Founder and CEO of SmartFinancial.com: on a mission to make the insurance buying process more efficient.

It used to be that if you asked someone who they’re insured with, they’d give you their insurance agent’s name. Billions of dollars in advertising later, people now name their carrier and barely remember the agent that signed them on. Meanwhile, the brick and mortar agencies are waning in importance, and companies like Nationwide are moving to a virtual workforce model. In my role as a CEO overseeing an insurance-technology platform, I’ve observed one thing that remains the same despite all the confusing shifts over the past few decades: Insurance agents are still the primary sales channel for insurers.

Even though carriers can communicate directly with consumers at a lower cost, insurance agents who bring profitable business to carriers are a valued and integral part of the insurance distribution chain. Here’s how future trends will likely shape the carrier-agent-customer relationship and what carriers can do to stay ahead of the curve.

1. Support agents in their role as advisers.

We see a future where insurance agents become more specialized in various niche insurance products. Agents will bring more value to the relationship with the customer by understanding and explaining coverage options on more complex policies. The agent’s role will also become much more of an advisory role that goes beyond the traditional aim of selling insurance products. Because agents are on the front lines serving customers, they will be expected to demonstrate expertise, not only about the insurance products they sell, but also the many ancillary services that insurance carriers are increasingly offering to add value to their insurance products. Car loans, home loans, cybersecurity prevention and other services will become standard package offerings. And someone has to service them. That’s why it’s

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. energy companies were returning workers and restarting operations at storm-swept production facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday, two days after Hurricane Delta barreled through the area.

Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BHP Group all said workers were headed back to production platforms in the U.S.-regulated northern Gulf of Mexico.

BHP expects to complete the return of workers to its Shenzi and Neptune production platforms on Sunday, spokeswoman Judy Dane said, adding that resuming flows will depend on how quickly pipelines return to service.

It can take several days after a storm passes for energy producers to evaluate facilities for damage, return workers and restore offshore production. The companies that operate oil and gas pipelines and process the offshore output also shut ahead of the storm.

On Sunday, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said 91% of offshore crude oil production remains shut in the U.S.-regulated northern Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Delta, which made landfall on Friday night.

In addition, 62.2% of natural gas output remains shut in the Gulf following the storm that made landfall near Creole, Louisiana, and weakened into a low-pressure system over Mississippi on Saturday.

Through Sunday, a cumulative total of 8.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production and 8.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas output from the Gulf has been shut because of Hurricane Delta.

The area produces about 17% of total daily U.S. oil production and 5% of daily natural gas production.

Still remaining shut are the Calcasieu Waterway in Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes in Louisiana and the ports of Lake Charles and Cameron, Louisiana, near where Delta made landfall.

The ports of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, including the Sabine Pass, which serve

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. energy companies were returning workers and restarting operations at storm-swept production facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday, two days after Hurricane Delta barreled through the area.

Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BHP Group were returning workers to production platforms in the U.S.-regulated northern Gulf of Mexico, the companies said.

BHP expects to complete the return of workers to its Shenzi and Neptune production platforms on Sunday, spokeswoman Judy Dane said, but resuming flows will depend on how quickly pipelines return to service, she said.

It can take several days after a storm passes for energy producers to evaluate facilities for damage, return workers and restore offshore production. The companies that operate oil and gas pipelines and process the offshore output also shut ahead of the storm.

Cumulative volumes shut-in by Hurricane Delta through Sunday, according to company reports to the U.S. government, amounted to 8.79 million barrels of oil and 8.30 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The area produces about 1.8 million barrels of oil per day, or 17% of total daily U.S. output, and 5% of daily U.S. natural gas production.

Still remaining shut are the Calcasieu Waterway in Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes in Louisiana and the ports of Lake Charles and Cameron, Louisiana, near where Delta made landfall Friday evening.

The ports of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, including the Sabine Pass, which serve major oil and liquefied natural gas processing plants, were reopened with restrictions on Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Total SA continued restarting its 225,500 barrel-per-day Port Arthur, Texas, refinery on Sunday. The refinery, which is about 65 miles (100 km) west of Creole, Louisiana, where the storm went ashore, lost power on Friday.

Fast-moving Delta swept over Louisiana on Saturday and became a low-pressure

Three years since the Tubbs fire, there have been some notable improvements for homeowners who are wrangling with their insurance carriers in the aftermath of a wildfire loss.

The state Legislature enacted some reforms, such as boosting rental living expenses from a maximum of two years to three years after a disaster while a homeowner waits for their home to be rebuilt. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that required carriers to provide initial payments of at least 25% of their personal property that was destroyed without having the homeowner detail their entire inventory.

Yet there is still no solution for the most vexing problem of all: How to ensure that homeowners have sufficient coverage to rebuild their house and that they actually receive that amount?

In California, the onus is on the homeowner to ensure they have the right coverage amount to rebuild — a figure that only a local contractor would likely know. And most residents don’t reach out to a builder when pricing or updating their coverage.

That was proven after the 2017 wildfires when a survey by the consumer group United Policyholders found about two-thirds of those fire victims were underinsured — with some in pricey Fountaingrove facing a shortfall of more than $1 million. That number likely hasn’t changed much, said Amy Bach, executive director of the San Francisco-based consumer group. It is a cold reality that will soon be discovered by hundreds of homeowners in the wake of the Glass fire, which destroyed or damaged about 800 single-family homes.

“At this point, I’m convinced that insurers don’t want to solve the problem,” Bach said.

As the problem lingers, a Santa Rosa firm is attempting to help homeowners protect themselves. BW Builder Inc. assists homeowners in the aftermath of a fire by preparing detailed

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday urged people to pull investments from companies that are not committed to protecting the environment, adding his voice to calls for the economic model that emerges from the coronavirus pandemic to be a sustainable one.

Francis spoke in a video message for an online event called “Countdown Global Launch, A Call to Action on Climate Change”.

“Science tells us, every day with more precision, that we need to act urgently … if we are to have any hope of avoiding radical and catastrophic climate change,” he said.

The pope listed three action points: better education about the environment, sustainable agriculture and access to clean water, and a transition away from fossil fuels.

“One way to encourage this change is to lead companies towards the urgent need to commit to the integral care of our common home, excluding from investments companies that do not meet (these) parameters … and rewarding those that (do),” he said.

He said the pandemic had made the need to address the climate crisis and related social problems even more pressing.

“The current economic system is unsustainable. We are faced with a moral imperative … to rethink many things,” he said, listing means of production, consumerism, waste, indifference to the poor, and harmful energy sources.

In June, a Vatican document urged Catholics to disinvest from the armaments and fossil fuel industries and to monitor companies in sectors such as mining for possible damage to the environment.

Other speakers and activists at the online event included actress Jane Fonda, Britain’s Prince William, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Christina Fincher)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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