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From the Front Lines: Commercial Auto

It's crucial to educate commercial auto clients because "when there’s a loss," says independent agent Sam Artino, "you’re not thinking about how much you paid, you’re thinking about how much coverage you have."
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Sam Artino

Sales manager, commercial division
AIS Insurance
Thousand Oaks, California

How did you get started at your agency?

I was a buyer for Nordstrom for about 13 years. One of my employees left and came to AIS Insurance Specialists. One day he called me and told me I should apply to the agency and get in the insurance industry. It was a complete switch in gears. I did personal lines for about 10 years, and since then I’ve been doing commercial for about 11 years.

How did you get started in commercial auto insurance?

I felt as though personal lines was becoming more and more automated, where a customer might not need an agent but can instead purchase on their own. I believe future growth is going to be in commercial lines because it’s a little more complicated and a consumer will always lean on an agent.

Biggest industry changes?

Commercial auto is becoming more and more competitive and less and less desirable for carriers to write. Carriers don’t just want a standalone commercial auto anymore. They want to insure a client’s business through their truck. Commercial auto insurance will have more losses than, say, business insurance. Carriers want to offset that loss ratio by having more business in the commercial account rather than just the auto.

Biggest challenges?

I think of the old saying: “What goes around comes around.” A few years ago, nobody wanted to talk anymore. Clients wanted to complete transactions online, through text, over email. But it seems now commercial is focusing back on good old relationships again. But we do so much business throughout the U.S. it’s hard to develop that connection.

Future trends in commercial auto?

One day, automated vehicles. That could be purely commercial. I don’t believe personal lines will ever cover those. Another trend is more and more of these self-employed delivery and pick-up jobs.

Advice for a fellow agent?

Listen to what your client needs. Don’t talk, listen. Also, educate them. Everybody’s in a hurry today, everybody wants price, price, price. But when there’s a loss, you’re not thinking about how much you paid, you’re thinking how much coverage you have.   Break it down for people.

Favorite success story?

Someone seeking commercial auto insurance called me and said, “I need coverage, I need a quote, my agent isn’t responding and I need help right now.” However, she kept getting interrupted and asked me to call her back the next day. When I did, I could tell she didn’t have that sense of urgency anymore. Again, she asked me to call her back the next day, and when I did it was almost like I was bothering her. I then asked her to remember three days ago why she called me and why she was so upset. Something had sparked her to feel that way and take action. We took a minute, and then she was ready to take all the time she needed to get this done right. It turned out to be a large account that I still have three years later, and we became friends.

AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.