Insurance Cluster vs. Aggregator: Finding the Right Model for Your Agency

For independent insurance agents looking to grow and stay competitive, insurance clusters and aggregators offer valuable opportunities.

Joining either network provides access to more carriers, higher commissions, lower fees, and a chance to share profits with fellow members. 

But what is the difference between an insurance cluster and an aggregator, and how do you choose the right fit? This article breaks down the main features and benefits of each model, guiding you to make the right decision that suits your agency’s needs. Explore the options and find the perfect match for your agency’s success.

What is an Insurance Agency Cluster, and How Does It Work?

Insurance cluster groups are independent insurance agencies that join forces to gain access to more insurance markets and carriers, as well as to benefit from economies of scale and shared resources. By forming or joining an insurance cluster, independent agents can increase their competitiveness and profitability in the insurance industry.

Advantages of Joining an Insurance Cluster

  1. Retain Ownership and Control: One of the most significant advantages of joining an insurance cluster is that you maintain full ownership and control of your book of business. You continue to run your agency your way while benefiting from collective strength.
  2. Flexibility and Autonomy: Insurance clusters offer a unique blend of collaboration and independence. While you work within the cluster’s framework, you still have the flexibility to adapt and make decisions tailored to your agency’s needs.
  3. Support and Training: Collaborating with other cluster members creates an environment of shared knowledge and resources. This collaborative approach often includes training and support, enabling you to stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

Potential Drawbacks of Joining an Insurance Cluster

  1. Membership Fees: Joining an insurance cluster typically involves paying membership fees, which can affect your agency’s budget. However, it’s essential to weigh these fees against the benefits you gain.
  2. Profit Sharing: Some clusters may require profit-sharing arrangements. While this can lead to higher commissions, it also means that a portion of your earnings is shared within the cluster.
  3. Standards and Rules: Clusters often have standards and rules that members must follow. These can include certain business practices and ethics. While these guidelines aim to maintain a high level of professionalism, they might limit your agency’s operational freedom to some extent.

Insurance Aggregators: What Are They and How Do They

Benefit Your Agency?

Insurance aggregators (also called insurance agency networks) are a substantial organization that acquires or partners with independent agents. Its primary objective is to provide these agents with access to a wide array of insurance carriers and markets. This model allows individual agents to tap into economies of scale and diversify their portfolios.

Advantages of Joining an Insurance Aggregator

  1. Access to Multiple Carriers: One of the most compelling benefits is the ability to access multiple insurance carriers and markets through a single aggregator. This diversity empowers agents to offer a broader range of insurance products, catering to a more extensive client base.
  2. Economies of Scale: Insurance aggregators often negotiate favorable terms with carriers due to their size and collective strength. This results in better commission rates and potential revenue growth for agents.
  3. Portfolio Diversification: By working with an aggregator, agents can diversify their insurance portfolio, reducing their reliance on a single carrier. This diversification can mitigate risks and increase revenue potential.

Potential Drawbacks of Joining an Insurance Aggregator

  1. Loss of Independence: When you join an aggregator, you may relinquish some degree of independence and ownership. While you gain access to resources, you also have to adhere to the aggregator’s standards and practices.
  2. Limited Decision-Making Power: As part of an aggregator, you might have less say in the decision-making process. The aggregator often sets the direction, and agents are expected to follow suit.
  3. Increased Competition and Pressure: With many agents under one roof, there is heightened competition within the aggregator. You may find yourself working alongside peers who target the same clients and markets, intensifying the competitive landscape.

The Difference Between an Insurance Cluster and an Insurance Aggregator

One of the biggest challenges that independent insurance agents face is finding the right model for their agency. There are many options available, but two of the most common ones are insurance clusters and insurance aggregators. What are the differences between these two models, and how can they help you grow your business?

Defining the Difference

An insurance cluster is a group of independent agencies that join together to pool their resources and leverage their collective bargaining power. By joining a cluster, you can gain access to more insurance carriers, products, and markets, as well as benefit from shared services, such as marketing, technology, and training. Clusters are ideal for new agents who want to start their agency without giving up their independence or autonomy.

An insurance aggregator is a network of independent agencies that operate under a common brand and platform. By joining an aggregator, you can access a wide range of insurance products and carriers, as well as enjoy centralized support, such as agency management software, compliance, and accounting. Aggregators are suitable for experienced agents who want to scale their business and streamline their operations.

Both clusters and aggregators can provide you with the market access, support, and flexibility you need to succeed as an independent agent. However, they also have different requirements, costs, and benefits that you need to consider before making a decision.

Insurance Clusters vs. Aggregators: Making the Right Choice

As an independent insurance agent, you may be looking for ways to grow your agency, increase your income, and access more markets. Joining an insurance network can help you achieve these goals, but not all networks are created equal. There are two main types of networks that agents can join: insurance clusters and aggregators.

So, how do you decide which model is right for you? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your goals, needs, and preferences as an agency owner. 

Some of the factors you should consider are:

  • How much autonomy and flexibility do you want in running your agency?
  • How much are you willing to pay in fees and commissions to join a network?
  • How important is access to insurance carriers and markets for your niche and target audience?
  • How much support and guidance do you need from the network in terms of marketing, technology, training, etc.?
  • How compatible are the network’s culture, values, and vision with yours?

Before joining any network, you should do your research and due diligence. Compare the benefits and drawbacks of different networks, read the contracts carefully, and ask questions. You should also consult with other agents who have joined networks and learn from their experiences.


The choice between joining an insurance cluster or aggregator represents a crucial decision that can significantly impact an agency’s trajectory. The decision-making process can be challenging when considering these two different models, each with its own set of complexities and factors to weigh.

If you are looking for a partner to help your agency grow with the right model, consider reaching out to Darkhorse Insurance Brokers. We offer a unique turnkey brokerage platform, giving motivated producers a chance to break free from captive carriers and build their brokerage their way.

Darkhorse is founded on real-world experience in building successful independent agencies. They can assist you in finding the best solution for your agency, whether it’s joining an insurance cluster, an aggregator, or going solo. Let us help you unleash your potential as an independent agent.