Navigating the Hard Market: The Power of Communication and Relationships

Read any piece on the insurance hard market and you’ll likely be enlightened on the finer points of premium increases, capacity shrinkage, and tightening of underwriting standards. The cyclical nature of our industry assures us this will pass, much like it did after the mid-1980s liability hard market and the 2001 hard market, spurred in part by 9/11.

In my role at the Ohio Insurance Agents Association, Inc. (OIA), I’ve realized that among all the strategies independent agencies can employ to navigate hard market complexities and continue to thrive, one theme rises to the top.

As someone who has held an agent’s license for over 20 years, mostly in customer-facing roles, I believe the silver lining for this particular hard market cycle is the opportunity to double-click and double down on the existing relationships we have with both clients and carriers. The theme that rises to the top is communication.

Strategies for Success in a Hard Market

As the Company Partners Manager at OIA, I’m responsible for ensuring our roughly 80 carrier partners, brokers, and vendors get plenty of at-bats and opportunities to interface with our membership base. To me, a successful day is when I can connect agent needs with partner solutions, playing the role of matchmaker to open the lines of communication.

I really do like all the hard market strategy suggestions. These range from agents investing in technology and digital solutions to streamline agency processes, thereby enhancing customer service and maintaining competitiveness, to advice on product diversification, suggesting agents consider offering insurance products more in demand or less affected by the hard market conditions. Ultimately, it all ties back to communication and building client loyalty by providing exceptional service and being responsive to client needs, thereby showing dedication to client success.

In a recent 1-hour Webinar Wednesday CE hosted by OIA, attendees were asked to rate their satisfaction with their personal line carrier communications and engagements during the hard market. Only 8.5% rated the communication and engagement as poor, a promising sign of true partnership and solid communication tactics.

Another hard market strategy that emphasizes client communication is honing in on risk management and loss prevention as part of the services an independent agent offers. By helping clients reduce their exposure to risk, agents can assist them in securing more favorable insurance terms. Communication is key here; educating your clients on the reasons behind premium increases and policy changes helps manage client expectations and maintain trust. Staying current with market conditions, industry trends, and regulatory changes allows agents to adapt their strategies and make informed decisions.

Building strong relationships with underwriters is another essential tactic that supports the communication theme. This holds true whether requests to the carrier are handled by a team approach or individual underwriters. The opportunity is there to build relationships through open dialogue and communication. It’s crucial to work closely with underwriters to present your clients’ risks in the best possible light. Communication plays a role in renewal underwriting as well, where evaluating your existing book of business to identify opportunities for cross-selling, upselling, or re-underwriting can help an agency improve profitability and client retention. Reevaluating an agency’s pricing strategies to ensure policies are appropriately priced to reflect increased risks and costs also ties back to the communication theme.


In closing, meet with your clients and meet with your carriers. It may not seem immediately relevant during this hard market cycle, but having a plan developed with your lead carriers can help ease the transition back to softer market conditions and aid in retaining as much business as possible during the eventual softening of the market. OIA’s Resource Center has a helpful “Company Evaluation Worksheet” tool to aid in your carrier conversations. If you would like a copy of this worksheet, please reach out to OIA’s Resource Center Advisor, Jeannine Giesler, at


Other Hard Market Resources: 

Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS) – Navigating the Hard Market in 2024 

Insurance JournalWhat’s to Come in 2024: Hard Market, AI Expansion, More Catastrophes, Network Consolidation 

Big “I” & Trusted Choice’s four-part series on Hard Market Agent Survey Report 

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