Question from IIABNY member: Very often an application requires the client signature. However, it also asks for the agency name, address, tax ID # and sometimes the signature of an individual. Does the person signing this have to be individually licensed, or can an unlicensed CSR sign as long as the agency is licensed?
Answer: The issue of who may sign applications is a contractual one between the insurer and the agency. New York law does not address it specifically. I think the legal definitions of “insurance agent” and “insurance broker” from N.Y. Insurance Law Sect. 2101 are relevant:
(a) In this article, " insurance agent " means any authorized or acknowledged agent of an insurer…and any sub-agent or other representative of such an agent, who acts as such in the solicitation of, negotiation for, or sale of, an insurance…contract, other than as a licensed insurance broker, except that such term shall not include:
(1) any regular salaried officer or employee of a…licensed insurance agent, who does not solicit or accept from the public, outside of an office of such …agent, applications or orders for any such contract, if such officer or employee does not receive a commission or other compensation for his services which commission or other compensation is directly dependent upon the amount of business done… (emphasis added)
(c) In this article, "insurance broker " means any person, firm, association or corporation who or which for any compensation, commission or other thing of value acts or aids in any manner in soliciting, negotiating or selling, any insurance or annuity contract or in placing risks or taking out insurance, on behalf of an insured other than himself, herself or itself or on behalf of any licensed insurance broker, except that such term shall not include:…
(2) an officer, director or employee of a licensed insurance producer, provided that the officer, director or employee does not receive any commission on policies written or sold to insure risks residing, located or to be performed in this state and:
(A) the officer, director or employee's activities are executive, administrative, managerial, clerical or a combination of these, and are only indirectly related to the sale, solicitation or negotiation of insurance; or
(B) the officer, director or employee's function relates to underwriting, loss control, inspection or the processing, adjusting, investigating or settling of a claim on a contract of insurance; or
(C) the officer, director or employee is acting in the capacity of a special agent or agency supervisor assisting licensed insurance producers where the person's activities are limited to providing technical advice and assistance to licensed insurance producers and do not include the sale, solicitation or negotiation of insurance;…
Based on these definitions, I would say that an unlicensed employee of an agent may sign applications because the law excludes from the definition of “insurance agent” “any regular salaried…employee of a…licensed insurance agent, who does not solicit or accept from the public, outside of an office of such…agent, applications or orders for any such contract,…” However, the law makes no such exception for an unlicensed employee of a broker, so that person may not sign applications because authorities could construe that as directly related to the solicitation of insurance. What that means to you is that an unlicensed employee cannot sign apps for the State Insurance Fund, New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association, or applications your office submits to MGAs and wholesalers. An unlicensed employee may sign apps that your office submits to the carriers you represent, if the carriers do not prohibit them from doing it. The Insurance Department has said that, for agents, where the Insurance Law permits a certain activity by an unlicensed employee but the insurer does not, the insurer’s rules prevail.
Bottom line, check your agency-company contracts and/or with your marketing reps. If they don’t expressly prohibit this, then there should be no legal issue with unlicensed employees signing the apps.