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Let's Stop Using the Word 'Subagent'

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By Chris Palermo

I recently was attending a carrier training held by a trusted and well-known master agency that my company works with. The carrier speaker was telling the audience a story and mentioned that he had to work through a "sub" in order to sell the customer. When the carrier executive mentioned "sub," referring to a subagent, a switch went off in my head. To me, it sounded like this carrier was put off by having to work with this sub and forgot the audience that he was in front of was full of subagents. I felt slighted and a bit disrespected because to this carrier I am that sub. 

I have been an agent for more than 15 years. My company represents more than 100 carriers worldwide and, quite honestly, we work through master agents for about 30 of the carriers we represent for several reasons, such as:

  • getting protection under an agreement
  • earning better commissions
  • trying the carrier before signing a direct agreement
  • avoiding  micromanagement by carriers for monthly business


As I sat through — and tuned out — the rest of this person's talk, I started writing down all of the definitions I thought the word "sub" meant, and this is what I came up with: below, beneath, lower, subordinate.  When I got back to my office I pulled up Webster's online definition of "sub." Other than the sandwich or the boat, the word "subordinate" was given.  The definition of subordinate is:

  • "One who stands in rank below another"
  • "To place in a lower order or class"
  • "To make or consider of less value or importance" 

The online definitions reflected the way I interpreted this gentleman's explanation of the relationship with the "sub" he had to work with. 

I am a business owner that carrier agreements term as either an "agent" or a "subagent." Neither term fits what we do for our customers, but to be called a "subagent" is demeaning when, in fact, it's people like me who make up most — if not all — of a master agent's carrier commitment.  As a result, I am writing this blog to get your thoughts on  calling for the removal of the term "subagent." Suitable substitutions could be "agents" or "partners" — nothing special, just nothing demeaning either.

I would love to hear your feedback, especially from my peers.

Chris Palermo is president and CEO of Global Communication Networks Inc ., an agency based in Pompano Beach, Fla., offering voice and data services, data center, cloud computing and project management.

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