Young Agent Spotlight: Ben Rathbun, Partner and Producer at The Rathbun Agency

How did you get into the insurance industry?

I come from a third-generation insurance family. My grandfather’s brother established the agency in 1956. We are now a midsize agency with around $11M in premium, spread across four producers.

I got my start pulling files for my father at age seven. I went on to study at Michigan State University, completing a degree in finance. While working toward my degree, I interned at Auto-Owners Insurance Company, where I worked in their home office claims department. I decided to rejoin the family’s firm post-graduation. After selling for just over five years, I became a partner after buying out a retiring partner.

How can carriers create valuable relationships with agencies?

Underwriting is an area where carriers can differentiate. For instance, some carriers have reorganized their underwriting departments, where agents now call into a service center and are placed in a queue. While this may have expense saving advantages for the carrier on the front end, it dissolves the critical relationship between the producer and the underwriter because the agency rarely works with the same underwriter twice.

I prefer having a direct line to an experienced underwriter, where my questions can be answered efficiently. I enjoy developing a relationship with my underwriter by meeting them in-person, initially, and building a solid relationship built on mutual trust.

How would you like carriers to better support your practice’s use of technology?

Carriers should support agents by helping with non-revenue generating tasks. For example, in Michigan, we are undergoing regulatory no-fault reform changes. This will require us to communicate with each of our clients. The changes can be complex, so we are looking toward our carriers for additional assistance by providing educational materials and solutions for addressing these market changes effectively.

Similarly, carriers that invest in self-service capabilities for their insureds make the agent’s job easier. We love speaking with our clients, but giving them the ability to access certain documents on their own schedule provides them flexibility and allows us to concentrate on revenue-generating activities.

Do you see the role of the agent changing? If so, in what ways is this happening?

I see myself as an educator by helping people understand their risk exposures. Many agents—especially young agents—can be too focused on growing their books and selling more. While this is important to the success of any producer, the role of the agent is to understand and advise customers on products and coverages.

Carriers can help agents by building capabilities that help clearly explain the coverage differences between products. This would reduce the due diligence required on our end and allow us to communicate differentiators to our clients.

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