NU Online News Service, May 23, 2003, 5:32 p.m. EDT – A tight labor market for independent insurance agency personnel has driven up mean salaries for operations and sales managers by 18% in the past two years, according to a new survey report by Business Management Group, a subsidiary of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford.

The report follows up on BMG’s 2001 study of non-producer compensation and benefits at more than 400 independent agencies and brokers.

The new BMG study found that managers are not the only agency personnel collecting higher pay: between 2001 and 2003, mean salaries for employee benefits customer service reps rose 17%.

But increasing health care and retirement benefits costs are having an effect on pay raises, and companies are doing more to tie compensation to success at meeting business results and individual objectives, BMG says.

Eighty-two percent of agencies now offer incentive plans to managers, up from 47% in BMG’s 2001 study.

The percentage of companies that offer incentives to non-managerial staff has held steady at 74%.

The new study also found that 56% of participating agencies reward managers based on specific performance objectives.

Planned compensation increases for 2003 will be between 3% and 5.7%, slightly higher than 2002 actual increases. That’s an indication that agents and brokers are concerned about a lack of available talent and the need to remain competitive, BMG says.