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Study: The Number of Independent Insurance Agencies Remains Stable


The number of independent agencies has stabilized, according to the 2010 Agency Universe Study. Future One, a collaboration of the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America and leading independent agency companies, has released key findings from the recently completed study earlier this week.

In fact, after a decade of declining numbers of agencies, 2006 saw a return to stability. Since 2006, there have been approximately 37,500 agencies in business in the United States and that number remained approximately the same for 2010, according to the study.

“The 2010 Agency Universe Study reflected the combined effect of the recession which began just as the 2008 study was underway, a prolonged soft insurance market and declining revenues,” said Robert Rusbuldt, president and CEO of IIABA in a statement announcing the results. “Despite all of these challenges, many new agencies are forming, typically with a more diverse and younger leadership, demonstrating the strength of the independent agency system and the potential for growth.”

“As the Big ‘I' continues to increase its diversity efforts, the 2010 Agency Universe Study found some progress, with an increase in the number of new small and medium small agencies with minority principals,” said Madelyn Flannagan, IIABA vp-agent development, education and research, in the statement.

“In addition to the increasing ethnic diversity of agency ownership, albeit from a very low base, these agencies are also solidifying the position of women as principals in over a third of agencies,” she said. “Most strikingly, the proportion of independent agencies with African-American principals grew from 1% in 2008 to just over 4% in 2010.”

Other key findings of the 2010 Agency Universe Study included:

--Of the 37,500 agencies existing in 2010, approximately 11% or 4,000 were founded in 2008, 2009 or 2010. That number is approximately equal to the number of agencies lost as separate entities through mergers and acquisitions.

--A review of agencies founded since 2005 found that 50% of new agencies are located in the South, 24% in the South Atlantic states and 19% in the West South Central Census division. This may reflect the flexibility of the independent agency system, which allows it to serve markets many captive agency companies have essentially abandoned, said IIABA. In contrast, only 8% of new agencies are located in the Northeast, compared to 18% of older independent agencies.

--Among independent agencies and brokers decreases in commercial insurance revenues were significantly concentrated in the larger agencies. While 55% of small agencies saw increased revenues from 2008 to 2009, 25% had decreased revenues. In all of the other size categories, agencies with decreased revenues have outnumbered those with increased revenues. The decline in revenues has been substantially worse in commercial lines than in personal lines. Consequently, it has hurt larger agencies, more dependent on commercial lines, the study said.

The 2010 Agency Universe Study is the tenth in a series that was first conducted in 1983. Subsequent studies were released in 1987, 1992, 1996 and 2000. Since 2002, the study has been completed biennially.