Noel Harris: Farmers Insurance agent
Vail CO, Colorado
Noel Harris started in the insurance industry in Vail as a Farmers Insurance agent in April 1981.
Within a few years, he had opened his own agency on Wall Street in Vail, which he called Wall Street Insurance. A 1996, a fire in the building forced Harris to look for other office space.
Harris and his wife, Valerie, bought a space in Edwards Village Center, where Wall Street Insurance has been since 1998.
Harris recently answered a handful of questions via e-mail.
Q: You were recently honored by the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors for more than 20 years of “commitment to leadership and excellence.” What do your clients need to know about the importance of that award?
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
A: This is evidence of a continued effort toward excellence in the industry and a substantial commitment to continuing educaton
Q: Like many formerly Vail-based businesses, you’ve moved to Edwards. How hard is it for a business that serves a mostly-local clientele to keep an office in Vail these days?
A: The cost of real estate and the uncertainty of parking in Vail Village and Lionsead prompted us to relocate to Edwards. It is very difficult to keep an office in Vail for these reasons.
Q: What are two or three of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the insurance business over the past 20 years?
A: Underwriting training on the company level has decreased, and underwriting knowledge has become eroded, and most “underwriters” are now clerks. Additionally, companies are no longer run by executives who came up through the industry and who concentrated on underwriting profit. Instead, they are being run by business-school grads who look at investment income as the main profit center, leading to pricing instability. That instability is what causes consumers to see significant price fluctuations that have nothing to do with their claim histories.
Q: The Colorado Legislature probably will pass some sort of “reform” to the state’s healthcare system in the 2008 session. Do you favor one of the current proposals more than the other? What would you like to see in any “reform” legislation?
A: The legislature should go back to 1996 and repeal HB 1210. That law created havoc in what was a very competitive marketplace by eliminating 70 carriers. The provisions of that law in large part created the problems that health-insurance customers face in Colorado today and has resulted in fewer options, less coverage and higher premiums for them.
Q: What’s your best advice to someone who needs to file a homeowners or car insurance claim?
A: Call your agent immediately and discuss the loss in great detail. The sooner the claim is reported, the less it will cost to repair the damage, and the less one’s rates will be affected.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
A: Virtually everything! Had I known the upside, I would have gotten into the industry sooner!