Assessing The Agent: How To Know If It Is Time To Switch Surety Agents

How do you know if your bonding agent is the best fit for you and your company?  Is a change necessary?

This article focuses on surety bond agents, but can be applied to all of your trusted business advisors, including your CPA, banker, attorney, wealth advisor, etc.

As an agent/broker, my goal is to have clients for life, but I am also looking to break relationships that are often years or decades long.  The reasons business owners change their selected agents are varied, but here are some consistent themes:



This is the simplest concept but the area where most agents fall short.  Timeliness of communication is key, as I often hear about agents taking days to respond to emails or taking weeks to issue a bond.  Does your agent pick up the phone when you call or do you sense their priorities are elsewhere?

Beyond basic service, do you feel comfortable asking questions?  Are the responses clear and comprehensive?  My hope as an agent is that my clients become continuously more educated about surety bonds and how they can be utilized to grow profits.


Work ethic

Does your agent provide value equal to the commission they make on your bond program?  Do they meet with you regularly?  Do they provide proactive consultation and support to help you achieve your business goals?  Are they active in your industry, whether it be construction, real estate or oil & gas?

My work is my passion, and while I am not perfect, I believe in continuous improvement and will put in the work to become better every day.  Within this personal growth mindset, I look to help my clients progressively improve year after year.


Terms and Conditions

The main areas of surety bonds that can be negotiated or improved are rate, capacity, and indemnity.  Does your bonding rate allow you to be competitive?  Does your company have sufficient single and aggregate bond limits that allow you to pursue the projects you desire?  As your company’s credit risk profile strengthens, are you able to reduce indemnity to lower your personal risk?

Communication and work ethic tie directly to the terms and conditions of your bond program.  Do you feel your terms and conditions can be improved?  Have you asked your agent?  Are
they willing to market your account to different carriers?  Or at a minimum, will they outline benchmarks or steps you can take to improve your program?


Acumen and Industry Knowledge

Unfortunately, the surety industry does not have many hurdles for becoming an agent.  The only requirement is a property & casualty insurance license, and the test for this license barely addresses surety.

Many insurance and surety agents can obtain bonds, but do they truly understand your company, its risk profile, and how surety bonds work?  You should work with experts that focus primarily on surety.

These experts can obtain designations, including the Associate in Fidelity and Surety Bonding (AFSB) and Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional (CCIFP).  You will also often find agents that were Certified Public Accountants or surety underwriters.

Additionally, your agent’s experience with similar clients and immersion in your industry are key.  If you are considering a new agent, ask them how they have solved problems, like improving terms and conditions, that mirror your needs.



Ultimately, this is the most important aspect.  Do you trust your agent?  Are they truly invested in your best interests? 

Also, are they trusted by their carrier partners?  If your agent has a poor reputation with underwriters, will you be able to obtain the best possible program?

Do you trust them to help you pick other advisors?  I greatly value the opportunity to create relationships between my clients and quality bankers, CPA’s, etc.  Doing so ensures my clients have a strong team surrounding them, that helps them achieve their business goals.



These ideas can provide a framework for assessing the quality of your surety agent.  Change is hard, but if you feel your agent relationship can be improved, please do not hesitate to give us a call.  

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