did not grow up in the industry. I honestly had no idea that I was going into insurance until maybe my senior year of college when my dad asked me if I had any interest.
Many family-owned agencies struggle to entice at least one family member to take over the business. How was it that you all decided to go into the business?
We have been fortunate. My brother, Tim, joined the agency in 1996 and Brian joined three years later in 1999. We never planned to all come into the “family” business, it just happened organically, and fortunately, we work really well together.
You currently run the agency with your two other brothers. How did you organize the agency knowing that you and your brothers would all be working there?
I run most of the agency operations or at least oversee them while focusing on sales. Tim handles IT/technology and accounting, and Brian is a Personal Lines Account Manager.
Perpetuation is a prickly issue for a lot of agents. How have you planned for the future of your agency?
Perpetuation is tough in this industry. Many people ask me if my sons will work for the family business. Two of my boys are currently in college, and my youngest is only in the 7th grade. Their career choice is just that, their choice, and I’m honestly not sure what they will want to do after graduation.
However, if they do express interest, I have told my oldest that they will have to work for one of our insurance carriers for at least three years first. My brothers and I did not work anywhere else after college; we jumped right in headfirst. Fortunately, it has worked out well for us. However, it might have been beneficial to have carrier experience upfront.
Brian’s daughters, and my nieces, are only 5 and 6 years old, but I’m sure the same will apply to them if they want to work here. I’m confident the agency will still be going strong 15 years from now.
Overall, could you share with our readers a little bit more about the make-up of Morse Insurance? How big is your agency overall?
Last year, we acquired Quaglia Insurance, and this year, we acquired Connolly Insurance Agency. Now, with all three agencies combined, we write approximately $38 million in premium.
Of that amount, how much is Personal Lines v. Commercial Lines?
The breakdown is roughly 60% Personal Lines and 40% Commercial Lines.
Are you looking to acquire more agencies?
Yes, we actively look and talk with other agencies all the time and plan to grow with other acquisitions. However, we can’t lose our focus because as an agency we still have to concentrate on and plan for organic growth as well.
Does your agency have a particular niche that it focuses on?
We really don’t, we are still a generalist agency. With that said, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in commercial lines, with the majority of it being small business.
How many carriers do you represent? Are you part of any agency alliance or aggregator?
We represent most of the top local and national insurance carriers that work with Independent Agents. We are also members of the Insurance Services of New England (ISNE), which gains us access to even more markets.
What kind of role does technology play in your agency? What things has your agency embraced? For example, do your agents use multiple monitors? Do you use CRM or social media?
Loaded question! We try to embrace the ever-changing use of technology. Here are a few highlights:
- We have been an AMS agency since the beginning and currently utilize AMS360.
- We went paperless many years ago, which has tremendously helped since we have four offices. We also utilize DocuSign.
- Our account managers all have dual monitors and the most update-to-date computers.
- We have embraced social media with open arms for the past five to six years. About four years ago, we made a business decision to hire a social media company to help us. That move has made our social media presence relevant yet professional.
What about insurtech? As more and more insurtechs start to realize the importance of independent agents, are there any platforms or companies that your agency uses?
We have been reviewing and watching the insurtech activities, but there is nothing right now that we are using to stand out from the crowd. When insurtech and Independent Agents work together, we will make a great team.
In terms of media, your agency has done a good job of creating a strong brand image, along with the use of your “Morse, Of Course” slogan. How did that come about and has it been effective in creating strong brand awareness for your agency?
“Morse, Of Course” has been awesome for us from a branding perspective. Long story, short – a friend of my dad, many years ago, gave him the idea of using “Morse, Of Course.” We tried the clever slogan a few things, and it sort of went away.
Four years ago, in 2016, we started working with Lisa Baker Associates for our marketing and branding needs. In one of our initial meetings, they asked us about the catchphrase, and it took off from there.
This year you are the Chairman of the MAIA? What are you hoping to accomplish in the coming year?
There are many items that we are working on at MAIA. However, one of the most important things I want to accomplish is to encourage and inspire the younger generation to pursue a career in insurance. As independent agents, I feel it is our responsibility to let people know that insurance is a great career path and industry to consider. I plan to use my platform with the MAIA to share that message.
What do you see as the greatest challenges for Massachusetts agents over the next 3-5 years?
The greatest challenge is by far attracting talent and getting the next generation of insurance professionals engaged in our business. Many of the recent surveys conclude that a good portion of insurance professionals will be retiring in the next 7 to 10 years. If we do not attract new talent now, we will have a significant issue trying to fulfill those open positions.
The second biggest challenge is the direct writers, of course. I firmly believe that insurance is a relationship business, and all the advances in technology are never going to replace the importance of establishing a strong client and agent relationship. There is no question that direct writers are going to continue to attack the independent agent market share. Still, I am confident that we can continue to compete with our advancements in technology and the strong and trusting relationships we create.
What’s your outlook on the future of the independent agency system and the insurance industry in general for the coming decade?
The mergers and acquisitions activity is going to continue. Some of this activity is making the independent agent channel grow even stronger because we can combine forces and provide more services to our clients. In fact, it has allowed us to become even more efficient and laser-focused on our customers’ unique and changing needs.
I would be lying if I said that there will not be challenges in the next decade, but I genuinely believe that the future for independent agents is promising.
Finally, what advice would you give to agents, new or old? Anything else you would like to add?
We, as agents, need to find the balance between servicing our clients and remaining sales-centric. We need to continue to attract new clients, especially Millennials and Generation Z, and stay focused on growing our business every day.