On the heels of growing reports of agent dissatisfaction, Allstate announced that it would be recruiting 100 agency owners in Texas this year, offering a $1,000 award for referring successful new agency owner candidates. The company says the initiative will create 200 new jobs in what the U.S. Census Bureau reports is the fastest growing state in the country.

Developing its agency force is an ongoing imperative for the carrier, which has been the subject of negative press as of late.

Survey results published earlier this month by the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents Inc., noted that 73 percent of agents responding to the survey were "not very" or "not at all" satisfied with their relationship with the company.

NAPAA said it sent e-mails to nearly 8,800 Allstate agency owners. Of the 1,800 responses to the survey, approximately 500 were NAPAA members.

Allstate has long experienced strained relations with its agents. Insurance Networking News reported in August that the NAPAA planned to align with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), a division of the AFL-CIO.

Allstate says it has more than 10,000 agency owners, but NAPAA said it believes that number is down by about 10 percent. It is unclear how many belong to NAPAA.

In light of its recruitment efforts, Allstate this month struggled against additional problems, such as delays in annual bonuses for some agents and accuracy problems on some of its agency’s tax forms.

Allstate says it will issue corrected forms and pay for any amended returns upon the agent’s request. “We regret any confusion, inconvenience or anxiety these recent process errors may have caused amongst some of our agency owners,” the company said in a statement.

Like many large property/casualty insurers, Allstate has been challenged to grow and appease its agency network while also leveraging the growing number of consumers who wish to purchase insurance direct. As part of its efforts to grow its consumer channel, Allstate closed a deal in October 2011 to purchase online aggregator Esurance. According to the Chicago Tribune, Allstate is also overhauling its agency compensation structure.

Last month, Allstate went on record stating its success hinges on the strength of its agent network.

"We continuously solicit agency owner feedback on the company's overall objectives, business strategies and operational approach, and make adjustments where needed to execute successfully," a spokeswoman said January 31. "We are making the appropriate investments to help support our agency owners, and we will work closely with them to ensure the success of our strategy."

Not surprising, Allstate is asking new agent candidates to make an investment as well. Candidates need a minimum of $50,000 of liquid capital to invest in their agency, says Allstate. This money is designed to ensure the agency can fund the normal day-to-day costs associated with opening and running a business.

"The advantage of investing in an Allstate agency is agency owners are able to leverage one of Texas' most recognized brands without ever having to pay a franchise or licensing fee," said Tom Caunitz, Allstate's Texas strategic deployment leader. "The capital invested in the business will go directly toward the success of that agency."

Allstate's Texas recruiting goals across the state for 2012 are segmented by area:

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: 30

Houston/Valley: 20

Central Texas (San Antonio-Austin): 25

East Texas: 10

West Texas: 10

“Building our agency force is influenced by the strength of the marketplace. We target cities and areas that show growth and increasing demand as a part of Allstate's broader strategy to expand our presence in Texas," Caunitz remarked.

To sweeten the pot, Allstate is extending its Claims Satisfaction Guarantee to its policyholders in Texas. Under the new feature, if an eligible customer is dissatisfied in any way, for any reason, with the level of service received on a paid auto claim, Allstate will provide a credit to the customer’s 6-month auto-policy premium.

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