As more people go online to shop for and purchase policies, what will happen to professionals in this industry?
Despite the fact that many large insurers are making it possible for consumers to shop online to purchase the coverage that they need, many still feel that the insurance agent still does – and will continue to – play a vital role in this industry and agencies won’t be headed anywhere for the next several years.
In fact, at the same time that websites are offering more self-service features, more agents are also being hired.
According to the job outlook predictions of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2012 through 2022, there is expected to be an employment growth in insurance agent jobs of a very healthy 10.4 percent. This will represent an estimated increase of 45,900 in the number of positions that will need to be filled before the end of that forecast period.
One of the most recent and relevant tests of whether or not insurance agents are a dying breed was the implementation of the so-called individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act’s health care reform. While many people had predicted that the massive, widespread use of websites to compare policies, shop for the best prices, and purchase plans would drastically reduce the need for assistance and service through actual professional human beings, the opposite appeared to be true.
The insurance agent has proved to be a critical component in the process for buying health plans, for millions of consumers.
At the same time that the internet has been providing consumers with a wonderful tool for informing themselves and shopping, insurance companies have shifted their model to provide support through smaller locations and a larger number of agents. This offered consumers the ability to phone or speak with an agent in person with greater ease and convenience, so that they could have their questions answered and feel more confident about the choices that they were making.
What this has revealed is that, at least for now, insurance brokers and agents still have a very relevant place within the industry. These professionals can do what websites simply cannot in ensuring that consumers truly understand what they need and what they will be receiving (or won’t be receiving) from a given plan.
Equally, health insurance is not the only sector in which this trend is being witnessed. Homeowners and businesses are also finding that they can better understand their coverage and will reduce the risk of paying too much for a policy or failing to consider forms or levels of coverage that they may require in case the worst should happen.
Though only time will tell when it comes to the true direction that the industry is taking, it appears as though the only way that the job of an actual human insurance agent will be threatened by the internet would be the creation of accurate, online virtual agents that can directly mirror the abilities of a real professional for informing consumers and building relationships with them.