Because of state licensing requirements, it is difficult for young people to obtain part-time experience in this field. Summer employment of any sort in an insurance office may give you helpful insights into the field. Because many offices are small and must have someone on premises during business hours, you may find summer positions with individual agencies or brokerage firms. Colleges with work-study programs may offer opportunities for practical experience in an insurance agency. Finally, ask a school counselor to arrange an information interview with an insurance agent or broker.
Property and casualty insurance salespeople work as either agents or brokers. An agent serves as an authorized representative of an insurance company. A broker, on the other hand, serves as the representative for the client and has no contracts with insurance companies.
Agents can be independent agents, exclusive agents, or direct writers. Independent agents may represent one or more insurance companies, are paid by commission, are responsible for their own expenses, and own the rights to the policies they sell. Exclusive agents represent only one insurance company, are generally paid by commission, are generally responsible for all of their own expenses, and usually own the rights to the policies that they sell. Direct writers represent only one insurance company, are employees of that company (and therefore are often paid a salary and are not responsible for their own expenses), and do not own the rights to the policies that are owned by the company.
Regardless of the system that is used, salespeople operate in a similar fashion. Each one orders or issues policies, collects premiums, renews and changes existing coverage, and assists clients with reports of losses and claims settlement. Backed by the resources of the companies that they represent, individual agents may issue policies insuring against loss or damage for everything from furs and automobiles to ocean liners and factories.
Agents are authorized to issue a "binder" to provide temporary protection for customers between the time the policy application is signed and the policy is issued by the insurance company. Naturally the agent must be selective in the risks accepted under a binder. Sometimes a risk will be refused by a company, which might cause the agent to lose goodwill with the customer. Because brokers do not directly represent or have contracts with insurance companies, they cannot issue binders.
Some agents or brokers specialize in one type of insurance such as automobile insurance. All agents or brokers, however, must be aware of the kind of protection required by their clients and the exact coverage offered by each company that they represent.
One of the most significant aspects of the property and casualty agent's work is the variety encountered on the job. An agent's day may begin with an important conference with a group of executives seeking protection for a new industrial plant and its related business activities. Following this meeting, the agent may proceed to the office and spend several hours studying the needs of the customer and drafting an insurance plan. This proposal must be thorough and competitively priced because several other local agents will likely be competing for the account. While working at the office, the agent usually receives several calls and visits from prospective or current clients asking questions about protection, policy conditions, changes, or new developments.
At noon, the agent may attend a meeting of a service club or have lunch with a policyholder. After lunch, the agent may visit a garage with a customer to discuss the car repairs needed as the result of the client's automobile accident. Back at the office, the agent may talk on the telephone with an adjuster from the insurance company involved.
In the late afternoon, the agent may call on the superintendent of schools to discuss insurance protection for participants and spectators at athletic events and other public meetings. If the school has no protection, the agent may evaluate its insurance needs and draft a proposed policy.
Upon returning to the office, the agent may telephone several customers, dictate responses to the day's mail, and handle other matters that have developed during the day. In the evening, the agent may call on a family to discuss insurance protection for a new home.