Intern Insights: Week One

Murray & MacDonald Insurance hired an intern, Ben Whitney, from Bentley University for the summer.
Each Monday, we will post insights from Ben about working for a local insurance agency.

In the first installment of “Intern Insights”, I’d like to introduce myself and provide a brief description how I became Murray& MacDonald’s latest summer intern. I am a rising junior at Bentley University and a candidate for the B.S. in Corporate Finance and Accounting with a minor in Law. This is my first internship, and I am more than excited to be here to continue to develop my skills and put them to practice. Most of my summers I spent as a lifeguard, busser and self-proclaimed guacamole chef/legend, it is exciting to take on a position that is truly value-added. While lounging in the sun and making the best table-side guacamole on this side of the Mississippi have made for great summer jobs, I am happy to build my resume and practice skills that will be the foundation of my career in the road ahead.
My first week at the agency was certainly a culture-shock. Prior to arriving, the extent of my knowledge of insurance was that my car insurance costs way too much. I was promptly set up with a desk, computer (with two monitors), and a notepad to begin my learning experience. While bussing tables required little or no intellectual prowess, there was a learning curve to overcome as a Junior Operations and Financial Analyst (fancy, huh?). I made a few mistakes in my first days that cost me hours of work, but they were greeted with understanding and guidance by my higher-ups.
My first project was gathering data and computing retention rates for sales associates dating back to 2009-2010 fiscal year and working my way forward, using the first five months of 2012 as a baseline to compare my figures. Customer and policy retention is an invaluable statistic in the insurance industry, allowing the firm to gauge its performance at the associate and agency level. With the introduction of seemingly low-cost insurance companies into the insurance market, retention is a helpful way to determine how many customers the agency loses to competition. I was asked to gather premium and commission data for new business and renewals as well as the number of customers and policies an agent was responsible for.  Using premium and commission data proved to be somewhat misleading, because they can fluctuate based on the economy. The truly valuable data proved to be the change in number of customers and policies. Using these numbers produced more realistic retention rates and provided valuable insight as to the inner-workings of the insurance industry. For any given year, an associate could lose a number of customers, whether it be to competition, the sale of a client’s asset, a client not renewing the policy, or the unfortunate, death of a client. However, the same associate could be carrying more policies than in the previous year, an indication of an upward trending economic climate and a promising sign for the Bottom Line. The increase in policies shows that as customers leave for cheaper rates or their policies expire, new home-buyers and car-owners are purchasing multiple policies to keep all insurance with one company. While more competition can tend to cloud out markets, the solid retention rate is evidence that the associates and the firm as a whole are doing well.

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