Insurance Sales Agents
Insurance sales agents help insurance companies generate new business by contacting potential customers and selling one or more types of insurance. An agent explains various insurance policies and helps clients choose plans that suit them.
Insurance sales agents typically do the following:
- Call potential clients to expand their customer base
- Interview prospective clients to get data about their financial resources and discuss existing coverage
- Explain the features of various policies
- Analyze clients’ current insurance policies and suggest additions or changes
- Customize insurance programs to suit individual clients
- Do administrative tasks, such as keeping records and handling policy renewals
- Help policyholders settle claims
Insurance sales agents commonly sell one or more types of insurance, such as property and casualty, life, and health and long-term care.
Property and casualty insurance agents sell policies that protect people and businesses from financial loss resulting from automobile accidents, fire, theft, and other events that can damage property. For businesses, property and casualty insurance also covers injured workers' compensation, product liability claims, or medical malpractice claims.
Life insurance agents specialize in selling policies that pay beneficiaries when a policyholder dies. Life insurance agents also sell annuities that promise a retirement income.
Health and long-term care insurance agents sell policies that cover the costs of medical care and assisted living services in old age. They may also sell dental insurance and short-term and long-term disability insurance.
Agents may specialize in any one of these products or function as generalists providing multiple products.
An increasing number of insurance sales agents offer their clients comprehensive financial planning services, especially for clients approaching retirement. These services include retirement planning, estate planning, and help in setting up pension plans for businesses. In addition to offering insurance, these agents may become licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and other securities. This practice is most common with life insurance agents who already sell annuities, but many property and casualty agents also sell financial products. For more information, see the profile on securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents.
Many agents spend a lot of time marketing their services and creating their own base of clients. They do this in a variety of ways, including by making “cold” sales calls to people who are not current clients.
Clients often learn about policies themselves on their own, by doing comparison shopping online and getting information from the insurance companies. Then they contact the company directly to buy a policy, so the client comes to the agent ready to buy.
Insurance agents also find new clients through referrals by current clients. Keeping clients happy so they recommend the agent to others is a key to success for insurance sales agents.
The following are types of insurance sales agents:
Captive agents are insurance sales agents who work exclusively for one insurance company. They can only sell policies provided by the company that employs them.
Independent insurance agents work for insurance brokerages, selling the policies of several companies. They match insurance policies for their clients with the company that offers the best rate and coverage.
Personal Financial Advisors
Personal financial advisors give financial advice to people. They help with investments, taxes, and insurance decisions.
Personal financial advisors typically do the following:
- Meet with clients in person to discuss their financial goals
- Explain the types of financial services they provide
- Educate clients and answer questions about investment options and potential risks
- Recommend investments to clients or select investments on their behalf
- Help clients plan for specific circumstances, such as education expenses or retirement
- Monitor clients' accounts and determine if changes are needed to improve account performance or accommodate life changes, such as getting married or having children
- Research investment opportunities
Personal financial advisors assess the financial needs of individuals and help them with investments (such as stocks and bonds), tax laws, and insurance decisions. Advisors help clients plan for short-term and long-term goals, such as education expenses and retirement. They recommend investments to match the clients' goals. They invest clients' money based on the clients' decisions.
Many also provide tax advice or sell insurance.
Although most planners offer advice on a wide range of topics, some specialize in areas such as retirement or risk management (evaluating how willing the investor is to take chances, and adjusting investments accordingly).
Many personal financial advisors spend a lot of time marketing their services, and they meet potential clients by giving seminars or through business and social networking. Networking is the process of meeting and exchanging information with people, or groups of people, who have similar interests.
After they have invested funds for a client, they, as well as the client, get regular reports of the investments. They monitor the client's investments and usually meet with each client at least once a year to update the client on potential investments and to adjust the financial plan because of the client's changed circumstances or because investment options have changed.
Many personal financial advisors are licensed to directly buy and sell financial products, such as stocks, bonds, annuities, and insurance. Depending on the agreement they have with their clients, personal financial advisors may have the clients' permission to make decisions about buying and selling stocks and bonds.
Private bankers or wealth managers are personal financial advisors who work for people who have a lot of money to invest. These clients are similar to institutional investors (commonly companies or organizations), and they approach investing differently from the general public. Private bankers manage a collection of investments, called a portfolio, for these clients by using the resources of the bank, including teams of financial analysts, accountants, and other professionals. For more information on the duties of these other financial workers, see the profiles on financial analysts and accountants and auditors.