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Direct sales to consumers of personal-lines products has been a major distribution platform for Auto and Homeowners’ insurance for years, keeping the heat on independent agents and brokers to prove their added value if they want to retain market share. And now a day of reckoning on small-commercial business could be looming.

Agents have tended to take small-commercial accounts for granted, in terms of not fearing disintermediation. The conventional wisdom is that such consumers don’t have time to shop for coverage on their own—and even if they did, their lack of expertise, as well as their high-maintenance service requirements, would keep them solidly entrenched in the independent-agent camp.

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