NU Online News Service, Nov. 11, 12:21 p.m. EST

A survey of small businesses finds these entrepreneurs have more trust in independent agents and their commercial insurance carriers than any other financial services business.

The survey, sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group, says that trust is “the single most important consideration when choosing an insurance provider.”

To that point, 86 percent of small business owners rated trust as very important, followed by competitive pricing at 82 percent, responsiveness at 81 percent and value at 79 percent.

In a statement, Michael Keane, president of small commercial at Hanover, noted that the survey underscores the reality that small business owners want to work with someone “they can count on.”

He said it confirms the company’s own impression that “it’s critical for companies to establish and maintain trust and confidence of those they serve.”

Hanover says the survey found that “small business owners actually have the highest level of trust in independent agents, compared with all the other financial services industries in the survey.”

Speaking with NU Online News Service, Chris Barnes, senior vice president of client development for Farmington, Conn.-based The Pert Group, a consulting and research firm, which conducted the survey, says that in the wake of the economic downturn, trust in many institutions is at an all time low.

However, he says independent agents have not only managed to retain their clients trust, but have actually increased the margin between themselves and other financial and insurance institutions.

Respondents say they trust insurance agents 48 percent more than banks; 97 percent more than healthcare companies and a whopping 295 percent more than stock brokers.

When it comes to property and casualty companies, respondents trust carriers 25 percent more than banks; 66 percent more than healthcare companies, and 150 percent more than stock brokers.

Barnes says that in the past, agents have finished first, but the gaps between them and the institutions was not that significant.

“What is most surprising is not that agents finished first, but what is surprising is that they finished by such a long shot,” says Barnes.

This portion of the survey was part of a larger survey sponsored by the Worcester, Mass.-based insurer to “stay appraised of the evolving needs of small business and to build upon its expertise in that area.”

Barnes says the trust measurement was not the goal of the survey, but the results were too significant to be ignored.