Agency Checklists recently renewed its membership with the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents for the coming year and as such, thought it might be interesting to check in with the Association to see how agents have fared over the past year and what the outlook is for 2022. The MAIA´s President & CEO Nick Fyntrilakis was kind enough to share his insights with us as to how the MAIA sees the rapidly changing landscape of the independent agency system in Massachusetts and how the Association is supporting its agent members and enhancing its services in this new environment.
Overall, how do you think 2021 has been for the independent insurance agents of Massachusetts?
2021 has been a solid year for independent agents in Massachusetts. Our members saw steady growth and loss ratios have met expectations. Overall, the IA Channel maintained market share despite strengthening competition.
October saw the return of the Big Event as an in-person event. How did it go?
The Big Event went terrific. It was great to see so many friends and colleagues from across the Massachusetts Insurance Industry. We were thrilled to be able to get folks back together again in person to learn, network, and grow.
What have been the main issues or challenges that you have seen agents dealing with over the past year?
Competition is fierce, and in many instances, there are tactics out there that are unfair to independent agents and consumers. A great example of this was the bait and switch tactics employed by certain direct writers. We were able to get legislation passed this year that prevents these practices and creates a level playing field for agents. There are other practices we are addressing as well – from car dealers inappropriately engaging in insurance sales to a host of other issues.
This past year has seen a huge consolidation within the Massachusetts insurance industry. Does your data reflect the same trends?
Absolutely. There continues to be significant consolidation amongst our membership.
What is your opinion with regards to the huge increase in M&A activity over the past few years?
It is being driven by a perfect storm of market and demographic conditions, in my opinion, that isn’t going away any time soon. Many agency owners are nearing retirement and the consistent recurring revenue generated by independent agencies is attractive to PE [private equity] and other investors seeking a return in a low-interest-rate environment. In addition, many agencies are looking for economies of scale and are achieving that through acquisitions in addition to organic growth.
As one of the states with the highest percentage of independent agents, how do you think all this M&A activity is changing the independent agency system dynamics?
In general, agencies are getting larger – and with that, the dynamics between agencies and their interactions with us are changing as well. Larger agencies have different needs than smaller ones – and as such, they look to MAIA for different types of support. We are working to adapt and better meet the needs of members of all sizes.
What are your thoughts on the huge increase in private equity money entering this industry?
As I mentioned, it is being driven by economic conditions.
Do you see the M&A mania continuing into 2022?
Yes. There doesn’t appear to be any real change in the economic conditions that are driving the high levels of M&A.
In addition to the consolidation in the insurance industry, there is also talk of the Great Resignation – have you seen evidence of this within the Massachusetts insurance industry?
Our members are challenged for talent – as are most industries. This has been an issue for several years, and COVID and has only exacerbated the problem. Our job board reflects how many openings there are in the Massachusetts independent agent community. Job and Resume Board (massagent.com) We have piloted talent recruitment and placement programs in recent years and are redoubling our efforts to assist our members with this issue.
What about work-from-home – do you see this as a becoming a permanent part of how independent insurance agencies will operate going forward?
Our members turned on a dime in many cases with the onset of COVID and developed work-from-home capabilities which were not robust in our industry prior to COVID. At this point, I would envision many agencies continuing with some degree of work-from-home moving forward.