Platt Insurance Marks Shift to Independent Model

HOWLAND, Ohio – Platt Insurance Group will celebrate a decade in business in 2021, but marked a different milestone July 1 when it became an independent insurance agency carrier.

When Ellie Platt bought her first insurance agency in 2011, it was a “captive” agency that sold only Nationwide products. A few years ago, Nationwide told its agents that it would shift to an independent distribution model, allowing agents and agencies to work with multiple carriers. That change took effect July 1.

“So when our clients come in the door, when somebody wants a quote, we can now offer multiple carriers,” Platt said. “The industry is shifting, and now as agents we have multiple options and choices for our clients.”

Agencies that offer products from more than one carrier is “definitely the trend,” said Suzanne Carawan, vice president of marketing and communications for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. Independent agents used to represent about 30% of the industry. “Now it’s more like 50/50,” she notes.

The Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association puts the percentage of independent agents even higher. Of approximately 332,000 insurance sales professionals in 2018, 197,000 were independent producers.

Carriers that Platt has added include Auto-Owners Insurance, Travelers and Safeco. “The list of carriers is growing,” she said.

To commemorate its independence, Platt Insurance held a ribbon-cutting at its Howland office. The agency also has an office in Sebring. It has 13 agents between the two.

“For the past few months we haven’t been able to facilitate ribbon cuttings or those sorts of things that we’ve done for our members for years,” notes Kim Calvert, vice president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, which hosted the event. “The fact that we’re able to start doing these again is meaningful – not only for us but for the business that we’re helping to promote.”

It’s good to see businesses celebrate success, “especially in these times,” added Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, who attended the ribbon cutting. “We want to see businesses get back to where we were before this pandemic.”

Platt Insurance offers home, auto, life and business insurance, Platt said. Farm insurance is another specialty.

The agency was established with the purchase of an agency in Kinsman, “a pretty large rural area.” Many of its initial clients were farmers, a business segment that has continued to expand.

“We do a lot of business insurance, especially in the Youngstown area. Many entrepreneurs and startup businesses are looking for that support, that insurance adviser to be part of their team,” Platt said.

The growth of the wine and craft beer industries fits into a “natural” niche because of the insurance group’s farm focus, she added.

As with many businesses, technology is a challenge for the insurance industry, which in general is “a pretty antiquated industry,” according to Platt.

“We’re looking at how our customers want to do business with us,” particularly since so many have shifted to operating virtually as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

Making sure that the right systems are in place and that the company has the necessary technology and software is a challenge Platt is working through. “We’re ready for the shift today,” she said.

Associate agent and office manager Kate Guseman, who started with Nationwide nearly 25 years ago, lauded Platt for her progressive thinking.

“She’s willing to take chances and move forward, to try what’s not only best for herself and the agency but for all of us,” she said.

Pictured: Cutting the ribbon to celebrate “independence day” at Platt Insurance Group are, from left: Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, agency employees Becky Lohr and Cindy Rudinsky, owner Ellie Platt, and employees Kenny Carse, Cristy Johnson, Kate Guesman, Connie Fauvie and Rosalie VanCamp.