Why McGinniss Himmel
VISION To be the most coverage driven and CLIENT FOCUSED insurance agency in Florida.
MISSION To accurately provide families and individuals in North Florida the best value for the most appropriate and comprehensive protection possible with emphasis on the potentially “life changing” coverages. We will ask the right questions, actively listen in order to understand their unique risks and needs, and then provide guidance and education in plain and understandable terms on how to manage their specific risks. All while providing our services with the attitude and outlook of, “how would we handle this, or what would we do, if we were speaking to our Grandmother.”
We are an INDEPENDENT insurance agency, SPECIALIZING in insurance for individuals and families (auto, home, life), with a focus on EDUCATING our clients about their options while providing INDIVIDUALIZED, EXPERIENCED, & LOCAL guidance along with unique SOLUTIONS to help our clients recover from life’s unexpected events.
INDEPENDENT In an nutshell, independent means we work with more than one insurance company. Because we have several options, we ask questions to learn and understand your situation, and then help match you with the company whose product fits you best.
Not every insurance companies policy is the same. Many of them are VERY different. For example, some include animal liability coverage (dog bites) where some make you purchase it separate, and some don’t offer it at all. By being independent, we can match you to what fits, instead of saying, “Here is the (only) option I have, I hope it fits.”
There are multiple ways to get insurance. Direct to the insurance company like a GEICO or Direct General. Through a captive insurance agency like a State Farm office. Or through an independent insurance agency like us.
When you go direct, you speak to a representative who works for that insurance company in their sales/service division. Often they suggest they can save you money because you aren’t paying an agent or ‘middleman’. However, since direct writing companies have expenses related to the distribution and sale of their product it’s not entirely accurate. GEICO for example must do advertising, have a call center, pay people to work there, manage it, pay the light bill and rent, etc. They still have expenses associated with the distribution and service of their products.
When you use a captive insurance agency, that agency is only allowed to sell and service one companies products. Similar to a direct writer in that respect, but the agency is paid a commission on the policies they sell and service. This means, instead of spending money on a building, call center employees, telephones, etc etc, the insurance company pays a flat fee to the agency based on the amount of insurance they sell and service.
An independent insurance agency is similar to a captive agency in that the insurance carriers they write and service policies for pay them a commission based on the amount of policies they sell and service. However, in stark contrast to a direct writer or captive insurance agency, an independent is able to work with many different companies. This allows them to make sure they match what the customer wants and needs, with the company which best fits that individual or family’s situation, needs, etc. Also, most insurance companies who write through independent agents spend far less money advertising. Those insurance companies rely on the insurance agent to be responsible for bringing them customers.
It’s a very efficient way for companies to distribute policies because they aren’t going to end up running a loss on a call center or marketing campaign if they don’t write a bunch of insurance that year. They ONLY have to pay a commission (marketing/advertising dollars) when the insurance agency makes a sale. Also, they put the burden of taking care of that client on the shoulders of the agency, so the expenses to the carrier for the ongoing service of that client are minimal and consistent.
All three methods of distributing insurance policies have their advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, I have a favorite but it’s ultimately up to you to decide which way best fits your needs.
P.S. Many direct writing insurance companies have recently also started running insurance AGENCIES within their direct writing chanel. For example GEICO, a direct writer of auto insurance, does not have a homeowners insurance product for Florida. As a result, they have partnered with a few homeowners insurance companies to be their agent and sell policies FOR those other companies THROUGH their GEICO distribution model. So when you call and speak to a GEICO rep about your car insurance, you’re talking to them as a company representative employed by GEICO. When someone gives you a homeowners quote, you’re actually speaking to an insurance agent who is helping you get an insurance policy through another company.
Similarly, many ‘captive’ insurance agencies are now a hybrid of captive and independent. Allstate, for example, only allows their agents to sell Allstate car insurance, but their Florida agencies can be independents for home insurance.
Interesting isn’t it?
One of the first questions we usually get asked after explaining all of this is, “Why do so many companies choose to use an agent vs just all of them going direct?” And it’s a great question with lots of reasons.
The main reason is because the creating of insurance policies, handling / paying claims, etc takes a lot of money and effort; and it is a very different kind of effort than the sales and service end. So an insurance company, Tower Hill for example, focuses on creating excellent policy forms and adjusting claims, while they allow the insurance agency to handle the distribution and majority of the ongoing service. Kind of like the relationship between Kelloggs and Publix for example. Kelloggs makes and packages their cereal, and they pay Publix to distribute it to the end consumer. Kellogg’s is then able to focus on making an awesome food product, and publix is in charge of the distribution responsibilities and costs such as managing their stores, paying their employees, buying grocery carts, etc.
SPECIALIZING We specialize in insurance for individuals and families. Many independent agencies are focused on business insurance (higher premiums = more commission) and they only write personal insurance as an afterthought or accommodation because they feel like they have to. That’s not who I want protecting MY biggest asset.
Our specialization also means we get to be true nerds about coverages and policy forms. Since personal lines types of insurance (auto, home, life) is our focus, we actually READ the policies we write and service, so we can make sure you’re getting what you need and not unintentionally getting something that doesn’t fit. For example, some companies policies have a $5,000 limit for tools. If you’re the typical family, that’s likely not a big deal. But if you happen to be a woodworking enthusiast or shade tree mechanic and have $20,000+ in tools, that’s a big deal.
Our specialization also means we have a specific process in place when ‘quoting’ and discussing the coverages appropriate for your homeowners policy. Our process does a few things, the most important are:
- It help us make sure we don’t unintentionally miss something important that you need coverage for – like the tools limit for one example of many. There are lots of limits like that which can be a big deal depending on your situation.
- It helps us make sure YOU and your HOUSE fit the guidelines for what the company we are suggesting you use. If your house doesn’t meet their guidelines, they can cancel your policy or require costly repairs/updates after you close on your house or switch insurance companies. We prefer to discuss this up front so there are no surprises. We’re in insurance after all – we don’t like surprises.
- By specializing, we can get access to some of the best insurance companies in Florida. The best choose to partner with us for the distribution of their policies because they recognize our process helps them shine. Our clients get matched with the right company and coverages, and they don’t have to go through the unpleasant process of cancelling policies which don’t fit their model or carrying policies for houses which really aren’t their target market. Being covered right helps keep their/our customer the happiest when there is a claim, and helps the insurance company be profitable because we help them find the type of people and properties which fit their target market.
- Since we arent distracted by trying to write a bunch of other types of insurance (Commercial, Health, Dental, AFLAC, etc) we are continually trying to find ways to better care for our clients. We are continually creating programs and services which will be most useful to individuals and families. Our Totaled Auto Settlement Advisor Program (tASAP) is just one example of a unique service we provide to help take care of our clients.
EDUCATION We love our clients so we want our clients to be taken care of when something bad happens. The only way to ensure the best chance of something being covered appropriately, is to have the discussion about what is and what isn’t covered BEFORE something bad happens.
To understand why this is important to us, you have to know our backgrounds. Michael and Allen both are from families of educators. Michael’s Mom is a superintendent of schools. Allen’s Mom, Allen’s wife, wife’s mom, and his Grandfather are/were all teachers.
Michael and Allen both came from captive insurance agency backgrounds where the main focus was sales, not necessarily coverage discussions. Because of the massive shift and move in Florida towards policies that have more limitations and more exclusions (to try and keep rates down up while costs go up) it’s more important than ever to actually discuss what coverages you are getting and what coverages are available. I’d estimate more than 95% of the in force policies/quotes I review have only very basic coverage not to mention some pretty significant limitations that have NEVER even been discussed.
Most agencies just try and quote a policy that is the ‘least expensive’ in order to get the business. Then, when something bad happens, they hide behind the coverage forms and say things like “Well, you should have read your policy. That exclusion is right there in black and white on page 3,254.” That’s completely backwards. That legalistic attitude is a large part of why the insurance industry gets a bad rap (or at least that’s what I think).
We would prefer to invest the time in our clients to educate and discuss their options, so if something bad happens and there isnt coverage, we know why and that we decided intentionally to take that risk.
Not everyone fits into the little ‘box’ that so many large companies try and fit their customers into. In fact, more DON’T fit into that little ‘box’ than actually DO fit. Again, this goes back to understanding that there are some unusual limitations and exclusions in florida. Another example is several companies limit bicycles to $1000. I have several friends who are triathletes and have bicycle pedals which cost nearly $1000.
We ask lots of questions to make sure we uncover these types of unique situations so we can address and provide the right guidance on how to cover that particular risk.
Lets face it, working in insurance is hard. It’s not something everyone can, or wants to, do. The majority of the insurance agents and representatives who work in the personal lines relm have a handful of years of experience or less. I’m familiar with an office where the average tenure of an insurance agent was less than 2 years. You can’t be an expert, or even close, with 2 years of experience. Our agents have an average of 9 years of experience. Our culture highly values learning and continuing education.
We actually READ every single policy we sell. That 70+ page document you get when you first signed up, (and immediatly stuck in a drawer somewhere) yea, we’ve read that. Probably 3-4 dozen times too. Every single time I read it, I pick up something new or notice something I haven’t noticed before. They’re small things now, but it’s that kind of knowledge about the details which puts us in position to help guide you through the maze of options to make sure you’re protected.
LOCAL We understand the unique risks and issues your neighborhood faces. We also know how to find local (city/county) resources with the information you may need to set up your policy best. If there’s a real issue that just can’t be addressed without hands on it, we can do it.
With the internet and the globalization of many businesses (amazon, ebay, google, GEICO), sometimes “local” goes without being addressed or isn’t really seen as valuable. A local agency is very important when it comes to property insurance – especially if you have the right agency, with the right values, and the right focus.
For us, local is important because we understand your neighborhood. Not just can find it on a google map know it. We know the unique risks and issues a specific area may face. It also means, if we don’t know, we can visit the area if needed to make sure our clients are taken care of. It also means, if you have a bad claim and need help, one of us can be there pretty fast.
Selling policies is important to the health of our business, but making good on the promises we’ve made to our existing clients is the MOST important. A good adjuster can do amazing things by phone, email, photos and fax. But when you have a tree on YOUR house, or a fire in YOUR kitchen, nothing replaces a knowledgeable agent being THERE with you.
SOLUTIONS In Everything from our quoting process to our Totaled Auto Settlement Advisor Program, we are focused on finding ways to help our clients recover quickly and completely from life unexpected events.