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After the release of our 2015 Insurance Salary Report earlier today, the calls are already coming into our office regarding the wide disparity between compensation in big versus small insurance firms. In case you haven’t read it yet – New Bulletin: the compensation levels for those working at large insurance firms versus the smaller agencies is diverging even further now. Just in the past year, compensation levels at larger firms (defined as those ranked in the top 35 broker/agencies in WDC metro area) are up almost 10% + while those working at smaller agencies saw flat increases. So the big question now is…is working at a Big Firm always better? The short answer is that it really depends on the individual. Here are my thought and observations right here in the WDC regional market:

The Pros:

  1. Training: big firms provide more proven process for training. They have a play book.
  2. Exit Opportunities: transitioning from a larger brand name firm is much easier than trying to swim upstream from an unknown agency.
  3. Social & Networking: working at a large firm, particularly for a young professional, can provide an ideal work/life balance given the diverse group and number of colleagues you interact with on a daily basis. Many of these relationships turn into life-long connections valuable for future professional growth and opportunities.
  4. Job Security: large firms are simply more stable and not dependent on a few family members.
  5. Compensation: As you have seen from our salary survey, generally speaking, on average, employees at smaller firms make much less than at larger firms. There are a few big fish in a small pond, but this is the exception more than the rule.

The Cons:

  1. Intimacy: small firms provide an atmosphere of intimacy that larger firms just cannot provide. One may not have the process-driven training and HR play book, but if you are lucky enough to work directly for the owner, it could be a mentoring experience that money simply cannot buy.
  2. Diversity: small firms provide the opportunity to wear many different hats and become exposed to many more facets to the business than working at a larger firm which will have a well-defined division of labor.
  3. Politics: any firm with more than 10 employees has a political hierarchy. I see this all the time. Never fails. Working in a very small agency (flat hierarchy) eliminates the need to play “office politics” which for some people is enough of a reason not to work in a large organization.
  4. Seat at the Table: if you want that proverbial “seat at the table” in the boardroom, you may have to wait 25 years in a large firm. In a small one, you could have that seat within months not years.

So it really depends on the individual. As they say, “take a hard look into the glass”. Only you know what is best for you. Very Respectfully, Rob Houghton

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