Carriers Set Up Programs To Help With Diversity Training

Insurers looking to tap into opportunities in minority communities are establishing programs to help their independent agents reach those markets.

Two major insurance companies discussed programs they have developed for independent agents designed to touch on the issues confronting agents marketing within minority communities, while helping the companies get feedback on what they need to do.

In September, Travelers Insurance and the Independent Insurance Agents of America announced a joint “Best Practices” program to educate independent agents in the issues surrounding allegations of discrimination, and how to successfully market the agency in urban, minority communities.

The program grew out of the Hartford-based Travelers own employee program on marketing to urban markets begun two years ago, says Ed Charlebois, vice president of personal lines.

Travelers developed the program for independent agents with the Alexandria, Va.-based IIAA because of its network of state associations and individual agents, says Charlebois.

Under the program, two instructors run the course. Chris Amrhein, a long-time insurance producer and agency manager from Lorton, Va., runs the Eastern portion of the program. Cheryl Koch, owner of Agency Management Resource Group, a training, education and consulting firm in Lincoln, Calif., manages the Western portion, Charlebois says.

The courses are aimed at generating thought and discussion about the issues agents face when it comes to entering minority markets, including thinking about such things as hiring people within the target community who speak the same language.

Courses are run in states where the program is approved for continuing education credit.

Meanwhile, in early July, The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies held its own training session for independent agents.

The Warren, N.J.-based company held a three-day “Minority Producer Forum,” inviting minority agents from all around the country to meet Chubb executives, says Elizabeth McDaid, Chubbs agency training manager.

The forum also included education on Chubbs products and marketing strategy, as well as discussions on issues with company representatives on the carrier’s plan to improve its position within minority markets, she says.

While Chubb has had a strong presence in marketing to minority communities for years, according to McDaid, she notes that this was the first forum where a group of agents had an opportunity to direct their thoughts face to face with company executives.

Among those attending the meeting was Bill Owens, president and chief executive officer of The Owens Group Inc. in Chicago, who says he went to the forum with his own agenda–to see if Chubb had a long-range strategy for penetration of the minority market, including support for the agency system to achieve this goal.

“Yes, they did listen,” reports Owens. “We began the development of relations with key people we will work with over the years and will continue to communicate with after the forum. I felt very positive about it.”

“The forum established a venue for dialogue tailored to the unique needs of minority agents,” observes Ingrid Merriwether, president and chief executive officer of Merriwether and Williams Insurance Services in San Francisco. “We represent who their mainstream clients have become.”

Mark Ruquet is an assistant editor of NU’s Property & Casualty/Risk & Benefits Management Edition.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 12, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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