The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - Maw­illiams@dis­ @BizMarkWil­liams

they grow more. That’s at the heart of why we’re do­ing this. From a cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, they won’t feel any­thing dif­fer­ent.”

While some Na­tion­wide agents are likely con­cerned about mak­ing the tran­si­tion, they should ben­e­fit over the long term, said Bob Rus­buldt, pres­i­dent and CEO of the In­de­pen­dent In­sur­ance Agents & Bro­kers of Amer­ica in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, who has been work­ing with Na­tion­wide on the move.

Agents will ben­e­fit by be­ing able to sell more prod­ucts from more car­ri­ers, and then they’ll have a busi­ness to sell when they re­tire, he said, adding that his group will work with Na­tion­wide to make the tran­si­tion eas­ier, pro­vid­ing help with ed­u­ca­tion and fi­nanc­ing.

“They’ve had the mother ship tak­ing care of their busi­ness needs. Now, they have a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity to have and grow their own busi­ness,” he said.

His­tor­i­cally, Na­tion­wide al­ways has had a core of agents who sold noth­ing but Na­tion­wide prod­ucts. As the com­pany grew and made ac­qui­si­tions and be­gan of­fer­ing more prod­ucts, it formed re­la­tion­ships with in­de­pen­dent agents as well.

Other in­sur­ers, in­clud­ing State Farm for ex­am­ple,

con­tinue to de­pend on agents who sell ex­clu­sively for them.

Agents who sell ex­clu­sively for Na­tion­wide are con­sid­ered in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors and not Na­tion­wide em­ploy­ees, Breven said.

The rights to the rev­enue those agents gen­er­ate be­long to Na­tion­wide.

As part of the tran­si­tion, the in­de­pen­dent agents will be able to ac­quire those rights from Na­tion­wide in ar­range­ments that will have to be worked out be­tween the agents and the com­pany in terms of costs, Ber­ven said.

Na­tion­wide has come un­der fire over the past sev­eral years for an as­sort­ment of re­cruit­ing pro­grams that have led to law­suits and claims that those who were re­cruited ended up los­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in some cases.

Ber­ven said the switch to in­de­pen­dent sys­tems of agents is not re­lated to those claims and in­stead is about how con­sumer pref­er­ences for in­sur­ance are chang­ing.

For ex­am­ple, Na­tion­wide now takes it about $1 bil­lion a year from pol­i­cy­hold­ers who skip agents al­to­gether and buy di­rectly from the in­surer, he said.

“Folks are look­ing for choice and op­tions and speed and agility,” Ber­ven said. “One of the things this does for us is stream­line op­er­a­tions for us.”

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