Technology, such as video conferencing, has been a great way for agents and broker to keep in touch with clients and colleagues during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Shutterstock) Technology, such as video conferencing, has been a great way for agents and brokers to keep in touch with clients and colleagues during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Insurance agents are used to dealing with crises, but the current coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly the first in a lifetime. In addition to helping clients navigate these uncertain times, agents and brokers have to manage their own businesses and personal lives.

Florida-based Acentria Insurance is used to dealing with disasters. But with the pandemic being “uncharted waters,” the agency has had to adjust business practices in response. “Communication is key during these stressful times,” says Jessica Davis, vice president of marketing and branding. “Our executive team, at a minimum, hosts one call each day, including weekends. These calls are conducted to continually monitor the most up-to-date information and to make decisions in the best interest of our team. We have sent out detailed communications to our clients, not only focusing on insurance information, but resources for e-learning, activities for kids, tips for teleworking since most are not accustomed to such, and more.”

Technology has been a crutch for many agencies during this time. Liberty Insurance Associates’ President and Partner Andrew C. Harris Jr. says video conferencing has been a means for his agents to make new business appointments as well as renewal meetings. “Screen-sharing and the recording-ability of those video meetings have been a positive, especially when walking clients and prospects through our HR support portal that is in high demand right now with questions about the virus, FMLA, ADA, COBRA, and various other considerations,” Harris shares. The positive experience his team has had with video conferencing has Harris considering its possible applications down the road. “If these virtual tools become more professionally acceptable for maybe a prep meeting, or one of the other steps that often require 2-3 or more face-to-face meetings, ultimately this could lead to less sales-related expenses and windshield time that can be redeployed toward new business activity,” he explains.

Client concerns

Amidst the pandemic chaos, businesses are facing grave risks, and brokers are deploying all types of resources to help their clients. For Robert Meyers, SVP and property & casualty leader at USI Insurance Services, focusing on tactical and urgent measures to help clients manage exposures is of utmost importance. “We are working with our carrier partners to help clients obtain relief through various measures, such as revisiting minimum premiums and securing return premiums now rather than waiting for audits, among others,” he shares. “Additionally, we are supporting any and all efforts to obtain state and federal relief to pay for the business interruption losses being incurred.”

Gerald F. Hemphill’s clients also are concerned about their business interruption coverage. The principal agent at GFH Insurance Agency notes how questions about business interruption coverage are swirling among clients in the restaurant, food truck and retail industries, as well as among clients that service these industries. In addition, Hemphill is counseling his clients on when or if to cancel a policy and is requesting updated rating factors such as lowering sales, lowering payroll estimates, and other rating factors that may assist during this unique time. “We are being proactive with reaching out to the clients in these types of businesses to be a resource and help them navigate through the process and help calm their fears,” he says.

In Milwaukee, Dennis Kuhnke, vice president at Robertson Ryan & Associates, is experiencing similar worries with his clients. “We have a large book of restaurant business and have been inundated with questions regarding what is covered under their business income coverage,” he shares. “We have been suggesting they reduce payrolls and sales to lower current premiums, which helps a little. The sooner Congress passes their coronavirus relief bill, the sooner we can help guide our customers toward some relief.”

The impact of the coronavirus

Mike Becker, executive vice president & CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA National), sat down with four PIA member agents — virtually — to discuss the impact of the coronavirus. Watch the video below to hear insights from Becker’s conversation with Albert S. Pappalardo Jr. of Pappalardo Agency Inc. in Mandeville, La.; Keith A. Savino of Broadfield Group in Warwick, N.J.; Mark A. Suhr of Suhr & Lichty Insurance Agency in Seward, Neb.; and David “Red” Gorman of Red Gorman Insurance in Dallas.