Posts

what does cyber insurance actually cover?

what does cyber insurance actually cover?

Cyber cyber cyber… This is one of the hottest topics in the insurance industry today. You may already have cyber insurance, or you might be considering getting coverage — in either case, you’ll likely be asking,  “what does your cyber insurance actually cover?” 

who needs cyber insurance? 

While some general liability and professional liability policies include basic cyber liability coverage, additional coverage is often needed. Businesses that store personally identifiable information (PII) for employees and/or customers should have additional coverage.

what does cyber insurance protect you from?

Cyber breaches can occur in a multitude of ways. They can be executed through phishing emails, viruses, ransomware, or other malicious attempts to corrupt your data. 

In 2019, The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that the losses for business email scams were $1.7 billion. Learn why an email might be your biggest email risk on our blog. 

The best way to begin protecting your data is to establish internal safeguards with cyber security. This includes strong passwords, monitoring electronic device access, and using different software tools. 

Email scams such as Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC), are sophisticated scams that target both businesses and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests. In addition to those email-based vulnerabilities, there is an increase in other cybercrimes that threaten businesses (especially those that are remotely operated). According to Cybersecurity Ventures, a cyber attack will occur every 11 seconds in 2022, nearly twice the rate in 2019.  With that being said, it’s important to ensure your business is covered in case a cyber attack does occur, with cyber security liability coverage. 

There are a few types of coverage within a cyber liability policy. First-party coverage and third-party coverage help ensure you’re covered for whatever comes your way.

what else does cyber insurance cover?

First-party coverage includes coverage for immediate expenses related to the cyber breach. These expenses typically include:

  • The cost of notifying employees and the public
  • Marketing and public relations response that protect the company’s reputation
  • Paying extortion money
  • Repairing the damage to software and hardware
  • The cost of business interruption and missed income while operations are suspended
  • Other ancillary costs

Third-party coverage helps a company defend against lawsuits and legal claims. There are a number of lawsuits that can occur. Privacy lawsuits are covered under this coverage in case you have breached the privacy of customers and employees.

Regulatory body fines are covered, as well as media liability claims (copyright infringement, libel, or slander). Lastly, breach of contract and negligence claims are covered with third-party coverage. 

Going into 2022, there is likely going to be a change in coverage. Read our blog cyber security: looking forward to 2022 for more insights. 

cyber insurance for a remote workplace

A recent global industry study conducted by Tenable found that “eighty percent of security and business leaders said their organizations have more exposure risk today as a result of remote work.” 

They listed three main factors that have increased cyber attacks in the 2-year wave of remote office that are important to understand as a business owner moving forward with cyber coverage.

  1. “Enabling a workforce without boundaries.
  2. Expanding the software supply chain
  3. Migrating to the cloud.” 

These three factors are all present in remote workplaces, and give even more reason to understand what your cyber coverage actually covers. 

One question we’ve received from clients is: What happens if a remote employee breaks their work computer while at home? In general, cyber insurance will not cover a broken laptop — but commercial property insurance might. 

okay now my business is covered — now what?

If you have enrolled for cyber coverage, good for you! You’re taking one more step to help create a safe workplace for your employees. Even if your business is protected against cyberattacks, there are some steps you can take to further protect your business. 

read the fine print

It’s important to fully understand what your business is covered for when it comes to cyber risk. At benchmark, we take the time to look into the meaning of a ‘network’ for your company’s policy. The policy might change or be limited to “software, hardware, devices, and other infrastructure owned, operated, or leased by the company.” Knowing what your network entails, how far-reaching it is, and what security protocols you have in place can affect the type, limitations, and cost of your cyber coverage. 

set home-office expectations

In addition to understanding your policy’s details, understanding what your employees’ home offices are like is important to help prevent cyber attacks. A couple of ways to ensure that your remote employees have a safe environment to work is: 

  • Bring in an IT professional to evaluate the laptops and monitors being used or to help install a VPN.
  • Set boundaries with employees about workspace (for example, only use your work laptop, not the family computer that multiple people are using).
  • Provide cyber security training about red flags to avoid.

There are preventive steps you can take to improve your security protocols and reduce the cost of your cyber liability coverage.  To find out more about how we can add cyber to your existing business-coverage, please reach out. 

starting 2022 off right - what to expect for your commercial insurance.

starting 2022 off right – what to expect for your commercial insurance.

The world of insurance has changed quite a bit over the last year. The new reality of insurance established in 2021 will shape the future for 2022. In this video, Rob Cohen, President of benchmark commercial insurance, speaks about what to expect for your commercial insurance in 2022.  

As we look to the next year for updates in the insurance industry, we’re still seeing a few lines of coverage that are being highly underwritten: cyber liability, and directors and officers liability. Over the next year, you can expect 15 to 40% rate increases on those lines. We’re also seeing a few insurance types, like auto insurance, getting flat rates. Let’s dive in a little deeper.

cyber liability

Cyber security is a hot topic for good reason — cyber crimes are at an all-time high and continuing to grow with an increased focus on digital communication. 

Cyber insurance covers the expense incurred due to a data breach, virus, or other cyber-attacks and fraud. It can also cover legal claims that come from a security breach. As companies utilize cloud software, personal computers and laptops, and other technology-based means to store their sensitive data, their risk for a security breach grows exponentially.

The Identity Theft Resource Center claims that in 2018 businesses experienced 571 breaches in security, which exposed 415 million employee and customer records. 

When you do experience a breach as a company, federal law requires you to perform an extensive list of action steps to train and help mitigate future risk. With cyber insurance coverage, however, your carrier will take that responsibility on.

As mentioned above, because of the increased need for cyber insurance, we’re seeing more underwriting, in addition to, increased rates.

directors and officers liability

Directors and Officers (D&O) are defined as, “Insurance coverage intended to protect individuals from personal losses if they are sued as a result of serving as a director or an officer of a business or other type of organization. It can also cover the legal fees and other costs the organization may incur as a result of such a suit.” 

With insurance costs increasing, clients are asking what to expect with D&O coverage. Underwriting is still stressed across all lines of coverage, especially in California. The reason behind the increase in underwriting frequency is a higher sensitivity to the current economic environment, in addition to taking into account additional claims activity. 

Alongside D&O insurance, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) has also been challenged over the last year. Into the next year, you will likely see higher deductibles and higher premiums associated with EPLI coverage, specifically in California. 

auto premiums

Commercial auto for clean accounts is receiving flat rates, but there may still be a few predicted increases in your auto premium to be aware of. 

In fact, we’ve written an entire article about it! Learn a few reasons why auto insurance premiums are increasing in this blog post. 

auto technology

The rise of technology brings a plethora of pros and cons to the insurance field. As reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are eight deaths a day due to a distracted driver.

They list the three main types of distraction as:

  • “Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving.”

The statistics have shown that distracted driving has increased with the increase in technology in vehicles (think about the 17-inch screen that is now installed in Teslas).

The rise in distractions creates a greater financial risk for insurance companies, hence the rise in auto insurance premiums. Some insurance companies even have a “Distracted Driver Policy” because it has become so common.

driver shortages

They call it ‘The Great Resignation’ for a reason. According to The American Trucking Association, “without substantial action, by 2030 and at current trends, the driver shortage could grow to 160,000.”

What does this mean? The demand for drivers has increased over the last few years as a result of the cultural shift toward delivery and convenience. Nearly “one million new drivers will need to be trained and hired in the next decade to keep pace with increasing consumer demand and an aging workforce.” 

With a shortage of drivers, there is a sense of desperation to find any somewhat-qualified person to help transport supplies. In turn, this has resulted in a higher risk of accidents due to a lack of experienced drivers handling large machinery and vehicles. Which, you guessed it, increases auto insurance premiums.

workers’ compensation 

Workers’ compensation coverage seems to be remaining pretty flat. However, if you have a high X-Mod or you have a consistent loss experience over the last two or three years, you will likely see an increase in rates.  

There are a few things to consider when looking at the future of your workers’ compensation coverage.

covid-19

First and foremost, the effect of COVID-19 on your business. The regulations regarding COVID-19 and other standard health requirements vary from state to state, so it is important to understand what your state requires as far as coverage and claims.

Some states, like New York, will include covid-related claims and provide benefits in workers’ compensation coverage if there is reason to believe the individual was exposed at the workplace. 

remote work environment

The lines have blurred between work and home. Employers have lost some sense of control over their employee’s working conditions. In order for a workers’ compensation claim to hold up, the employee must be able to prove that their injury or illness resulted while performing a task for their company. A greater obligation has been placed on the employer to take extensive measures to make sure the employee’s home-office setup is safe.

rising premiums

We’ll likely see a rise in claims over the next year. Not because there is greater risk in working conditions, simply due to the fact that unemployment was high last year therefore the claims and worker’s compensation benefits decreased. 

Because of the rise in claims and cost of benefits, we’ll likely see a rise in premiums.

a final word

Unfortunately, not a lot of great news in the insurance realm. However, this puts greater pressure on your insurance broker to make sure that they’re turning over every rock to find the best rates and coverage for your unique business. 

Speaking of rates, a lot of our clients wonder whether or not working with a larger brokerage firm influences their rates. Check out Peter Katkov, of benchmark commercial insurance services, speak about the difference between larger and smaller insurance brokerages. 

why we need a copy of your contract to issue a certificate

why we need a copy of your contract to issue a certificate

You may feel like your insurance broker is being nosy when they ask for your contract in order to issue a certificate— but this is not the case!

Watch Benchmark’s own Rob Cohen and Peter Katkov discuss why your insurance broker might ask for a contract to issue a certificate below.  

 

why do we need to review your contract? 

A certificate of insurance (COI) is simply a form of evidence of the liability policies that our client may have. Generally, it consists of:

  • General liability
  • Auto liability
  • Workers’ compensation

We also need to know what the terms and scope of your agreement are in order to provide the best service possible.

As insurance brokers, we have a choice on the additional insured endorsements we allow. Some of these endorsements may incur additional costs. In reviewing your contract, we’re able to better understand what obligation is required of our clients and of the insurance company. 

does the certificate convey coverage? 

It’s important to note that a certificate doesn’t convey coverage. It is simply evidence that coverage exists in order to enter into the agreement. A certificate is taking an extra step to ensure that both parties are properly informed and covered during an engagement. 

why would I need a certificate of insurance?

Generally, a certificate is needed because a third party is involved. The certificate itself is evidence of coverage. It is the supporting documentation that actually transfers the rights of coverage to that third party when our clients are contractually obligated to do so.

For example, if you hired a plumber, you would want to make sure their coverage would cover any damage to your house.  Let’s say the worst-case scenario happens— Sweating pipes burn the house down. If you’re additionally insured, their insurance will cover the cost of the damage.  

homeowner contractor questions answered

We often get questions from our clients about what limitations there are with homeowners who are hiring contractors. As mentioned above, being a homeowner brings on a new set of challenges. 

For example, if a handyman is hired (lucky you, you found a handyman!), most handymen will need general liability insurance.

Another example that has been presented by clients is about employing a housekeeper. If a housekeeper is working at a house then domestic workers’ compensation would have to be added by endorsement. In general, this add-on is inexpensive, around $150 per year. This is a small price to pay to avoid a very expensive bill if injury or harm occurs while on your property. 

We answer more frequently asked questions on our FAQ page here

going the extra mile

If your broker is not performing those tasks for you and looking deeply into the requirements that are being asked of you, then they may not be doing their full job.

Just to be very clear— your broker should be going the extra mile and understanding your contracts in order to provide the best possible service. 

If your current insurance broker is not doing that, or you have questions, feel free to reach out to benchmark commercial insurance and talk to one of our trusted brokers. 

Curious to know about what happens when you do go through a commercial insurance claim? Read one of our recent blogs, describing the process and how you can protect your business.

benchmark team holiday traditions

benchmark team holiday traditions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While the office is busy preparing for commercial insurance changes in 2022, the holiday season is still being celebrated at benchmark commercial insurance. 

We wanted to highlight the team’s favorite holiday traditions and current inspirations for the new year. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on what the holidays look like for our team.

Ethan Sutton, Marketing Representative

“I’m Looking forward to traveling again, both interstate and intrastate.” 

Cindy Adler

“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.  Make your mistakes, next year and forever. You never know until you try.” 

Steve Quinones, Commercial Account Manager

“I’m looking forward to developing new skills and increasing knowledge, professionally and personally.”

Rob Cohen, CEO 

“Looking forward to health, prosperity, and fun!”

Peter Katkov, Commercial Lines Broker

“The challenges of 2020 and 2021 have proven to me that as a team we can rise to overcome obstacles and not just survive but thrive.  Bring on 2022!”

Candace Cohen

“Be fearless in 2022! If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.”

Deanne Session, Personal Lines Broker 

“2021 was a year full of HUGE changes for me Professionally and Personally so I am looking forward to settling into all the changes and making new connections with clients and friends. 2022 is going to be even greater than 2021!”

Do any of these goals and inspirations ring true for you? We would love to hear more of your insight! Feel free to reach out today. 

As you look to 2022, what are you focused on? As an insurance agency, we, of course, are thinking about our client’s potential risk factors. One area of concern for most business owners is cybersecurity risks. Check out a few tips on how to work to mitigate your cybersecurity risk in the new year in this article.

earthquake insurance: shaken not stirred

earthquake insurance: shaken not stirred

Do You Need Earthquake Insurance?

Your home and your business are some of the largest investments you will ever make.

California is known as a hotspot for earthquakes. With multiple fault lines running through the state, it’s no wonder that earthquake insurance costs can be so pricey. In both personal and business insurance planning, it’s important to ask, “Do I need earthquake insurance?” 

Unfortunately, most business and homeowner insurance packages do not include earthquake coverage, and investing in earthquake coverage can be costly. 

Southern California, specifically, is typically at high risk for experiencing earthquakes. Earthquakes with a magnitude of 6 or greater may cause serious damage to areas that are densely populated. 

How can you begin to prepare for an earthquake before it occurs? Do you have a disaster plan ready to go? Want to improve your earthquake preparedness? Read on for more.

how much does earthquake insurance cost? 

Most homeowner and business insurance policies don’t cover earthquake damage, you will need to invest in an added layer of protection. Earthquake coverage is offered as a separate coverage option, in which you pay based on your location’s risk. If you’re in Southern California on the San Andreas fault line, your earthquake insurance costs will be much higher than if you’re in a lower risk area, far from any kind of fault line. 

The NAIC states “the deductible for earthquake insurance is usually 10%–20% of the coverage limit. For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, a 10% deductible would be $20,000.”

what isn’t covered with earthquake insurance

As we mentioned above, most homeowners insurance fails to cover earthquake damage. Earthquake insurance is recommended if you live in an area that has a high risk of experiencing an earthquake.  This coverage includes structures close to the house (i.e. a garage or shed).

As you look to invest in earthquake insurance, it’s important to understand where you may still need additional coverage.


Most items not covered under earthquake insurance, are surrounding what could occur after an earthquake occurs. For example:

  • Fires
  • Flooding
  • Vehicle damage

Damage to land is also not typically covered under your earthquake insurance. For example, if the earthquake caused a sinkhole to appear, that cost would not be covered by your earthquake insurance.

how your premium is determined

At the end of the day, your insurers determine your premium. There are a few factors that will impact your premium: 

  • Your home’s location
  • The age of your home
  • The construction of your home
  • The cost to rebuild your home
  • The deductible

How to stay protected

There are a few steps you can take to begin limiting the risk associated with earthquake damage to your business and your home, which can in turn lower your insurance premium.

earthquake survival kit

Start with an earthquake survival kit. Your office or home could be without electricity, internet, phone, water, gas, and sewage services when an earthquake hits. The American Red Cross gives a few items that should be included in your earthquake survival kit:

  • Water: A two week supply of a gallon per person
  • Food: Things that are non-perishable and easy to make
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Any medications or medical items
  • Multi-purpose tools
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Personal documents: Medication lists, medical information, address, lease or deed to your home, passports, birth certificates, insurance
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Emergency contact information
  • Cash
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Map of the surrounding area

Inform staff and family

Host regular staff meetings to discuss how your team can stay safe during an earthquake. Be sure everyone knows to drop, cover, and hold during an earthquake and proceeding aftershocks. 

It’s important that they know that underneath furniture and against walls are likely the best places to be. Be sure to inform everyone to steer clear of windows and bookcases or large pieces of furniture. 

All frames, mirrors, and large cabinets should be anchored to their foundation. Gas appliances and water heaters should be secured with wall studs.

retrofitting your property

One of the best ways to tackle your earthquake risk is to retrofit your property. As mentioned above, it’s important to have large furniture anchored down, and secured in case an earthquake does occur. Here are a few ways to get started retrofitting your property to decrease your risk of injury during a natural disaster.

  • Bolting down bookcases, dressers, and televisions. Securing these heavy items, as well as other heavy items throughout your home can reduce property damage, and reduce the risk of injury during an earthquake.
  • Secure and brace the water heater to the dwelling frame.
  • Install automatic gas shut-off valves.

If you want to go even deeper into retrofitting your home, here are a few things you can do: 

  • Anchoring your house to the foundation through seismic bolting. 
  • Install bracing to cover cripple walls (in the space between the foundation and the floor where the crawl space is) with plywood. 

next steps

We at benchmark commercial insurance company can assist you in finding the right coverage for your specific business and personal needs. With insurance costs rising, it’s important to understand ways in which you can start to stabilize or reduce your insurance costs, read one of our recent blogs, here.

preparing for potential bottlenecks in your business and supply chain

preparing for potential bottlenecks in your business and supply chain

Are there red flags in your supply chain that may lead to bottlenecks? If there are, a bottleneck may impede product delivery in the new year, and that is not ideal. 

So, what can prevent potential bottlenecks before they damage your company’s ability to deliver? And what is a bottleneck? It can be complicated, so let’s dive into the details.

what is a bottleneck? 

A bottleneck can occur on all levels of manufacturing when resources are pushed past their maximum capacity. A bottleneck limits a company’s full potential, and is, of course, to be avoided.

As shown in the illustration below, the base of the bottle is overwhelmed and the neck of the bottle is too small for the demand of the supply chain. 

preparing for potential bottlenecks in your business and supply chain

Image courtesy of Chris Hohmann

As a manufacturer, there are five types of bottlenecks to be aware of: 

  • Poorly Designed Processes
  • Employee Absences
  • Overworked Machinery
  • No Automation
  • Poor Forecasting

These types of bottlenecks can be broken down into the categories of: People, Machines, and Processes.

people bottlenecks

employee absences

As mentioned above, human error is a part of the industry. One of the main factors of bottlenecks occurring is a high amount of employee absences. The processes that are set in place to avoid equipment failure are only as strong as the number of employees that are at work. With employee absences, there is a higher chance that small errors will occur.

If people are filling in roles out of desperation, then they are not well versed in the processes in place. One way to try and avoid this is to train employees on all of the roles involved in manufacturing, in case an employee is put into a position they’re not fully comfortable performing.  

machine bottlenecks

overworked machinery 

Just like people, if a machine is overworked, it will not be performing at its top level of productivity. If the machinery is overworked to meet the demand, there is a high risk of a bottleneck occurring.

Although the easier choice is to push machines to their maximum capacity (or further) in order to meet a deadline, this decision is asking for trouble.

process bottlenecks

lack of automation

We live in a world of technology.

In the manufacturing industry, technology should be used to help prevent bottlenecks. Automation is sometimes included in machinery or can be externally used. Regardless, there are benefits to using automation and technology in manufacturing.

Manufacturers have used automation not only to keep track of numbers but also to identify the physical location of machinery. Another benefit of automation is that with technology comes usable data. Data collection can be a huge tool in predicting future bottlenecks and learning from past mistakes.

Automation creates a smoother process of combining people and machinery.

poor forecasting

Although it’s true that some machine failures or bottlenecks are impossible to predict, poor forecasting can be a catalyst to missing major red flags that can disrupt your supply chain.

An example of poor forecasting is not maintaining structure in properly storing supplies and materials.

To use forecasting to your advantage, it’s helpful to predict when there might be increased demand. Then, make sure the right amount of inventory is available and that the machines can handle this level of demand to avoid a bottleneck.

poorly designed machine processes

If one part of the machine doesn’t work, the entire machine will most likely fail. If there are detailed processes laid out with preventative measures, however, there is a decreased chance of machine failure.

The efficiency of said processes can also be affected by human contact within the manufacturing line. Human error is common, so keeping employees up-to-date with understanding new machinery and processes is crucial in avoiding bottlenecks.

This includes:

  • Implementing preventative action to keep machinery up-to-date with industry standards
  • Not letting parts function beyond their lifespan

Along with preventive measures, there is value in training employees the proper response to a machine failure that resolves the situation quickly. This can prevent bottlenecks.

red flags in your supply chain

Is there a way to see where bottlenecks might occur? Well, aside from the processes mentioned above, acknowledging that there are red flags in manufacturing is crucial.

Some red flags in your supply chain may include: 

  • Unpredictable lead time
  • Internal reporting and delivery issues 
  • Slow product phase movement 
  • Not enough workers at one stage or another of production/ processing/ delivery 
  • Disorganized delivery scheduling 
  • Lack of product lifecycle tracking 

Identifying and addressing these red flags early on can help prevent bottlenecks. When it comes to equipment failure, however, sometimes a delay is inevitable. Read on for more on how to prepare.

how to prepare for equipment failure

There is not much that can be done if major equipment failure takes place. 

One key way to try and avoid equipment failure, however, is to create a diversified pool of vendors that you collaborate with. This means hiring locally, offshoring, and “near-shoring”. Doing so streamlines processes, provides backups and is one way to improve and balance your supply chain. 

what do I do after a bottleneck occurs?

So, you’ve experienced a bottleneck. What now? 

Bottlenecks have both short and long-term effects on a business.

After a bottleneck occurs, it’s important to evaluate what happened, why it happened, and how to avoid a similar situation in the future. The bottleneck you experience will help your company learn and grow when you look at it from the perspective of a learning opportunity.

So, you now know how to prevent a bottleneck—but do you know how to prevent a cyber-attack? Read on to learn why email may be your biggest cyber risk.

a day in the life of a benchmark broker

a day in the life of a benchmark broker

 

What does your insurance broker actually do for you? 

The daily tasks that a Benchmark insurance broker performs fall into the categories of:

  • Coverage analysis
  • Risk control
  • Hr services
  • Insure-tech

Here’s a deeper look into what the role looks like when it comes to commercial and personal insurance.

Client Communication

Like the old American proverb says, “To keep a customer demands as much skill as to win one.” 

Client communication is essential as an insurance broker in continuing a trust-filled relationship. One of the first steps a Benchmark insurance broker takes on during the day is taking client calls and emails and answering any concerns in a timely manner. 

This included us following up with any open items we need to complete underwriting or claim files. 

There are smaller questions that are easier to respond to, but sometimes a client emergency comes up, then industry advice is needed ASAP.

Client Emergencies

Benchmark insurance experienced this recently with Lyon & Associates Creative Services, Inc, who reported on their experience in a recent email describing their unfortunate “Pandemic Burglary.” 

Lyon & Associates Creative Services, Inc was out of office for three weeks during the pandemic back in March 2020. Then they fell under the healthcare communicators category and returned back to the office. 

“Our editing computers are largely empty shells, running the software alone. As a result of this structure, an early morning thief snatched all of our editing workstations.

When we reached out to our insurance broker, Carlsbad-based Benchmark Commercial Insurance, they took care of getting a claim opened with our insurer, Travelers.

Due to Benchmark’s previous good counsel, we had excellent replacement value and business interruption coverage. When the Travelers claim adjuster got in touch the same day, they had a significant starter check on the way before the weekend. 

Replacement value means exactly what it says, and then some, by the way. They covered things like the dozen new USC-C (Thunderbolt 3) to Thunderbolt 2 adapters we needed to keep our considerable investment in unstolen hard drives connected to the new computers. Of course, the claim was so well-covered that we exceeded their allowable percentage loss limit and they declined to renew our policy. (Chubb had our workers comp policy and they scooped us up with no increase in rates).” 

In any field of business, unpredictable events occur, so this can often take up time during the insurance broker’s day.  

Negotiation 

One task that generally occurs daily is negotiating with underwriters for best terms on new and renewal business quotes. 

Team Communication

Babe Ruth said “The way a team plays as a whole determines its a success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Even though insurance is a tiny bit different from baseball, the same concept applies in the workforce. 

Communication within the Benchmark team is also crucial throughout the day. This can look like answering internal questions related to claims, billing, certificates, and underwriting. 

Coffee Breaks

Yes, a Benchmark insurance broker does require multiple coffee stops throughout the day— cappuccinos are preferred. 

Client Contracts

Another daily task is reviewing client contracts. The insurance world is constantly changing, so staying up-to-date is important for client communication. When reviewing client contracts, our broker will check to make sure that any insurance or indemnity-related contractual stipulations are consistent with the client’s coverage. 

This also included following up with claim adjusters on open claims on behalf of the broker’s clients and advocating on behalf of our clients to claim adjusters on difficult claims issues. 

Prospect Clients

Finding new clients that will be a match with Benchmark Commercial Insurance, and that we are a match for takes effort. Throughout the day a broker will field calls and emails from new business referrals and prospect call-ins. 

Policy Review

An insurance broker will perform policy reviews to make sure policies have been issued correctly. This includes policy reviews for prospects so they can understand how their current program integrates with the scope of their current operations, which exposes any gaps in coverage. 

A Benchmark insurance broker will also initiate, and continue to follow up on the underwriting status for all renewals 90-days in advance of the policy expiration date. 

Third-Party Communication

Keeping relationships with other companies is important to our brokers. This includes Zoom meetings with our marketing agency and promoting our excellent relationships with the underwriters who support us. 

Wondering why your insurance has skyrocketed this year? Find out the factors that might be directly impacting you on the Benchmark blog. 

Tax Codes

changes in tax codes – what you need to know

Tax changes are coming. 

Have you prepared for the changes that may begin at the end of the year? If you haven’t started thinking about it already, it’s about that time.

Here are a few of the proposed changes that are looking to go into effect starting next year. 

Income Tax Changes

 

Your tax liability might be at risk to change, although it all depends on your current financial situation. Some of the main changes will affect your bottom line. For example, if your income exceeds $400,000, then you are likely to be impacted.

Along with higher tax rates, itemized deductions will also be prevalent in tax code changes. The proposed changes include a $10,000 limit on local and state taxes. 

Carried Interest Tax Changes

The last time carried interest tax changes were drastically changed was in 2017. It looks like there will be more change coming. Some lawmakers introduced the “Carried Interest Fairness Act of 2021” which if passed, would “tax carried interest at ordinary income tax rates and treat it as wages subject to employment taxes.” 

Capital Gains Tax Changes

The proposed changes would increase the applicable tax to a higher marginal income rate. This would conclude with the total being 43.4% on long-term capital gains. 

Estate & Gift Tax Changes

President Biden has proposed that the current Estate & Tax Changes that are meant to extend until 2026 be looked at closely. 

How to know if these tax changes will affect you?

If you are a business owner or individual whose income is above $400,000 then odds are you will be affected by these tax changes. 

Increased tax rates will mean it’s hard to know how much you’re paying to insure your business. Learn what the general costs are for your business.  READ ON… 

benchmark umbrella insurance coverage

how much should I pay to insure my business?

With insurance costs rising, you may be looking at your insurance costs wondering how much you should really be paying in insurance. This largely depends on your industry and the risks associated with your particular business, however, there are some standards that help give you a rough estimate!

Typically business owners spend between 1-3% of their revenue on insurance coverage. A lower-risk business might be closer to the 1% range, whereas a higher-risk business would be around 3%.  The highest-risk businesses can invest as much as 5% of their annual revenue in insurance coverage to offset the possibility of catastrophic losses.

The risk factors that contribute to higher insurance costs include: 

Your Industry

Each industry has an inherent level of risk associated with it. These different levels of risk play a large role in defining your costs. The details of how you run your business can also affect your business insurance costs. If you’re a restaurant allowing your customers to cook their own food (think Korean BBQ), you may have more risk than a typical restaurant owner.

Your Expertise

Insurance carriers view business owners with more experience as being in a lower-risk category. Typically you’ll be asked how many years you’ve been in business, what level of education you have, and what your employee’s qualifications are. More highly educated workforces are likely to be assumed to be lower-risk to an actuary at a carrier. 

Your Revenue

Growing your business can cause your insurance costs to grow. Higher revenue leads to more customers, more square footage, and more employees, which, in turn, increases your risk. In addition to the workers’ compensation costs that would of course increase, operational complexity adds to risk, the more hands, the greater the risk of someone getting hurt or something going wrong.  

Your Business Location

Where you work plays a large role in your insurance premiums. The more square footage you have, the physical condition of your building, and the physical location of your business (flood zones, high crime rate, fault lines, etc.) lead to higher costs and an assessment of being a higher-risk company. 

One recent factor that has been raising the costs to insure businesses is changing fire zones. If your business is located in a high-risk fire area, then your insurance is going to be more expensive.  As climate change increases the areas considered high-risk fire zones, many businesses that did not have this increased rate adjustment are seeing their costs rise.  This is true for any external impact (flood zones, high crime rate, fault lines), with the higher risk there will be higher costs for your business. 

Your Employees

The number of employees you have may lead to higher insurance premiums. With more employees, you may need to invest in various different types of insurance, like Workers Compensation, Errors and Omissions, and General Liability. Your insurance premiums can also depend on the positions of your employees. Qualified ALEs will necessarily have different requirements, risks, and costs than Small Business Owners. 

Your Chosen Policy

The more policies you add, the higher your premiums. The nature of your business may determine which policies you need to invest in, other times it can be up to you. AS you assess what coverage you need be aware of what a catastrophic loss would do to your business, your personal finances, and your company’s ability to operate.  Cyber coverage was often overlooked before the recent wave of ransomware attacks, now, business owners are actively looking at their data vulnerabilities. 

Your Prior Claims history

Lastly, your claims history has a large impact on your insurance premiums. If your company has a long history of filing claims for loss or damage, insurance companies will charge higher premiums to cover the risk of insuring your business. If you are looking for ways to reduce your premiums, there are risk-reducing operational steps you can put in place. 

Has your insurance increased this year? Learn why with Benchmark’s Rob Cohen.  READ MORE HERE

Surface Water and Property Insurance

surface water & property insurance

It’s that time of year again where the rain starts to fall, and flooding and other rain-related issues arise that businesses typically don’t have to deal with during the rest of the sunshine-filled year— at least in California.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand how your coverage will protect you during various seasons of your business. First and foremost, did you know that Property Insurance has a surface water exclusion? What does this mean for your business?

What is Surface Water? 

Surface water is also known as flooding but doesn’t always mean a full-blown flood. In this case, surface water is defined as spring thaw, flash floods, excessive rain, storm drain overflow.

Additionally, surface water is any water that runs through or travels over land where it’s not supposed to be located. It’s typically determined as any damage that has occurred by water that filtered through man-made objects, instead of from the ground

Why is there an Exclusion?

Investopedia outlines some of the main reasons behind the exclusion, “The reasoning is that only specific areas are prone to water-related natural disaster events, such as floods, tidal waves, or tsunamis.” The insurance industry wants to make sure policyholders with these specific water-related exposures purchase specific Flood policies that can address these loss conditions.

Surface Water Insurance

The Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) Forms contain complete definitions of the coverage they provide. Direct physical losses caused by “floods” are covered. Also covered are losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water activity exceeding anticipated cyclical levels, or caused by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tidal surge, which result in flooding, as defined. However, damage caused by mudslides as specifically defined in the policy forms is covered under “Catastrophe Coverage.”  

An Example

In 2012 there was a court case titled, “Union Street Furniture v. Peerless Indemnity Insurance Company,” where the definition of surface water cost Union Street Furniture and Carpet lost substantial amounts of money. 

In this case, there was a large storm that funneled rainwater from the parking lot into their commercial building causing water damage. The case claimed that the water damage was not covered by their insurance policy because the water was deemed to be caused by surface water or flooding. 

Do you need it? 

Take the above example as a learning opportunity. Reach out to your insurance broker to see if it may be a good idea to start investing in a Surface Water Insurance policy. Let your broker know if the topography of your location(s) lend themselves to water damage that fits the definition of “Surface Water”.

Of course, it depends on your specific business situation. If you’re concerned about flood damage specifically, then buying separate flood coverage might be necessary. Flood insurance coverage is available for both commercial and residential properties. With the rainy season approaching in Southern California, there are unpredictable factors that may not be included in your General Liability coverage. 

As a business owner, you have or will need to file some kind of insurance claim. Understanding what that means is essential to your success. Read more about commercial insurance claims, and what you need to know here