As market capacity shrinks and rates and deductibles increase, agents like Kristine Rushing are advocating for property and homeowners reform in Florida.
Co-Owner and Risk Consultant
At the beginning of her career, Rushing interviewed with a bank and an insurance agency. The insurance agency was the first one to offer her a job—and so her insurance career began.
“When I was able to take something so complex and make it easy for our clients or even help my peers understand something, that's when I really knew that this is what I was supposed to do," Rushing says.
In 2008, Nationwide released its exclusive agents from their contracts. Rushing and her now husband jumped at the opportunity to buy an agency, which showed her a completely different side to the industry and confirmed insurance was the right career path.
What's the Difference Between Owning an Agency Versus Working at One?
Things are at a different complexity. Running a business, you're thinking about growing and scaling, you're thinking about your people and how you can develop them, what your clients need and the needs of the agency. There's a tremendous advantage being able to share business strategies and resources with your clients.
How Have You Grown Your Insurance Knowledge?
Through exposure from our state association, being part of the Florida Future Insurance Leaders Program, getting involved with the National Alliance and furthering and deepening my knowledge base. It's such a gratifying industry because you get to learn so much about different industries and become business partners with clients that you serve.
Biggest Challenges in Florida?
With homeowners and property rates increasing and the availability of coverage decreasing, it's making it very difficult. We're seeing—if you're fortunate—a 25% increase to up to 100%-200% increases.
We're advocating for property and homeowners reform here in Florida. I have never seen the market like this, even though we go through a lot of hurricanes and you see the resultant market capacity shrink and rate and deductibles increase.
It's difficult having those conversations with clients about why rate increases are so high and why there aren't any other carriers offering options. It's a volatile market right now, which is definitely a challenge that not just we have, but our industry faces.
What Do You Enjoy Most About Working in Insurance?
Helping people. We encourage our team members to work in this manner because we are not transactional agents—we're consultants. In insurance you can find yourself in the weeds very quickly, but being able to understand the challenges that business owners face and help our clients who might start off a conversation about their insurance, but then talk about other challenges, is important.
I love being able to provide solutions that are not insurance related to help a business. Being able to connect clients with a resource that they wouldn't have been able to connect with, let them know about a program, help them with hiring practices or identify a solution to some other challenges. That's definitely what the value add is.
Biggest Changes You've Seen in the Independent Agency Channel?
What we look for in an employee has evolved. If we focus on risk management graduates or those with a license, we would never find anybody. Now we're looking at identifying behaviors that our position requires—whether it's being good with people, being able to communicate effectively, being empathetic or compassionate. We are trying to find those people and recruit them into the industry rather than just focusing within the industry.
It's the people side of things. It's not only finding the right fit, because not everyone can do insurance, but also because not everyone fits account management or producer roles. It's about focusing on people's strengths and how we can integrate them into the organization.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.