Platt Insurance Celebrates Shift to Independent Model

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

When owner Ellie Platt bought her first insurance agency in 2011, it was a “captive” agency that sold only Nationwide products, she said. 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 Wednesday.

“So when our clients come in the door, when somebody wants a quote, we can now offer multiple carriers,” Platt said. “The industry in general 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,” Suzanne Carawan, said 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 noted.

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 so far include Auto-Owners Insurance, Travelers and Safeco. “The list of carriers is growing,” she said.

Platt Insurance celebrated the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber at Platt’s Howland office, one of two it operates. It also has an office in Sebring, and has 13 agents between the two.

“For the past few months we haven’t been able to facilitate ribbon cuttings or do any of those sorts of things that we’ve done for our members for years,” said Kim Calvert, vice president of marketing and member services for the Regional Chamber. “So the fact that we’re able to start doing those again is meaningful not only for us but for the business that we’re helping to promote and helping them to celebrate all of the wonderful things that they’re doing right now.”

Attending the ribbon cutting were Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, Becky Lohr, Cindy Rudinsky, Ellie Platt, Kenny Carse, Cristy Johnson, Kate Guesman, Connie Fauvie and Rosalie VanCamp.

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

Platt Insurance offers a wide range of insurance products, focusing on home, auto, life and business insurance, Platt said. “We love working with startups and new businesses especially in this area,” she said.

Farm insurance is another specialty, she continued. Platt Insurance started with the purchase of a Kinsman agency in northern Trumbull County, “a pretty large rural area,” so many of its clients were farms and a couple of its agents were interested in that business segment, which has continued to expand.

“We do a lot of business insurance, especially in the Youngstown area. So many entrepreneurs and startup businesses are looking for that support, that insurance adviser to be part of their team as they start their businesses,” she added. The increase in wineries and craft brewers fit into a “natural” niche because of the insurance group’s farm focus, she said.

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

“We’re looking at how our customers want to do business with us,” particularly since so much business has 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 has been working through for multiple years. “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.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.