The concept of insurance is fairly simple: if event “A” happens, your insurer will pay you “X” amount of dollars to compensate for your loss. However, knowing what insurance you need, and trying to evaluate which solutions may be best for you in the long run, can be complicated. In fact, you will likely not be able to truly assess the quality of an insurer’s advice for many years — perhaps never on some policies, depending on whether or not the need ever arises to make a claim.
So how do you know if an insurance advisor is “good” or “right” for you? How can you know you are making a smart decision in trusting the advisor you choose?
Here are five important factors to consider before you decide.
An array of degrees, diplomas, certifications and accreditation programs exist to help insurance advisors focus their training and expertise. Most of these programs, when successfully completed, allow advisors to add a professional designation after their name.
While an accreditation is certainly no guarantee that an advisor is proficient in applying his or her specialized training and education, the lack of accreditation can indicate not only limited knowledge, but a lack of commitment to the profession. Moreover, staying current as an advisor, especially in an evolving area such as insurance, requires continual training; in fact, training is an ongoing requirement to maintain an advisor’s licence and registration.
When attempting to evaluate insurance credentials, there are two things to look for:
• Has the advisor taken high-level courses that demonstrate an ability to think critically and apply knowledge? • Has the advisor shown some interest in pursuing continuing education opportunities after being licensed? (Note: since additional education does not always lead to a professional designation, you will have to ask to find out.)
• Has the advisor taken high-level courses that demonstrate an ability to think critically and apply knowledge?
• Has the advisor shown some interest in pursuing continuing education opportunities after being licensed? (Note: since additional education does not always lead to a professional designation, you will have to ask to find out.)
Once you are satisfied that a potential candidate has the appropriate credentials, the next question to ask is: Who does the advisor work for? The answer can vary, and is important to keep in mind.
Advisors can work for various organizations, including:
• The insurance companies that make the products. • Large financial institutions, in which insurance is part of a bigger operation designed to keep you as a client. • Privately held firms, in which advisors work independently. • Not-for-profit associations (like the OMA).
• The insurance companies that make the products.
• Large financial institutions, in which insurance is part of a bigger operation designed to keep you as a client.
• Privately held firms, in which advisors work independently.
• Not-for-profit associations (like the OMA).
Insurance advisor referrals from people you know and trust are a good source of insight into the quality of an advisor’s ongoing client management and support.
In the same way, an agent working as part of a larger financial organization is also affected by interests in other areas of the company, and can “rock the boat” only so much on behalf of a client. An agent’s ultimate goal is to improve the profit the company makes from handling a client’s account.
On the other hand, an independent agent working for a private company is also affected by the organization’s goals and purpose, which is why it is always good to inquire about a company’s goals and purpose.
Generating profits for a privately held family firm might not be much different than doing so for a public firm, although private firms often have longer service provision horizons, so they are less worried about making money on every transaction starting from day one.
Likewise, it is always good to know the mandated goals and purpose of a not-for-profit organization, which is operated by a board of professional peers and has interests to serve its members far beyond maximizing its profits.
While we are fortunate in Canada to have some great insurers, every company occasionally misinterprets or mishandles a policy, which is exactly when you will want someone on your side whose primary business interests closely reflect your interests as a client.
No matter how well trained insurance professionals may be, or how hard they pledge to work for your interests above all else, if they do not understand you, your profession, or your individual needs, then they might not be a good fit.
One of the best ways to narrow down your search for the right advisor is to ask your friends and colleagues for a referral. Insurance advisor referrals from people you know and trust are always a good source of insight into the quality of an advisor’s ongoing client management and support. If your friends or associates have had insurance claims, they can also provide a valuable perspective on how their advisor dealt with them on claims assistance and intervention.
While accurately assessing the referral advice of others requires some personal objectivity, reflection, and research on your part, it is still an excellent way of screening potential candidates.
Two important issues that will affect your satisfaction level with an insurance advisor, both now and in the future, are:
• What kind of team does the advisor work with in the organization?• How well is the organization positioned to ensure long-term continuity of service and operations?
• What kind of team does the advisor work with in the organization?
• How well is the organization positioned to ensure long-term continuity of service and operations?
In the short-term, having an effective team supporting your advisor’s efforts on your behalf means increased access to a breadth of knowledge and experience that no one person can possess. It also means that vacations, illnesses, or even other clients won’t prevent you from getting immediate attention when you need it.
In essence, finding the right insurance advisor really means finding the right team of skilled practitioners with diverse experience, backgrounds, and technical expertise. This increases the chances that someone on the team will know the answer to whatever questions may arise.
Remember, the policy you are buying today may not be used for years down the road, so you want to have some assurance that your team is going to be around to serve your needs when the time comes.
In short, having an advisor with access to a diverse team of professionals, and who is part of an organization that has a history going back more than a single generation (ideally, with either the same ownership or at least the same management philosophy, and with an ongoing growth and replacement strategy for staff), will be significant considerations when making your choice.
Having a good advisor is great, but having a whole team of good people is even better.
If an advisor is educated, has a good support team, strong referrals, and is working to put your interests first in the long run, then it’s reasonable to conclude you have found someone with whom you might want to move forward.
But the real deciding factor comes down to this: Are you comfortable with the advisor’s style and approach?
To understand the value of this particular consideration, ask yourself: Do I feel I can talk to my advisor about my concerns, circumstances and interests — whether face-to-face, over the phone, or by email? And, if the unexpected or unimaginable happens in my life, am I going to be comfortable asking my advisor for advice on what to do next?
If you find yourself answering yes to both of these questions, you may have found the right advisor for you.
While choosing an insurance advisor
may take some effort, the more time you
invest initially to evaluate potential candidates,
the more likely you are to select
the one that is best for you, your family,
and your professional interests.
At OMA Insurance, we offer advice
and recommendations on how to manage
risk, and then help you take the
appropriate action to deal with that risk.
This often means helping you buy an
insurance policy, either through one of
the OMA-sponsored group plans or
through other companies with which
we have a business relationship.
We then work with you to continue
to maintain your program, manage your
existing policies and, when needed,
intervene on your behalf with an insurance
company to help resolve any
issues at claims time.
Our services focus on providing
advice, ongoing management and support,
as well as claims assistance and
intervention. We also do other things,
such as product development to help
provide you with innovative solutions to
address your unique needs. But, fundamentally,
we are not really an insurance
company. We are an advice and relationship
More importantly, we know what it’s
like to be a physician in Ontario, as well
as the insurance challenges and opportunities
that are specific to each of our
members. Choosing the right advisor in
these critical areas is an important first
step in establishing a sense of long-term
security against possible risks. We know
your needs, and we’re here to help.