At the Christopher P. McCrady Agency, 919 Central Ave., a major part of the mission is to make certain customers understand that buying insurance is about a good deal more than finding a low price.
McCrady said people want "price, quality and service" but too often make the mistake of purchasing insurance without fully understanding what the price they have selected is actually buying.
As one of the approximately 3,500 agents who represent American Family Insurance nationally, McCrady is a solo contractor who is licensed by the state of Iowa to sell property, casualty, life, health and commercial insurance.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
American Family Insurance agent Chris McCrady looks over some of the coverage options available to his clients at his office at 919 Central Avenue.
McCrady said the diversity of the products American Family Insurance offers and the financial strength of the company are major reasons for selecting it as an insurer.
"It's strictly top-rated," he said.
The company has been a part of the insurance marketplace since 1927. According to a profile on the corporate website, it now has $16.8 billion in assets under management and $5.4 billion in policyholder equity. Its huge network of agents makes it a major presence nationwide.
McCrady said about 70 percent of the insurance he sells locally is property and casualty with homeowners and auto polices being largest components. He also sells a significant amount of life insurance.
McCrady established his agency in 2003. He said an important part of the service he provides is helping potential clients evaluate their insurance needs so they can make informed decisions when they purchase coverage. He also stressed that it is important for existing customers to sit down with him annually to make certain they have the right mix of insurance given possible changes in their lives.
"Spend a half hour with me once a year," McCrady said. "It's called a personal insurance review. I'm looking for discounts. I'm looking for gaps in insurance. I will make suggestions. ... You might have bought something. You might have made an addition to your house. They could have a new roof that qualifies for a discount. ... Half the time, people come and say 'I forgot to tell you, we sold that car six months ago.'"
The key to the highly personalized service McCrady offers is offering customers all the options that are applicable to their situation.
"You don't need any of it until you need it," he said. "Then once you need it, that $20 a month saved can end up costing you thousands of dollars."
McCrady said it's important to him to know that he explained the situation thoroughly even if a person decides not to take his advice.
"Then I can go to bed at night," he said.
Helping people understand the importance of obtaining life insurance coverage at an age when it is affordable is an example of the consultative service the McCrady agency provides.
"When I was 19 years old, I had a guy talk me into spending $40 a month," McCrady said, providing a personal example of why this is important. "All my buddies thought I was the craziest guy in the world. Today, if I was trying to get those same coverages, it would be $580 a month. He taught me to lock it in when you're healthy. Lock it in when you are young. As my joke, I always tell the younger people, 'Don't get it now, because I'm only going to make about $5 commission. Wait a few years until you are older, got some health issues, then I'll make some real money.'"
His recommendation regarding when life insurance should be purchased is quite straightforward.
"As young as possible," McCrady said. "The day you are born, to be honest, because you can lock in insurability."
McCrady stressed that it is important to have an insurance agent who keeps up with the rapidly changing insurance world.
"I've been in it eight years and the last three years I've seen so many changes, it's crazy," he said. "The biggest change is in homeowners policies as far as eligibility. ... Underwriting is becoming more strict. ... That's nationwide."
Auto underwriting is also in a constant state of flux.
"Insurance has gone to more sophisticated pricing modules," McCrady explained. "Insurance companies are getting it down to zip codes and within zip codes, too. The secret soup with American Family has over 300 factors in determining a rate. ... We're gotten it down to how readily parts are available on a vehicle, how often that vehicle is stolen ... They're getting it precise."
McCrady said working with a local insurance professional rather than attempting to sort through complicated insurance options on the Internet is the best choice for most people.
"My goal is to get you the proper coverage as cost-effectively as possible," he said
Having a relationship with a local agent can also be a comfort should it become necessary to file a claim.
"This is what I tell people," McCrady said. "I was born and raised in Fort Dodge, in the service business my whole life. My name is on the sign. If there is bad claims experience, who are you mad at. ... I hang my hat on claims."
He said though American Family Insurance has a highly professional claims operation he stands ready to assist his customers if that works best for them.
"I would say, 80 percent would have me call it in," McCrady said.
Meet Chris McCrady
McCrady is a lifelong Fort Dodger. He graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1986, attended Iowa Central Community College and received a bachelor's degree in business from Buena Vista University.
"I've been in the service business my whole life," McCrady said, noting that he was in the equipment rental world prior opening his American Family Insurance agency.
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org