If you’ve been to our blog before, you probably understand how confusing finding the perfect insurance policy can feel. In seeing all the questions we have answered over the years, though, you have also noticed that it doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming when you have the right kind of guidance and support.
We’ve talked about highly specific matters, but also have gone over some of the basic, albeit not always known, fundamental considerations that can help in navigating the landscape of insurance.
That’s what we are doing here. We are asking a basic question: What is the difference between an Independent Insurance Agent and a Direct Writer?
Knowing the answer to this question will help shed light on who you are working with, and how they can serve you.
Independent Insurance Agent and Direct Writer: What are They?
Before getting into all the differences between these two, its best to know first what they are. Knowing what they are will give more context and make the differences that much easier to understand.
- – Independent Insurance Agent: An Independent Insurance Agent is exactly what you picture when you are thinking of an insurance agent. These are the individuals that guide and provide information and support around your coverage needs. What makes them independent though, is the fact that they are not tied to just one insurance company. Instead, they present policy and coverage options from multiple insurance companies, focusing on serving the needs of the policyholder (that’s you) rather than serving the quotas of a single company they may work for if not independent.
- – Direct Writer: A Direct Writer is the same as the Independent Insurance Agent, though with one major catch: they only work for one company. This means they have a specific list of company coverage and service options they can pull from. With an interchangeable name like “Captive Agent”, you can really see the difference the independence mentioned above.
From the definitions alone, you can start to see the difference (and trust me, there’s a lot we will get into) but there is still one important thing that is very much the same between both of them:
They are both here to provide you with coverage and protection.
Independent Insurance Agent and a Direct Writer: How are They Different?
To understand how these two are different, we’ll use an analogy to help picture it a little better.
Imagine you are setting out to go on an adventure that you feel like you really just need to have with you for the rest of your life.
The adventure is a big one and it’s best done with a guide by your side.
The Independent Insurance Agent and the Direct Writer are the two guides available to help take you along on this adventure. Knowing how they operate and what they provide that is unique to them is key in knowing which guide you’d want to walk with.
So let’s start with the obvious…
You’ve settled on the hike you want to take through the beautiful mountains you’ve been dreaming about visiting for years. The one thing is, though, you don’t know which hike to do.
The Independent Insurance Agent can present you with an extensive map of all the trails available for you to jump on. They aren’t bound to just one source of trail options, so they can assess a little more of exactly what you want, and provide you with a variety of options for you to choose from.
The Direct Writer is a bit more limited. They have only a select few trails to offer up guidance through. These are the trails they are familiar with and allowed to take you on.
There is definitely a trail from each that you can see yourself doing, but having more to choose from can present not just a trail you can do, but one that feels like the perfect fit and the one you want to do.
In short, a Direct Writer is working with a specific insurance provider and thus can only present what that individual company offers. With a limited portfolio, your options are also limited.
The Independent Insurance Agent, on the other hand, is able to reference and research all the available options across industry resources to find something that fits you. You are a unique individual with unique needs– the policy that will support you should be tailored to fit them.
You pick your trail and you set off with your respective guides.
Knowing this has been an adventure you’ve wanted to take for so long, you have indulged in all the pictures and stories found on the internet. You’re prepared, of course, but once you set out, you can’t help but feel a tinge of overwhelm.
What if you miss something? What if you miss something but you didn’t even know you were missing it?
As your guide, the Independent Insurance Agent will take you along and point out everything on trail that is a need-to-see. They will answer any and all the questions you have for them, and will even bring up extra bits of information you had not yet considered.
To them, no question is silly, or too basic. They will listen to the stories you tell and be able to bring your attention to the things around you that are impactful to you personally.
With this knowledge, and the person right by your side that is the source of it all, you become more comfortable navigating this landscape.
The Direct Writer is a bit of a different guide. They will most definitely be listening to you, your questions, and your stories but how they can respond is a bit more scripted. They want to keep you with them on every trail in future, and will speak accordingly. The questions they answer will guide you back to them- they do need to keep guiding and that requires a certain number of hikers on trail with them every year.
With their independence from a singular company, the Independent Insurance Agent has their eyes wide open, looking across all of the insurance industry, seeking out what fits you and your needs. They present options from multiple insurance companies that can serve you specifically, rather than trying to fit a limited offering around you.
The Direct Writer is on the other end of this spectrum. They have the one insurance company they are serving and so what they can offer to you comes from that sole source. This can feel limiting or insufficient at times.
Being the big adventure of your lifetime, you saved up knowing this experience is going to cost some money. The money is spent, of course, but the goal is that it is money well spent.
In presenting the trip and trail options, the Independent Insurance Agent was able to present a full menu of options for you to choose from. They sought out the options that not only fit your needs, but your budget as well. In doing this, you have the opportunity to do exactly what you need and want to without breaking the bank.
The Direct Writer? They are locked in on their pricing as they only pull from one provider. The trail, the gear, the lunch– those are all limited in the range of cost. They may be able to apply a discount here and there, but overall, the pricing tier is locked in place.
With the ability to look across the insurance industry to find the right company to provide the right coverage for you, the Independent Insurance Agent not only finds you the policy that fits, but also the pricing that benefits you. There are general trends for what certain policies will cost, but there is still a spectrum– thats the space an Independent Insurance Agent moves through to find what will save you every month but will not also sacrifice on your coverage.
Being with just a single company, though, makes this a bit different for a Direct Writer. Their menu of policies and associated prices are less flexible as they come from just one place.
Remember, diversity across the marketplace fuels competitive pricing. If their “marketplace” is just one company, there is no diversity to present pricing differently.
Walking along the trail with your guide, you notice a level of presence that’s a bit different between the two.
With the Independent Insurance Agent, they are appreciative of the beauty around, but with it being a landscape they are so familiar with, you feel like you are their main attention.
They are very clearly in it for the long haul.
They are asking about this trail and how it is going for you, while chatting about which ones you may want to get on next.
In knowing how you are doing, how it fits and feels, they are ensuring that you are getting the right service.
They have been on this trail before, with so many other people as unique as you are. From their experience, they know how to adjust, update, and navigate each person’s unique needs.
There is no one size fits all for them, nor for you.
That Direct Writer though? They are checking their watch and hoping to get off trail to get right back on with another hiker sooner rather than later.
With limited options, they have run through what they have to provide and how you can make it fit for yourself.
The difference in personalized service is rather clear here.
Oftentimes, working with Direct Writer might feel like you are just another customer on their conveyor belt. They might have quotas to meet and targets to achieve, which means their focus could be more on meeting those goals than on understanding your unique needs. You might find yourself lost in a sea of policyholders, waiting in line for attention when you need it the most.
The Independent Insurance Agent is quite the opposite.
These are the agents who build relationships with those they serve. They are always happy to answer questions and find the policy that fits you (rather than trying to get you to fit the policy).
These relationships are important because the next time you may have to speak to your representative isn’t always the easiest, or best of times.
When knowing the individual they serve, Independent Insurance Agents can not just provide services but can support their policyholders in the event of a claim.
Speaking of that scary claims process…
Let’s take a look at it this way-
You’re on trail and you find an abundant blackberry bush that you really just need to pick a few berries from. They are plump and ready to be plucked. You really cant resist how tasty they look.
Your guide, the Independent Insurance Agent, points out the best place to kneel and reach the best parts of the bush safely.
In all your excitement, though, the thorns on the bush get you, and you come away with a pretty deep cut on one of your fingers. Luckily for you, that Independent Insurance Agent has an extensive first aid kit with everything you may need.
They clean the cut, put a little Neosporin on it, and wrap it nicely with a bandaid. It’s even one of those special knuckle bandaids that make it so you can bend your finger and not have the bandaid slip off in the process.
This is not to say the Direct Writer wouldn’t also take care of you, but they may not have the experience in this situation to know what to do, or what to have on them.
You most definitely will walk away with a bandaid on, but how is it going to feel for the rest of the hike?
Independent Insurance Agents have a lot of unique experience that widens their knowledge base and its application.
Not only do they know what to do and what is needed – primarily because they have worked across the industry spectrum of both companies and policyholders– but they also know how to provide for you in a way that prioritizes your comfort throughout the process.
In building the relationship with you as your agent, they have learned what it is you need, and have built those elements into your policy. Now, at the time it is needed, you can be satisfied in knowing everything is right there.
It’s in these moments you will begin to realize how walking with confidence through these kinds of moments is different with an Independent Insurance Agent.
The Direct Writer will still provide you with guidance through a claims process. This agent, though, might not have the same breadth of experience with a vast variety of claims scenarios.
They’ll do their best to assist you, they just might not be as equipped to handle complex claim situations as a veteran Independent Insurance Agent.
When planning for something that you plan to have for the rest of your life – in this analogy, the memories from this trip, and in actuality, insurance policies to cover everything that is important to you – convenience may not be the first thing that comes up as a priority.
But, then again, we all know the planning part can feel cumbersome.
We live in a fast-paced world, and time is of the essence. You can most definitely slow down once you get out on trail, but often folks just want to get there, and get there quickly.
When you originally met with your guides, this is the moment where the Direct Writer had a bit of an upper hand.
With a smaller menu to choose from, and working directly with just one company, they are able to process your requests quickly. In being able to do everything in-house, it can feel like one-stop shopping, quick and easy.
The Independent Insurance Agent might need a bit more time to gather quotes from different insurance providers.
All in all, for something as important as finding the coverage and protection for you and everything that is important to you, the extra time is worth it.
Insurance is an investment in the peace of mind you get to take with you.
The time it takes to find the right policy for you is also an investment. Like all good investments, though, these are the ones that will pay off in the long run.
In the end, it all comes down to what you value the most. If you’re looking for choices, personalized service, and a money-saving adventure, the Independent Insurance Agent is your go-to guide. But if you prefer a more straightforward, one-company approach with a bit more convenience, the direct writer could be your ticket.
If you have any questions, or want to connect with with one of our agents, reach out and we would love to chat with you!