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4 Ways to Gain Access to Insurance Carriers

Direct Access

With this option, you contact a carrier directly and create a relationship through a ‘direct contract.’ You usually start at the bottom and have sales quotas. This type of access has gotten considerably more difficult in the past ten years. It comes with limitations when trying to keep enough carriers fed with new business to retain access. You will also have little chance at carrier bonuses until you reach a premium threshold with each carrier.

Master General Agent ‘MGA’

There are many to choose from, and they usually provide nearly instant access to markets. Commission splits abound and typically start at an 80/20 split and come without carrier bonuses. Another limitation can be binding authority or lack thereof. You may be required to submit business to a ‘home office’ for binding, which can cause a time delay.


A franchise can be a great option for those looking for an ‘agency in a box.’ Flipside? They have a lot of control over how you run your business. They generally offer good training platforms for new agents, which can be a plus. But when it comes to marketing your own agency brand, forget it, you will promote the franchise name, not your own. This can also result in some interesting competitive situations with fellow franchise owners in your area.

Cluster Group

This option allows you to band together with other agencies to create relationships with more carriers with less concern about quotas. Many groups also allow for higher commission rates and participation in carrier bonuses. An additional perk is more freedom to run your agency as you see fit without a lot of pressure from a true ‘franchise’ setup. This can be a very attractive option if you are an experienced owner and insurance expert but may have limitations for training new agents.

How do you decide?

With any option, always ask these questions: 

  • What is my true cost: upfront and annually? 

  • Do I really have 100% ownership? 

  • Can I get carrier bonuses/profit sharing?

As a business owner, it is essential to research your options. I hope this helps you start exploring!


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