OIA Welcomes Ashley Fitzsimmons to Customer Experience Role

GAHANNA, OH - Ohio Insurance Agents Association is excited to announce that Ashley Fitzsimmons has joined the association as their Customer Experience Manager.

Growing OIA’s vision to be a “change agent for agent change,” Fitzsimmons has a goal to lead the association’s initiatives to build and develop networks among agents, specifically the OIA’s new Peer Exchange Groups.

“Ashley is a connector. She has an energy and aura about her that will bring agencies together in our peer exchange groups to help them grow and improve their performance,” says OIA CEO Jeff Smith, JD, CIC, CAE.

“It truly takes a special breed to be an independent agent. Independent Agents are superheroes. They protect. They save. Look no further than the many natural disasters we are experiencing across this country and you see how independent agents help put people’s lives back together” Fitzsimmons says.  

”Having been an independent agent for nine years, I have a deep understanding for the speed bumps and roadblocks they can typically run into. I’d like to think there is no such thing as a problem, only an opportunity. And I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with independent agents in Ohio and help them strengthen their superhero powers and tear down those roadblocks.”

Fitzsimmons shares OIA’s passion and vision for independent agents and the IA system. Her experience working as a Producer with Fitzsimmons Insurance, a small independent insurance agency in Forest City, Pennsylvania, will equip her with the background and knowledge to make a big impact on the broader IA system. In her role with the agency, she implemented many technology features to modernize the customer experience and create relationships with other Next Generation agency leaders.

“One of the biggest things I’m hoping to accomplish with OIA is attracting new talent into the industry. Insurance is affectionately referred to as pale, male and stale. That changes now” Fitzsimmons says. “With the help of the OIA team, I know we can change this stereotype and show younger generations why insurance is the place to be and how you can make a difference in people’s lives in this profession. I’m looking forward to integrating into an incredible team that is changing this amazing industry for the better one day at a time.”

Fitzsimmons will join the OIA team at the beginning of 2019.


About Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,300 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. OIA helps agents grow their agencies and improve their performance by providing agency valuation, succession planning, generational health, operational benchmarking reports, peer exchange groups, other business solutions and industry thought leadership.


Berkshire Hathaway GUARD now writing personal lines in Ohio

Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies logoBerkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies has begun offering homeowners and complementary personal umbrella coverage in Ohio.

According to GUARD CEO Sy Foguel, “We have always relied upon independent agents to deliver our policies to consumers, so our goal is to feature products that fill a need within their offices. We believe our homeowners coverage, which provides the same high level of security and service currently enjoyed by our commercial customers, will do just that.”

Senior Vice President of Personal Lines Dovid Tkatch explains that this new initiative has been designed to reflect a few core principles of the company by “providing a quality, easily understood product on a simple platform as well as a high level of service to both agents and policyholders.”

Targeted markets include one- to four-family dwellings, renters, and condo units (both owner-occupied and those held for rental).

“In addition to standard exposures,” Tkatch adds, “Berkshire Hathaway GUARD aims to provide a bridge between certain business and personal insurance needs by considering Homeowners coverage for residences owned by corporations and LLCs; dwellings held for rent; and residences where incidental business activities occur.”

GUARD’s Senior Vice President of Sales Dave Simmons says, “We believe we can provide a great service to agents that write both commercial and personal accounts. We feature a competitively priced product with a variety of available discounts, including one for insureds who have commercial policies with GUARD. We also believe certain aspects of our underwriting appetite are unique and will appeal to producers anxious to cross sell and achieve a greater client share.”

GUARD’s product is generally aimed at dwellings valued at $75,000 to $2,000,000.

By mixing and matching policy forms, endorsements, and optional coverages aimed at broader protection, each policyholder can obtain property insurance suited to his or her exact circumstances.

A personal umbrella with limits up to $5,000,000 can also be added.

According to Tkatch, “We’ve already introduced these personal lines coverages in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois and have been pleased with the response. In 2018, we hope to expand into a few other states as the year progresses.”

As a national carrier, long-range plans call for offering the product countrywide he said.

In October of 2012, GUARD was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. – an international holding company with diverse interests that include insurance and reinsurance. In 2013, GUARD unveiled a new identity as Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies. 

GUARD offers a national footprint with a growing list of insurance products, including: workers’ compensation, property/liability via a businessowner’s policy, commercial auto, commercial umbrella, professional liability, disability, homeowners, and personal umbrella.

Each of the organization’s insurance companies (AmGUARD, EastGUARD, NorGUARD, and WestGUARD) is rated A+ (“Superior”) by A.M. Best – a leading source of independent rating information on the insurance industry.

Agents interested in learning more should visit guard.com/apply.


OIA Welcomes Craig Niess to Agency Valuation Role

GAHANNA, OH - Ohio Insurance Agents Association is excited to announce that Craig Niess has joined the association as Business Planning and Valuation Manager.

Craig Niess headshotGrowing OIA’s vision to be a “change agent for agent change,” Niess will lead the association’s initiatives to build and develop business solutions in the areas of agency valuation, succession planning and business planning. As an expert advisor, he will help independent agents set up a plan for long-term success.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to develop and manage the consulting practice within OIA and bring much needed services and solutions to Ohio’s independent agencies,” Niess says. “In 2018, we want to offer high-quality business consulting to as many agencies as possible.”

Niess shares OIA’s passion for independent agents and the IA channel. He has more than seven years of financial and operational consulting experience with independent agents through his tenure at Marsh, Berry & Company. In this role, he launched new products, provided customized consulting services, developed and implemented business plans, and created financial models.

“Independent agents are pillars of the communities they serve,” Niess says. “We want to empower them so they continue to thrive in an ever-changing insurance landscape.  We want to help these agencies and provide them with solutions that will keep them viable for generations to come.”

Recently, Niess also worked for a startup in Cleveland and brings his entrepreneurial spirit cultivated from that experience to his new role at OIA. He holds an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio Wesleyan University.


Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,300 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. OIA helps agents by providing agency valuation, succession planning, generational health, operational benchmarking reports, other business solutions and industry thought leadership.


OIA empowers next generation of industry leaders at Next-Gen Summit

Swag bags at OIA Next-Gen Summit

CLEVELAND, OH - Ohio Insurance Agents Association, Inc. (OIA) is taking bold steps to elevate, energize and empower the next generation of independent insurance agents. 

Sold-out crowd at the Next-Gen SummitNearly 150 independent agents from across Ohio came together for the OIA Next-Gen Summit held June 22-23 at the trendy Metropolitan at The 9 Hotel in downtown Cleveland. The event featured two days of outside-the-box thinking, high-energy speakers and entertaining activities (risk-management tour of Progressive Field, anyone?). In other words, this unique event was not your typical insurance conference.

“I have been to at least 25 insurance conferences across the country over the last three years; none of them are similar to what I just experienced in Ohio,” says Sydney Roe, Next-Gen Summit speaker and digital content manager at Agency Nation. “There was an assumptive awareness about what’s happening in our industry shared across the whole crew, an unspoken drive that energized the entire event, a positivity about what can be grasped in the near future and a confidence in experimenting with creativity to stand out.”

Agency Nation's Ryan Hanley talks about how to sell to millennialsOIA brought in insurance industry visionaries Ryan Hanley and Sydney Roe from Agency Nation (TrustedChoice.com) who are taking the IA channel by storm with their quirky approach, no-holds barred advice and genuine passion for the IA channel. Hanley shared his expertise on how to sell insurance to millennials while Sydney talked about the importance of using social media as a relationship-building platform.

“I learned so much from Ryan Hanley’s presentation on selling to millennials,” says Brian Miller, independent agent at Mathews Insurance in Athens, Ohio. “I liked how his presentation was positive toward millennials and shed light on the unique buying behavior of this generation. All of the conference content was very relevant since everything is going digital nowadays.”

Brandie Hinen, CEO and founder of Powerhouse Learning, inspired attendees with her passion for helping people break free of their comfort zones to create lasting, radical change. A former insurance agent, Hinen talked about critical factors for success, including learning how to say “no,” overcoming daily adversities and creating a powerful vision.

A behind-the-scenes tour of Progressive FieldMike Strakhov, Executive Director with Live Oak Bank, talked about a critical area for independent agents: Preparing for agency ownership During an interactive agent/carrier panel discussion, industry leaders discussed the latest technology impacting the industry. Panelists included: Robert Dodson of Liberty Mutual Insurance, Patrick Jackson of Central Insurance Companies, Craig Welsh of Westfield Insurance, Luke Shipp of First Insurance Group, Matt Simon of Hill & Hamilton Insurance and Katie Berry of Insurance Agencies of Ohio.

The OIA Next-Gen Summit concluded with a risk-management tour of Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. Attendees, many of whom were Cleveland sports fans, experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of the potential risks of a Major League Baseball stadium and the many safety measures put into place to protect visitors.

Ohio's next-gen agents brought energy and excitement to the event“Content was absolutely phenomenal – I’m able to take so many new ideas back home with me and incorporate them at my agency,” says Seth Marana, independent agent at Ramsburg Insurance & Financial Services in Uniontown, Ohio. “I’ll definitely be back next year.”

The Next-Gen Summit is part of OIA’s larger mission to cultivate next-gen agents – those who aspire to be agency owners, industry thought leaders and have at least 20 years left in their career. OIA is committed to equipping Ohio’s independent agents with the skills and resources necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing insurance marketplace. We are keeping up the momentum our all-new conference – IACON17 – Oct. 19-20 in downtown Columbus.


Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of nearly 1,400 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. Our purpose is to help our member agents thrive in a modern insurance marketplace by offering them resources and content in four areas critical for success: digital marketing, recruiting and training, perpetuation and improving the customer experience.


OIA partners with state associations to launch regional survey to rate agents’ carrier experiences

GAHANNA, OH - Nine independent agents’ associations, including Ohio Insurance Agents, launched a region-wide survey today to uncover carrier best practices. The goal of the Northeast Carrier Alliance Survey, a series of surveys, is to give valuable feedback to carriers, provide meaningful benchmarks to agencies and facilitate communication among carriers and independent agents.

The first survey will focus on personal lines carriers’ technology usage and standards. Several thousand independent agents and brokers are expected to take the initial survey over the next two weeks.

The multi-state reach allows for a larger survey sample, adding credibility to the results. Participating associations will release the results on a state-by-state and collective basis.

The Northeast Carrier Alliance Survey is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among associations in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. The next survey will be released later this year.

About the Collaboration

Nine independent agents’ associations are participating in the Northeast Carrier Alliance Survey, including the Delaware Association of Insurance Agents & Brokers, Maine Insurance Agents Association, Insurance Agents & Brokers of Maryland, New Hampshire Association of Insurance Agents, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New Jersey, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York, Ohio Insurance Agents, Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island and Insurance Agents & Brokers of Pennsylvania.

About Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,400 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. Our purpose is to help our member agencies protect consumers and employers by offering them access to the best resources, tools and professional development programs available. OIA serves our members in four key areas: advocacy, professional development, business solutions and industry thought leadership.

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