An insurance agent, also called an insurance broker in some instances, is the local representative of any number of insurance companies. A legitimate insurance agency must be licensed by a state board before he or she can legally sell insurance policies to customers. Generally, an agent works as the local face of a single insurance company, but occasionally an independent agent may work with different companies depending on their areas of expertise and coverage.
Most consumers interested in purchasing insurance coverage will only deal with a local insurance agent directly. He or she is authorized to present all of the coverage options available through the larger insurance company. Since part of an agent's salary is based on commissioned sales, he or she will often offer one stop shopping for all of the customer's insurance needs. He or she may sell individual policies for car, home, life and medical insurance, or offer a package plan which incorporates a combination of these needs.
Insurance customers are required to make regular payments called premiums to the insurance company, so part of an insurance agent's job is to ensure compliance. He or she may send out reminders of an impending premium payment, or notify customers of any proposed rate changes. A good agent may also keep track of any new developments in a client's life — a new teen-aged driver or a new home, for example. Clients may need to change their coverage from time to time, so the agent will negotiate the new terms with the parent company.
Perhaps the most visible part of an insurance agent's job occurs during an actual insurance claim. Following a car wreck or natural disaster, for example, customers are urged to contact their local insurance agent as soon as possible. Claims for insurance benefits must be processed through an authorized agent who can verify the circumstances of the accident or disaster. A specialist called a claims adjustor may be sent out by the insurance agency to personally inspect the damage and calculate the value of the claim.
An insurance agent often acts as an informal arbitrator between the client and the parent insurance company. He or she may know the best ways to present a claim in order to elicit the most favorable settlement from the insurers.