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can bigger insurance brokerages negotiate better rates than smaller ones?

can bigger insurance brokerages negotiate better rates than smaller ones?

At benchmark commercial insurance, we often get asked whether or not it’s better to work with a small brokerage or a large brokerage. While there are pros and cons to both, the pricing must remain the same from carriers. Hear from Benchmark’s own Peter Katkov, as he explains:

“I’m often asked the question, does the size of the agency impact the pricing of coverage received by a carrier? And the simple answer is no. There’s actually legislation that prohibits discriminatory pricing based on the size of the agency

So, based on identical underwriting information and for the same coverage, the quote provided to the small agency or to the biggest in the world must be identical. Obviously, there are pros and cons in being in both of those service environments, so you have to ask yourself as the client, if the policy on the shelf is the same and costs the same, under which environment are my needs as a client best being met?”

Let’s dive a little deeper. 

The Pros and Cons of Small Insurance Brokerages

Pros

If you’re looking for an insurance brokerage that understands your community and your business’s unique needs, then a smaller brokerage might be a better choice. Typically smaller brokerages are hiring local agents who will understand the property and area on a deeper level than a national agent. 

Another factor to consider when deciding between a small or large brokerage is how accessible their agents are to their clients. If you’re experiencing an emergency, you want a quick response from your broker about how to handle the situation. Generally, smaller brokerages have actual people on the other line, helping you navigate the next steps while creating a trusting relationship.  

Small agencies likely have lower employee turnover, so the team you are working with is unlikely to change with the breeze.

As you look for a brokerage that can meet your needs, oftentimes larger insurance brokerages are unable to work with people or businesses with low credit, a history of claims, or are below premium thresholds. This is where smaller insurance brokerages could be a better fit. 

Cons

With a smaller brokerage, there may be some challenges with the number of national resources available. With a smaller brokerage, there exists a risk they may not be in business in the long run as compared to larger, more stable firms. This may put your own financial situation at risk if you need to find a new brokerage. 

However, with a small brokerage, you’re more likely to have the personal contact of your broker, who knows everything about your insurance. This can lead to a more seamless customer service experience overall. 

The Pros and Cons of Large Insurance Brokerages

Pros

A large insurance brokerage is going to have a more consistent income from more team members and clients, which means that they are financially anchored. 

One of the largest pros to working with a larger insurance brokerage is technology and innovation. Larger brokerages are able to create apps to assist your business or personal insurance needs with ease. Whether that means making a claim or investing in new insurance policies.

Another advantage to a large brokerage is the customer service chat portals typically run 24/7. This is great for quick questions or emergency situations. There are multiple tools for quick access to information including apps, website chats, phone lines, and your typical email communication. 

Cons

There is a missing piece to the puzzle when it comes to large brokers. The personal touch. With a larger client base, things blend together between clients and brokers and may become hard to keep track of. Employee turnover leads to an ever-changing Rolodex of different contacts for each service need.

In the case of an emergency, you might find yourself endlessly chatting with a bot on the website chat line, compared to calling your personal broker who already knows your situation and doesn’t need a time-consuming update. 

Most importantly, however, is what motivates the decision-making of a large multi-national brokerage.  Publicly traded companies’ number one responsibility is to their shareholders, not their clients.

Insurance Carrier Pricing Requirements

As Peter mentioned above, there are laws and regulations that forbid discriminatory pricing based on the size of the agency.

According to the Federal Trade Commission:

A seller charging competing buyers different prices for the same “commodity” or discriminating in the provision of “allowances” — compensation for advertising and other services — may be violating the Robinson-Patman Act. This kind of price discrimination may give favored customers an edge in the market that has nothing to do with their superior efficiency. Price discriminations are generally lawful, particularly if they reflect the different costs of dealing with different buyers or are the result of a seller’s attempts to meet a competitor’s offering.”

In the insurance industry, pricing discrimination is considered ‘unlawful’,’ therefore small brokerages and large brokerages receive the same rates from carriers. 

What type of insurance brokerage is right for me?

At the end of the day, choosing your brokerage is largely impacted by your specific business needs. But here are some of the factors to consider when choosing a partner. 

Small

A small brokerage will be a good fit for you if you value the personal touch. This also could be the right option geographically, where there are specific exclusions or conditions to consider based on your location. Depending on your financial and claims history, a large brokerage might not consider you as an eligible client. 

Large

However, if your situation requires a lot of contact outside the normal work hours, then the 24/7 hotlines that most large brokerage firms have will be a needed resource to consider. There is also more adaptability due to the higher capital and amount of brokers that are working with a large firm.

Unsure about what you should be paying to insure your business? Check out this article explaining the different factors that contribute to the coverage costs of business insurance. 

“I’m often asked the question, does the size of the agency impact the pricing of coverage received by a carrier? And the simple answer is no. There’s actually legislation that prohibits discriminatory pricing based on the size of the agency.

So, based on identical underwriting information and for the same coverage, the quote provided to the small agency or to the biggest in the world must be identical. Obviously, there are pros and cons in being in both of those service environments, so you have to ask yourself as the client, if the policy on the shelf is the same and costs the same, under which environment are my needs as a client best being met?”

Let’s dive a little deeper. 

The Pros and Cons of Small Insurance Brokerages

Pros

If you’re looking for an insurance brokerage that understands your community and your business’s unique needs, then a smaller brokerage might be a better choice. Typically smaller brokerages are hiring local agents who will understand the property and area on a deeper level than a national agent. 

Another factor to consider when deciding between a small or large brokerage is how accessible their agents are to their clients. If you’re experiencing an emergency, you want a quick response from your broker about how to handle the situation. Generally, smaller brokerages have actual people on the other line, helping you navigate the next steps while creating a trusting relationship.  

Small agencies likely have lower employee turnover, so the team you are working with is unlikely to change with the breeze.

As you look for a brokerage that can meet your needs, oftentimes larger insurance brokerages are unable to work with people or businesses with low credit, a history of claims, or are below premium thresholds. This is where smaller insurance brokerages could be a better fit. 

Cons

With a smaller brokerage, there may be some challenges with the number of national resources available. With a smaller brokerage, there exists a risk they may not be in business in the long run as compared to larger, more stable firms. This may put your own financial situation at risk if you need to find a new brokerage. 

 

However, with a small brokerage, you’re more likely to have the personal contact of your broker, who knows everything about your insurance. This can lead to a more seamless customer service experience overall. 

The Pros and Cons of Large Insurance Brokerages

Pros

A large insurance brokerage is going to have a more consistent income from more team members and clients, which means that they are financially anchored. 

 

One of the largest pros to working with a larger insurance brokerage is technology and innovation. Larger brokerages are able to create apps to assist your business or personal insurance needs with ease. Whether that means making a claim, or investing in new insurance policies.

 

Another advantage to a large brokerage is the customer service chat portals typically run 24/7. This is great for quick questions or emergency situations. There are multiple tools for quick access to information including apps, website chats, phone lines and your typical email communication. 

Cons

There is a missing piece to the puzzle when it comes to large brokers. The personal touch. With a larger client base, things blend together between clients and brokers and may become hard to keep track of. Employee turnover leads to an ever-changing rolodex of different contacts for each service need.

 

In the case of an emergency, you might find yourself endlessly chatting with a bot on the website chat line, compared to calling your personal broker who already knows your situation and doesn’t need a time-consuming update. 

 

Most importantly however, is what motivates the decision making of a large multi-national brokerage.  Publicly traded companies’ number one responsibility is to their shareholders, not their clients.

 

Insurance Carrier Pricing Requirements

As Peter mentioned above, there are laws and regulations that forbid discriminatory pricing based on the size of the agency.

 

According to the Federal Trade Commission:

 

A seller charging competing buyers different prices for the same “commodity” or discriminating in the provision of “allowances” — compensation for advertising and other services — may be violating the Robinson-Patman Act. This kind of price discrimination may give favored customers an edge in the market that has nothing to do with their superior efficiency. Price discriminations are generally lawful, particularly if they reflect the different costs of dealing with different buyers or are the result of a seller’s attempts to meet a competitor’s offering.”

 

In the insurance industry, pricing discrimination is considered ‘unlawful’,’ therefore small brokerages and large brokerages receive the same rates from carriers. 

What type of insurance brokerage is right for me?

At the end of the day, choosing your brokerage is largely impacted by your specific business needs. But here are some of the factors to consider when choosing a partner. 

Small

A small brokerage will be a good fit for you if you value the personal touch. This also could be the right option geographically, where there are specific exclusions or conditions to consider based on your location. Depending on your financial and claims history, a large brokerage might not consider you as an eligible client. 

Large

However, if your situation requires a lot of contact outside the normal work hours, then the 24/7 hotlines that most large brokerage firms have will be a needed resource to consider. There is also more adaptability due to the higher capital and amount of brokers that are working with a large firm.

Unsure about what you should be paying to insure your business? Check out this article explaining the different factors that contribute to the coverage costs of business insurance. 

Cyber Security: Looking Forward to 2022

cyber security: looking forward to 2022

In July 2020, we all saw the ramifications of a well-performed hack. Twitter experienced the most catastrophic security breach in their company’s history. Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, and other high-profile Twitter users were all among the hacked users.

This hack caused Twitter to shut down all verified blue-checked accounts. In just a few short hours, this breach of security cost Twitter users more than $118,000 and the company even more in their reputation.

This was more than three months ago. So, what does this mean looking to the new year? 

With most business and social interactions moving toward technology-centered avenues, this can be troubling for business owners. Some questions to keep in mind moving forward:

  • What will your company do if this happens to you? 
  • Did the global pandemic and stay-at-home orders make you more vulnerable to potential cyber-attacks? 
  • How can you protect yourself and your company? 
  • What cyber security regulations are being put in place for 2022? 

Let’s explore.

Consider Investing in Cyber Insurance 

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 to-dos. If you have cyber insurance coverage, however, your carrier will take that responsibility on.

2022 Changes

The United Nations (UN) provides information about their role in upcoming cyber attacks. One of the main adjustments for the future is the role that automated systems play in cars. Your Tesla could be a risk moving forward (the report highlights passenger cars, vans, trucks, and buses).

The higher risk associated with “connected” cars is another reason cyber security is crucial moving into 2022.

How Has Your Business Become More Vulnerable?

As businesses moved to a new work-from-home model, cyberattacks increased. With most company communication done through e-mail, Slack, and other online platforms, the risk of a breach increases. This could cause a company to experience massive monetary loss as well as reputation damage. 

Signs You’re at Risk of a Experiencing a Cyber Attack

  • You’re receiving requests for transactions, like direct deposits or electronic fund transfers
  • Unsolicited communications are coming through from unknown companies or people
  • Links within the email do not match—check links by rolling your cursor over the link to see if the two match with the content and the email address!
  • Requests with a high sense of urgency, asking you to complete documentation immediately
  • Requests for usernames, passwords, and other personal details like banking information

What Can You Do to Help Mitigate This Risk?

  • Limit your use of large email attachments and programs that put pressure on your company’s bandwidth ecosystems
  • Do not forward emails with attachments that contain highly restricted or company confidential information to personal accounts
  • Avoid reading, talking about, or leaving confidential information in unsecured work-from-home areas
  • Log-off of work devices when you’re not using them
  • Shred sensitive documents
  • Restart your computer regularly

These tips along with the added security of cyber insurance should prepare your business for potential cybersecurity breaches. Learn more about how cyber insurance can help your company today. Contact us at Benchmark to see how we can partner.

And if you’re wondering why your insurance premiums have skyrocketed recently, learn why here.

 

Cyber Security Coverage in the Age of Ransomware

cyber liability

why email may be your biggest cyber risk

why email may be your biggest cyber risk

When you hear the word “cyber risk,” what do you think of?

If you think of Facebook or strangers sending sketchy links over text, you’re not alone. But, you are wrong.

In 2019, The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that the losses for business email scams was $1.7 billion. So, your email might be your biggest cyber risk, what does that mean for you? Let’s break it down. 

BEC Scam 

The FBI defines a Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam as, “Also known as email account compromise (EAC) — is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. It exploits the fact that so many of us rely on email to conduct business— both personal and professional.” 

They also list what BEC scams can often look like: 

  • “A vendor your company regularly deals with sends an invoice with an updated mailing address
  • A company CEO asks her assistant to purchase dozens of gift cards to send out at employee rewards. She asks for the serial numbers so she can email them out right away. 
  • A homeowner receives a message from his title company with instructions on how to wire his down payment.” 

The listed scenarios were all fake, and cost companies thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars. 

The rise in Cyber Security breaches has jump-started many companies into investing in cyber security insurance. This is a great way to protect yourself and your company, but there are preventative measures that can be taken. 

How to Avoid BEC or EAC Scams

There are some steps you can implement to avoid the financial downfall of a cyber attack. 

Company Policy

Set clear policies about what should be responded to within the company email. This also implies that the company email is not used for general things (for example, signing up for a clothing discount). Within company policy, there should be a rule for not sending personal passwords or information over email. 

Social Media

Social media has changed what a company might share with the world. The information that is shared with the public can be informative about the industry, but should NOT be stating that the whole company is out of the office for a day off. 

Employee Knowledge

Train your employees to look out for red flags in their inboxes. This could look like anything from emails from outside the company, to emails asking for personal information. Emails can be included in a broad cyber security training, considering their high-risk factor. 

Has the recent rain caused any alarm for flooding at your commercial property? Learn more about the surface water exclusion that is most likely a part of your property insurance. 

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

Why Is My Insurance So Expensive This Year?

why is my insurance so expensive this year?

 

Download the whitepaper [pdf]


If you’re like most people, your insurance has recently gone up with no explanation. Although we can list factors that might play a part in these increases,  the reason your insurance is going up is a combination of all of these factors.

D&O, EPLI, Property, General Liability, and Umbrella policies are all going up 15% to 30% year over year.

Below are some factors causing increased insurance costs:

Factors Causing Increased Insurance

  1. Increased Risk Factors. The rezoning of certain open areas as high-risk fire zones has increased carriers’ perception of risk and therefore, is driving up prices.
  2. Re-insurance. Insurance carriers purchase insurance similar to a policyholder. However, due to consistent years of catastrophic losses, the availability has been restricted and costs to insurers has increased. 
  3. Labor Shortages. Changes in immigration law, in combination with stricter criteria for classifying 1099 vs. W-2 workers, have added to the labor shortage post-pandemic markets are experiencing.
  4. Supply Chain Disruption. Shipping routes are overrun, ports are backlogged, shipping containers are in short supply, and trains are delayed causing domino-like effects to businesses. With increases in cost and time to deliver goods comes an increased risk of in-transit losses and loss of business market share.
  5. The Pandemic. With all of the increased insurance claims from COVID-related closures, insurance companies have paid out millions in unanticipatable claims.
  6. Inflation. Property values are soaring and insurance premiums are along for the ride. Insurers have become picky about whom they will insure, causing an increase in policy movement from broker to broker and carrier to carrier. 
  7. Increase Cyber Threats. Office-level security firewalls are not present with people working from home. This, in combination with the widespread usage of online payment options in more businesses, has raised the cost of cyber liability coverage.

These seven cost increases are complicated, global, and not going anywhere. Want to know what you can do to get your costs down? 

Next, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide insight into the ever-changing landscape in the insurance sector. You may have noticed strange behavior from insurers, whether you purchase coverage for your home, business, or both.

Below are the forces exerting themselves on the insurance industry today, which have caused the insurance companies to push rates as well as exit certain geographic areas. We hope this information will provide clarity as well as recommendations on how to take control of insurance costs during this time.

Low Bond Rates

It is interesting to know that in a normal economic market, insurance companies use insurance premiums as a loss leader. The premium loss ratio (total annual Gross Written Premiums valued against total Incurred Losses) typically runs from 105% to 108%. 

This means that for every dollar collected, the insurance company expects to pay out over a dollar in claims. The insurance companies offset this loss, however, with much higher returns in their investment income. A significant source of safe return has always resided in the bond market.

Since today’s bond market has much lower than normal yields, with no relief in sight, insurance companies are seeing lower than normal investment returns.

Unmodel-able Losses

For lack of a better word, we give you “un-model-able losses.”

Insurance companies rely on accurate actuarial “modeling“ to predict losses and help set proper rates based on predictable loss scenarios. For the last ten years, however, the global insurance industry (including the re-insurance segment, but more on that later) has been hit with a regular stream of wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, abnormal freezes to name just a few.

These are classified in insurance-speak as “un-model-able losses.” Actuarial models have not yet been perfected to incorporate these types of losses. When the industry is faced with these events, profitability plummets, and insurance carriers are challenged to find rates that can accommodate the un-model-able.

Reduced Reinsurance Capacity and Increased Cost

Insurance companies “lay off” much of the value of their loss exposure on the “secondary” or reinsurance market. This considered, the reinsurance market is much more sensitive to how losses will affect their rates, as global reinsurers are the backstop for the industry.

As you may expect, reinsurance rates have spiked steadily over the past five to seven years due to consistent catastrophic losses. In some cases, actual insurance writing capacity is depleted to the point that coverage is no longer available in certain industry segments.

The reinsurer’s response to claim severity and frequency is to restrict the availability of coverage and raise the rates to your insurance company. Year over year, insurance carriers have been paying significantly higher rates for the cost of insurance and that cost is passed to the policyholders.

Remapping of “Fire Zones”

To a carrier, all insurance companies have become keenly aware of what they now consider fire zones, as well as the concentration of insured value that resides within these zones.

Both commercial and residential insures have undergone varying degrees of re-evaluating what they now consider to be locations residing in, or adjacent to, a newly established fire zone. You may have had friends, or even neighbors, complain of non-renewal notices they received from their current insurer.

Again, to a carrier, underwriters refuse to discuss any type of exception we may want to make regarding their “fire-zone” evaluation. Each carrier has determined, through their re-insurance treaty with their re-insurance carrier, what they are allowed or not allowed to write.

They will not make exceptions for any policyholder, which means remapping for fire zones has forced many policyholders back into the market due to the non-renewal of many policies. This is a market with a limited supply.

Why Should This Matter to Me?

The simple answer is to remember that insurance companies are for-profit enterprises. Because of the fiduciary responsibility to its policyholders, insurance companies must stay vigilant on profitability.

As we discussed above, the industry typically operates at a premium loss ratio of over 100%. With the forces pressing down on the industry discussed above, carriers have now focused their efforts on becoming profitable on written premium.

So, how much do rates have to rise to take a carrier from a 5% to 10% loss on each dollar collected to a profit of 10% or 15%? Rates have to rise 10% to 20% on average (this contemplates loss-minimal and loss-free accounts) in order for the carrier to be profitable on collected premiums.

Policies with anything approaching, or exceeding a 50% loss ratio for the last three years combined can see premium increases from 50% to 125%.

What Power Do I Have to Control My Premiums?

Believe it or not, policyholders have the ability to take control over policy costs. The insurance underwriters key in on two areas: property age and maintenance/upkeep. Any property approaching 20 to 25 years old or older will require the underwriter to dig into how well the property has been maintained.

They will want to know about tenants (for commercial properties) and updates, or placement, of the following building systems (home or business). For example, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and roof systems.

If the age of your property is older, many underwriters are simply choosing not to provide quotes for buildings that have not had these systems updated in the past 10 to 15 years. Please create a budget to update these older systems. It will pay dividends for many years to come in the lowest premiums obtainable in the marketplace.

A Final Word

The most impactful measure used by underwriters to measure account quality is historical losses. Underwriters typically look back three to five years depending on the account.

Homeowners’ losses, both home, and auto, are aggregated to a central database used by all insurers. Commercial accounts, however, are not tracked to a central database.

Losses that cause the most heartburn to an underwriter are water losses. Water perplexes the savviest of insurance actuaries. Policies with consistent water damage claims over time are prime for carrier non-renewal. The lowest hanging fruit for property owners is the proactive replacement of all interior plumbing fixtures. Angle stops, water hoses, and toilet fixtures (float and flap) are the most guilty of causing expensive water damage claims. Next up, would be sewer and drain backups. Please snake all drain lines on a regular basis. Simple, cheap, and effective.

As you’d anticipate, older properties require more information as underwriters evaluate the quality of electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling, and roof systems. 

Remember the insurance policy is not designed to be a “warranty” against less than regular maintenance and upkeep. Property owners can go a long way in stabilizing insurance costs over time by creating and implementing pro-active regular maintenance protocols. If you can create an efficient program, you are doing all you can do to protect your insurance costs for the future.

 

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

Executive Protection to Guard your Balance Sheet

executive protection to guard your balance sheet

Executive protection is a necessary investment for companies to survive. This important balance sheet protection tool can be the difference between survival or peril in today’s litigious environment. 

As you look to protect your business from executive risk, it’s important to understand the different types of risk associated with it. Executive protection is broken down into different categories.

Here’s a breakdown of what Executive Protection covers.

Employee Practices

Employment practices can mean numerous things: wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environments. 

Within the main categories listed above, there are many subcategories that have proven to be a risk. For example, an employee could file an EPLI for emotional negligence. 

There are many factors that are increasing liability risk for 2021. With most offices returning to in-person work environments, the risk runs even greater. 

COVID-19

COVID brings another element to potential ELPI claims. Some of the potential situations that could occur with returning to the office or adopting a hybrid model include: 

  • An employee feels emotional neglect for having a hard transition to in-person work after working from home for a year.
  • Employees might feel that higher-ups have conducted the health and safety aspect of COVID-19 at a lower standard.
  • An employee refuses to follow new guidelines and regulations stated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • An employee returns to the office and contracts COVID-19 from a co-worker.

These examples only begin to predict what could happen in the future. 

Fiduciary 

Based on the law passed in 1974, there are regulations that businesses must have as baseline coverage for all employees. If these basic guidelines are neglected, then there’s a liability risk. Some examples of failing to meet guidelines might include: 

  • Improper enrollment or terminations
  • Resulting in lost or incorrect benefits
  • Errors in counseling when administering health or welfare plans
  • Resulting in lost or incorrect benefits
  • Giving poor or negligent advice on investing employees’ retirement plans
  • Making risky investments in a defined benefit pension plan
  • Wrongful denial or improper change in benefits
  • Imprudent selection of and/or monitoring or third-party service providers

There are other terminologies that are thrown around in the workplace, like Errors and Omissions (E&O) that follow similar guidelines. 

Media

Media liability coverage protects the insured against claims arising out of the gathering and communication of information and is critical to any media organization. The variety of claims being asserted against the media, and the size of jury verdicts against media organizations, are constantly on the increase. 

According to data released by the Libel Defense Resource Center, the median jury award against media organizations in 1990 was $500,000; in 1997, it was $2.3 million. 

Cyber and Tech

Cyberwarfare is not just for meddling in elections and extorting multinational corporations. Companies of all sizes and types can fall victim to enterprising hackers and cyber extortionists. The question all companies must ask themselves is not “what is my data worth to someone else?” but “what is my data worth to me?” Of course, well-crafted IT protections are a crucial first line of defense, but if the protections fail, could your company shoulder the cost of an uncovered claim or ransom payment?

Cyber insurance coverage is likely broader, less expensive, and more crucial to your business than you would think. 

Trade Credit

Another fancy term is trade credit. This can basically be broken down to the idea that trade credit protects manufacturers, traders, and service providers against losses from non-payment of commercial trade debt due to bankruptcy, insolvency, or very late payments.

Intellectual Property

IP insurance covers companies for the legal costs associated with pursuing infringement or theft of IP. It also covers legal defense costs for policyholders accused of IP infringement or theft. There are two basic types of IP insurance:

Infringement Defense: Covers policyholders for infringement claims brought against them.

Abatement Enforcement: Gives the insured the financial resources to enforce their IP rights and pursue infringement claims.

In today’s increasingly perilous and litigious business environment, every company faces risk. It is unfortunate that any of your company’s many constituents—including employees, investors, customers, suppliers, competitors, government agencies, and creditors—pose a financial risk to your business. Any one of them, however, could sue your company or target it for criminal activity.

As you look to protect your business from these potential threats, enlist the help of an insurance mentor. At Benchmark, we invest in our clients’ protection and we aim to ensure your business remains risk-free. Reach out to us today to start a conversation about your business’ risk!

Executive Protection to Guard your Balance Sheet

Executive Protection to Guard your Balance Sheet

Do You Need an Employee Manual Review? (Yes!)

do you need an employee manual review? (yes!)

What Is an Employee Manual Review?

An employee manual is not only a resource for employees but also for an employer as well. An employee manual is a book or online PDF containing employees’ and employers’ guidelines to reference for all job-related information.

Although an employee handbook is given and reviewed once a new hire is onboarded, the document should be reviewed at least annually. 

This is generally a large document, as it will cover topics including: 

  • Equal Opportunity Guidelines
  • Company Culture
  • Paid Time Off (PTO) and Holiday Time
  • Job Expectations
  • A Company Mission Statement
  • Company Policies
  • Work Performance Expectations
  • Who to Contact if an Issue Arises

Surprisingly, employee handbooks are not required by law. They are, however, very helpful and highly recommended.

Most HR representatives consider the employer’s handbook as an active document. This means that throughout the year when policies and employment laws change, notes can be added and reviewed.

It is important to note that creating and maintaining employee manuals within California is much more difficult than in other states as policies and guidelines are constantly being adjusted. It’s almost impossible to keep up, which is why adding notes and using the employee handbook as an active document is a helpful practice to follow.

Why Review?

Most HR representatives consider the employer’s handbook as an active document. This means that throughout the year when policies and general guidelines change, notes can be added and reviewed. Again, an employee handbook is most helpful when acting as an active document because the handbook will stay perfectly to date without annual revisions. 

As an employer, it can be helpful to see the employee handbook as a resource, not just another box to check off the list. It can be a helpful tool because there is a high level of information to keep track of. If an employee gets called to jury duty, for example, do they receive paid time off? Check the employee handbook.

What to Avoid

If you have an employee handbook from a past business, don’t copy and paste this document for another business. This doesn’t work for many reasons. Each company has a unique set of guidelines that apply to its employee handbook.

Ideally, an employee handbook should be written by an HR consultant or professional, or an employment attorney. Although there are tools that can help employers build a handbook, it’s more consistent to collaborate with a professional. 

As a new hire is onboarded, there are many documents that can get lost in emails. One suggestion as an employer is to review the handbook in-person—open it and highlight some of the main topics. Consider creating an infographic with the top 10 ideas and questions that employees might have as a reference.

Do you have questions about our program development and options available? Our team is ready to answer your questions and provide you with information about insurance and building a beneficial partnership with us. Call Benchmark today at 800-283-0622 or send us a message.

Thursday August 19 2021