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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. 

How to Stabilize or Reduce Your Insurance Costs

how to stabilize or reduce your insurance costs

Insurance costs are high. There’s no denying it. If your broker didn’t reach out to forewarn you, you likely had a shock when you opened your most recent insurance bill.

Is there anything a business owner can do to reduce those high coverage costs?

Yes, let’s review some of the options.

As a commercial business, the looming year of higher premiums and the unknown can be daunting. However, there are ways to reduce your insurance costs and take proactive steps.

Pay Attention to your Risk Profile 

Your risk profile can be a collection of factors including: 

  • Who you hire
  • How many steps are in place to protect your data
  • Whether or not your employee lists are accurate for insurance
  • Your overall security precautions

These are all small factors that influence your risk profile. Keeping an eye on them can, in turn, avoid long-term costs.

HR Handbooks 

Avoiding a flood of claims helps your reputation and bottom line. Investing in Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) is crucial to protecting your business, however, it can be costly.

An HR handbook can be an active document that provides guidance for employers and employees as a way for your company to stay protected outside of EPLI insurance.

Your handbook can cover topics such as: 

  • Password Policy
  • VPNs
  • Safety Policies and Procedures
  • Intellectual Property

Evaluate Policies Annually

Policies are bound to change in the next year, so keeping a close eye on ones that pertain to commercial insurance will prevent future risk (and future costs).

As your business evolves throughout the months and years, it is important to check in with your Risk Management consultant. In addition, the landscape of legislation is ever-changing in California.

For example, Proposition 22 in California has been ruled unconstitutional, so there may be some changes in the hiring process for W-2 employees vs. 1099 workers.

Do you know why your insurance prices have increased this year? Check out our recent blog post explaining what exactly is going on.

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… 

orange umbrella above regular black ones

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

State of the Insurance Industry Union

state of the insurance industry union

In the spirit of full transparency,  we’re going to break down what’s happening in the insurance world right now. Buckle up, because it’s been crazy! Among other substantial changes, the two-tiered market has morphed into one. What does this mean exactly?

One Market, More Risks

If one thing’s thing is clear, the market has changed. The regular cadence of the insurance industry union is defined in the terms “soft” or “hard.” In the past, a soft marketplace has been semi-consistent, meaning that there is increased competition and inconsistent sellers and buyers. 

After a soft market exists for some time, however, a hard one follows. Insurance Business Magazine states that, “a hard market is an upswing in a market cycle, when premiums increase and capacity for most types of insurance decreases.” 

This might include: 

  • Falling investment returns for insurers
  • Increased severity of loss
  • Regular intervention

The soft market on the other hand, “resembles a bidding war, with everyone chiming in at the last minute to offer the cheapest deal on a risk.” A soft market is described as, “the soft market resembles a bidding war, with everyone chiming in at the last minute to offer the cheapest deal on a risk.” 

How to Prepare

There is no way to fully understand what the future will look like, but professional predictions can pave the way for preparation (thank you, analytics!)

After all, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.

Some of the predictions made are as follows: 

  • “The property and casualty sector is the biggest insurance sector in the US
  • Insurtech partnerships are on the rise
  • There’s a huge coverage gap in life insurance for Millennials
  • The days for a single business model for insurance are over
  • Cyber rates are going to increase
  • Workers comp will continue to increase
  • General liabilities will increase”

Through all of these new changes, Benchmark is here to partner with you. We ask the “what if” questions BEFORE you experience an event that would require the answer. Contact us today!

State of the Insurance Industry Union

State of the Insurance Industry Union