Reviewed by Stefan Tirschler
Updated August 31, 2022
a·gent | ˈā-jənt
Definition: A person employed for the purpose of selling insurance policies on behalf of an insurance company.
I needed to change my insurance policy, so I talked to an agent at the insurance company.
In the world of insurance, an agent is a person who sells insurance policies on behalf of an insurance company. An agent can be either captive or independent.
A captive agent isn’t trapped in their office; it means they sell policies on behalf of just one insurance provider (like Square One’s licensed agents). An independent agent sells policies for multiple insurance providers.
Think of agents as insurance salespeople. Insurance agents are professionals who must pass exams and keep up regular continuing education in order to hold a license to work in their province.
Insurance agents also provide customer service for existing policyholders. That means offering insurance advice, reviewing policy details, processing policy changes and renewals, or anything else the client needs. Good customer service is a very important part of being an insurance agent.
Cecilia is an insurance agent working for Mountainview Insurance, a large home insurance company. She sells policies to clients all across the country. Most of her day involves taking calls from new customers. She asks them a series of questions to help them decide what kind of policy is best suited to their needs. She also spends a lot of her time speaking with current clients who have questions about their policies, or who need to make changes.
Sometimes insurance agents will call potential clients to find out if they’re interested in the company’s insurance policies. Other times, interested clients will contact the insurance company first, to get more information or to get a quote.
In either case, the agent will speak with potential customers to find out what their insurance needs are. A home insurance agent, for example, might start by asking for details about a customer’s home; a customer who owns a 60-year-old house will have very different insurance needs than a customer renting a brand-new apartment.
In addition to selling new policies, agents also help existing clients manage their policies. If a client needs to change information because they’ve moved or renovated their house, the agent will help guide them through the changes and make recommendations about new coverages. Agents keep careful records so they can quickly and easily find the information they need to help their clients.
Though Square One offers policy sales through our easy-to-use online system, we still have a team of licensed agents ready to answer questions and provide support whenever they’re needed.
Now, you’re probably wondering:
A good agent will always put the needs of their clients first. They may be selling insurance, but their responsibility is to sell a policy that meets the clients’ needs without upselling a bunch of unnecessary coverage.
Exceptional customer service is one of the hallmarks of a great insurance agent. Some people are very intimidated by the process of buying insurance; a good agent will be able to walk a new customer through their policy and explain the ins and outs clearly. Good agents are also very responsive; a client should be able to quickly and easily reach their agent if they have a question or concern.
Finally, good insurance agents have thorough knowledge of the insurance products that they sell. This deep knowledge allows them to make good recommendations to clients and answer their questions quickly and clearly. Insurance agents normally sell on behalf of a small number of companies (if not a single company), which means they have a deep understanding of the products they sell.
Insurance agents and insurance brokers are often mistaken for one another. Rather than working for an insurance company, insurance brokers work for clients. A broker will determine their client’s needs first, and then shop around to multiple different insurance providers to find the best fit. For a deeper look at insurance brokers, check out our entry on brokers.
The key difference between insurance agents and insurance brokers is that agents work for a company (or companies) and sell only those companies’ policies to clients. Brokers do not work for an insurance company; they represent their clients, and shop around at many different insurance providers to find a policy that matches their clients’ needs.
Carlos needs a home insurance policy for the house that he just bought. He saw an ad for Mountainview Insurance, so he calls them up and gets connected to Cecilia. Carlos has never owned a home before, so he’s a bit clueless about insurance. Cecilia walks him through the process and answers all of his questions as she collects his information. After finding out all about Carlos’ new home, Cecilia sends Carlos a quote for a policy that will cost $120 per month. Carlos decides to think about it before he buys.
The next day, Carlos contacts an insurance broker to see if he can find a cheaper quote. The broker collects Carlos’ information and then begins shopping around for a good policy. Soon after, the broker calls Carlos back with a policy that will cost him just $110 per month. However, Carlos really appreciated Cecilia taking so much time to explain the ins and outs of Mountainview’s policy. He decides that the extra $10 each month is worth it for the great customer service.
Looking for another insurance definition? Look it up in The Insurance Glossary, home to dozens of easy-to-follow definitions for the most common insurance terms. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Stefan Tirschler
Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.
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