An insurance manager has responsibility for all the functions in an insurance company’s branch office. The sale of insurance policies is the most important of these, but the manager is also responsible for all administrative, personnel and other issues that might arise in the branch office. The insurance manager usually is paid from three sources: a straight salary from the insurance company, overrides on the sales made by the agents working out of the branch office, and personal production — sales made by the manager herself.
A highly competitive industry, insurance sales historically has very high turnover. Some agents will move from company to company, changing offices every couple of years or so; other agents will simply leave the industry. Since the insurance manager’s compensation includes overrides — an amount based on her agents’ commissions — a good manager will devote a large amount of time to recruiting good agents, training them well and retaining them. Agents are typically trained on the actual insurance products the company sells, on sales techniques, and on the ethical and legal compliance issues they face when selling insurance. As a retention incentive, many managers also provide, on a cost-free basis, training that gives agents the continuing education credits they’ll need to renew their insurance licenses.
A good insurance manager won’t just read the agents’ weekly sales reports and identify those with the highest numbers as the best in the office. Instead, she’ll study the reports thoroughly to find out why some agents do better than others. Some agents, for example, may be successful selling only one or two types of policies. A good manager will work with such agents to help them sell a broader range of policies, going with them on sales appointments and assigning them to work with other agents on sales of those other types of policies.
Ethical issues and compliance with laws and regulations are important elements of the insurance manager’s job. She’s also responsible for the actions of the agents under her supervision, so complaints from clients and potential clients are her responsibility to address and solve. If an office develops a reputation for ethical or compliance issues, the manager won’t last long in the job. This is another reason a good manager will spend time in the field with her agents, to get the opportunity to see them in action and evaluate their presentations in terms of ethics and compliance.
Most insurance companies require that their managers generate new sales every month. Most managers will handle some sales on their own, but nearly all managers will fulfill the bulk of this obligation by periodically accompanying their agents on their sales visits. This can take one of two forms: accompanying new agents, or those having a hard time, to coach and train them, and accompanying agents who’ve requested the manager’s assistance on a complex presentation. The commissions earned on these sales are usually split, although many managers are comfortable taking less than half of the commission because they’ll also earn an override on the agent’s commission. This practice of accompanying agents on their sales presentations helps an insurance manager meet many of her responsibilities simultaneously.
Administrative issues can occupy a good amount of an insurance manager’s time. Insurance offices need an administrative staff capable of learning and applying the rules covering the entry of new insurance applications into their system, assisting with recruitment of new agents, which is an ongoing process, dealing with customers and clients who show up at the office, procuring office supplies and equipment and arranging for service on that equipment. Administrative staff members are paid from the office’s operating budget, which is set annually based on the sales of the office’s agents. The manager's effectiveness in keeping administrative costs within budget is rewarded or penalized in a way that will ultimately affect her compensation. However, if the administrative staff is inadequate to the workload, the manager may need to devote more time to administrative issues, reducing the amount of time available for other responsibilities.
Most insurance companies won’t consider appointing anyone to the position of insurance manager who doesn’t have long and successful experience in the industry, usually including intermediate steps along the management ladder. Those who are appointed can look forward to a stressful job, juggling the many responsibilities discussed here. The compensation, though, is very rewarding by most standards, which is sufficient justification for most of those who accept such a job.