Vickie Champion, an independent insurance agent for 14 years, is now the principal agent at her own independent agency, NorthShore/Realty Center Insurance. Located in the Business Development Center, NorthShore offers homeowners, renters, condo, auto and umbrella policies.
NorthShore/Realty Center Insurance Agency employees include owner/principal agent Vickie Champion, Kathy Butcher, Rebecca Carpenter and Betty Cooper, from left.
Champion said the difference between independent agencies and direct companies such as State Farm or Farm Bureau is that independent agencies represent multiple independent insurance companies, while an agent for a direct company represents only that one company.
“Their duty is to protect and represent that company,” said Champion, who previously worked for independent agency Realty Center Insurance. “As an independent agency, our duty to our clients is to advise them of coverage and educate them.”
She said she spoke with a new client recently who had a high income but who had never been told by his/her previous agent that they could buy an umbrella policy to protect their assets. The client was surprised to learn from Champion that a $300-per-year umbrella policy could could get them an additional $1 million in coverage.
Champion said independent insurance companies avoid underselling insurance, or selling a client less insurance than they need in order to achieve a cheaper rate. For example, an agent may shave off a portion of a client’s auto insurance rate by lowering coverage for uninsured motorists. The client is aware only that the rate has been lowered, and may not learn until they are hit by an uninsured motorist how that lower rate was achieved.
“Independent companies don’t want to be in court with you arguing why you didn’t get enough coverage,” Champion said.
Another benefit of being insured through an independent agency such as NorthShore is that since multiple insurance companies are represented, Champion automatically reviews each client’s policy annually, she said. If less costly coverage exists, she will call the client to see if they want to change companies.
“Employees of independent agencies get to know our clients and stay with them for life,” she said. “It’s a very different approach to insurance.”