The American insurance industry has come a long way since the Friendly Society opened its doors in 1735. Unfortunately, the first fire insurance company or insurance provider of any kind closed its doors five years later. Peter Vitale, an insurance expert, recounts the historical formation of an organization by the name of Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Established in 1752, the company remains in operation today, although it has changed its name a few times.
Now approaching the 200th anniversary of the nation’s first insurance company, the industry takes in billions of dollars in revenue each year. Recently, automation and COVID-19 have forced the insurance industry to adapt in unexpected ways.
The Way People Shop for Insurance is Different Now
Over the last several years, the insurance industry has undergone a significant shift from primarily using print and other means of traditional advertising to producing most of its advertising via digital means. By 2024, industry analysts expect 74 percent of the auto insurance advertising budget to go toward creating a larger digital footprint.
Other key findings from a DMS Insights study published in December 2020 include:
58 percent of people who submit online quote requests for insurance are female.
People in the 25 to 54-year-old age group make up the majority of those seeking insurance online.
More seniors than ever before have shopped for insurance online as the pandemic forced them to spend more time at home. Another factor is that their comfort level with online shopping increased from 19 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2021.
The increase in people choosing rental housing over homeownership has caused a spike in requests for insurance quotes from non-homeowners, leading to a growing rental insurance market.
The type of auto insurance people request quotes for has changed with people driving less and spending more time at home due to the pandemic. For example, the auto insurance industry saw a 10 percent increase in people requesting liability coverage from before to after the pandemic. Some industry analysts feel this is a way for consumers to save money with the current volatile state of the economy.
One person who has paid close attention to these and other changes in the auto insurance industry is Peter Vitale. The owner of Bloomfield Insurance Group in Bloomfield, Michigan, recently discussed his thoughts on present and future developments in the insurance industry. Vitale works as an insurance industry consultant and is also a Board member for the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan.
Why Peter Vitale Evolved from Insurance Agent to Industry Consultant
Vitale has been in the insurance industry for 15 years and worked as a consultant since 2016. Before making the change, he already shared knowledge about the insurance agency regularly to help consumers understand industry terms and make the best insurance decisions for themselves. His insights also provide tips for insurance agents just entering the industry.
The motivating factor for Peter Vitale to become an insurance industry consultant in Michigan was that he wanted the opportunity to share the knowledge he had gained over 15 years with a wider audience. He also felt that the structure of the job as a consultant worked better for him than being an agent.
His primary responsibility in this role is to work with individuals, businesses, and new or struggling insurance agencies to help identify their needs. For his individual and business clients, Peter Vitale creates a bespoke insurance portfolio that provides the best protection against their specific risks.
With insurance agency clients, Vitale assists them in hiring and training productive sales agents and structure their business to achieve greater success. He explains that working with an unprofitable insurance agency requires a multi-faceted approach that includes reviewing and overhauling its marketing efforts.
How Peter Vitale Sees Insurance Changing Over the Next Few Years
Although Vitale feels this is an exciting time for the insurance industry, he concedes that the industry has been slower than most to transition to new technology. Artificial intelligence (AI), drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just three common examples.
However, Vitale is seeing progress in this area. He cites many insurance companies that already use drones when assessing a property for underwriting a homeowner’s insurance policy. Drones are also useful to assess natural disasters when humans cannot get to blocked off areas for days or weeks.
Much of the insurance industry has now embraced using chatbots powered by AI to answer customer questions 24 hours a day.
Having chatbots available at all hours is convenient for people who cannot call or email during regular business hours because they are at work themselves. Peter Vitale knows that AI chatbots will never replace human interaction, but they can enhance customer service.
One technology that has been specific to the auto insurance agency is a driver behavior tracker. Customers can receive a discount when they agree to install the device to track their miles and provide feedback on decisions they make while driving.
Advice for New Agents from Michigan Insurance Consultant Peter Vitale
Because of Vitale’s expertise as a former insurance agent, insurance educator, and current consultant, people often ask him what advice he would give agents just starting their career. He tells them that hard work is the only thing that really matters. Agents should not fear failure or pay attention to what other people think they should do. Willingness to learn from failure and to trust their own instincts when something does not seem right are success factors Vitale views as important for a fruitful career as a sales agent.
Another common question Peter Vitale receives is how he thinks insurance agencies could improve as a whole. Before expounding on his thoughts, he was quick to give credit to all insurance agencies in the state for persevering and continuing to serve customers during the pandemic.
The first area where Vitale feels insurance agencies could improve is for the owner to hire what he calls a powerhouse or rock star team. Growth is only possible when the entire team is highly motivated to succeed and dedicated to serving customers. Changes trickle down from the top to impact the entire team, whether positive or negative. Insurance agency owners must prepare the agency for new business before pushing agents to go out and find it. The insurance business will fail if it cannot handle the influx.
The second thing Peter Vitale would like to see insurance agencies do is take full advantage of the technology available to the industry. He reports that many agents and agency owners struggle to know which forms of technology would help them the most. He brings his prior research to these consulting appointments and helps clients find their own resources to allow them to feel good about their technology purchases.
Vitale reiterates that he feels pleased with the industry’s adoption of technology so far. At the same time, he cautions others in the industry not to become too distracted by technology in their personal lives. He makes it a point to turn off all his digital devices for at least one hour a day outside of work to better center himself and clear his thoughts.
Sharing Information with Other Insurance Companies is Good Business
Peter Vitale has been transparent and generous in sharing the information he has to help both consumers and others in the industry. He feels this is a good business practice and makes for more efficient branding. When an agent, consultant, or entire agency has done a good job with branding, people develop trust and look to them for insurance advice when a new need arises.
By positioning himself as an expert in the Michigan insurance industry, Peter Vitale is setting himself up for new customers months to years in the future. People already know his name and feel like they understand how he works before ever contacting him. Although branding is a long-term and ongoing strategy, insurance industry employees must exercise patience and commit to developing a positive reputation for themselves and their company.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like for Peter Vitale?
Vitale states that every day is different, and this is one of the things he enjoys most about his job. Even so, he strives to accomplish certain things each day. He feels one of the most important things is to reach out to clients and resolve their concerns before moving on to other business.
Most consultations with insurance agency clients involve providing ongoing support, training, and assistance with hiring new staff. He also engages in long-term planning with clients on topics such as marketing and strategy development. Peter Vitale relies on several productivity applications to ensure he remains on-task throughout the day.
Vitale earned a Master of Business Education (MBA) from Oakland University in Michigan. He grew up in Oakland County and still lives there today. He enjoys the opportunity to serve the community that means so much to him.