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Cutting coverage not advised, but now may be time to look at deductibles

Agents helping clients save money

It is an interesting time to be in the insurance business. Some of the state’s leaders in the industry report that while business is still good, they are closely attuned to the changing needs of clients.

“The economic downturn is hard on everybody. People are making decisions on where to cut back,” said Angelin Treutel, president of the Mississippi Independent Insurance Agents Association. “We never recommend cutting back on coverage, but it might be a good time to look carefully at deductibles. A change in that can bring down insurance rates.”

Treutel, who operates the Treutel Agency with her husband, David, in Bay St. Louis, observes that clients are making choices as to where their money goes.

“Insurance is still a very valuable investment,” she said. “We recommend that consumers look for agents who offer multiple companies and can shop around. Over time, things will get better.”

She is complimentary of residents of the Coast and the entire State of Mississippi, who she describes as wonderful, hard-working people.

Chris Boone is based in Jackson and works with Stewart Sneed Hewes BancorpSouth Insurance. He finds the current times a little more stressful because many commercial insurance clients are struggling with the cost of insurance as their businesses shrink.

He helps clients who may need less coverage due to a smaller number of employees or fleet of trucks.

“It requires restructuring of their coverage,” he said. “We’re advising our larger commercial clients that it’s probably good to sit down with us and walk through their projections for the year’s business. We can suggest things they may not think of.”

Boone said his group monitors insurance companies on a daily basis to make sure the companies they represent are solvent. Insurance giant AIG’s commercial sector is particularly scrutinized. He is encouraged that this sector is solvent and well regulated by the states where it does business in spite of the parent company’s well-publicized troubles.

“They are going to do something to isolate themselves from the parent company. We want to make sure they and all the companies we represent will be there for our clients,” he said. “We represent enough insurance partners that we can help solve most any problems our clients have. We spend time with clients who want to raise their deductibles. We analyze the history of their claims.”

Dudley Wooley, president and chief operating officer of Ross & Yerger Insurance Inc., said the company is trying to be as consultative as they’ve ever been.

“We’re seeing people show more interest in their coverage,” he said. “All are looking at ways to cut costs whether that’s through higher deductibles or lower limits. We want to make sure they have adequate coverage so we’re talking with clients more.”

He gets asked about the status of the insurance industry by friends and acquaintances as the economy continues to slide downward.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re directly affected, but indirectly we are,” Wooley said. “Clients pay premiums based on their business, so if they’re laying employees off, that will trickle down to us. Overall, we’re optimistic.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at lynn@lynnsdesk.com.


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