Archive for November, 2010

Is a Second Opinion Worthwhile?

November 18, 2010

It is possible that, with age/maturity, I have learned a few things in my life but I’m slowly losing my tolerance for others’ stupidity or lack of knowledge when they should (because they’re professionals) know better. Why do I feel this way? To begin, I enjoy learning – profusely learning – through reading, whether it be online, books, periodicals, etc. and attending seminars, speeches, etc. I hope you do too because learning should never stop, especially for professionals – experts in their fields of practice.

Last week, I had the pleasure of identifying several weaknesses in our own firm’s marketing by listening to Faith Seekings, an online connection of mine on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., while attending the AGM for the Canadian Institute of Management’s Toronto Chapter. I will be the last to admit that our firm is not without fault but we are always searching for ways to improve.

Last night, I attended a joint dinner meeting of the CIM/CMA/CGA Grand Valley in Kitchener and listened to Eugene Roman, in charge of New Product Development for Open Text, one of the numerous success stories of “Canada’s Technology Triangle”. Eugene spoke on issues that directly impact my own industry and attract my attention – risk, compliance, records retention, etc.

So how does this relate to my lack of tolerance then? For anyone who doesn’t know me, I have worked in the “insurance field” for 20+ years, including Risk Management, following a lengthy banking career in both Canada and the USA. I have seen much and I am constantly “shaking my head” at others’ lack of understanding of our business but this week…it was the “icing on the cake”.

For years, I have been in the minority when suggesting that if an insurance broker does not understand the business you, the client, operate, either learn it very fast or suggest that you deal with someone who has the level of expertise required to adequately protect you and to offer you advice.

Now…the rest of the story, as one of my favourite radio phrases goes…A residential builder that I have known for several years and pursued for most of that time has provided me with copies of the firm’s insurance policies – a shambles due to anyone’s lack of insurance understanding (so I am not blaming or placing fault on him) and having many different policies all due at different calendar dates. I know the insurance brokerage well and this client is one of that firm’s largest clients – and surprisingly, does not receive anything special in the area of service (possibly because the brokerage is afraid of the builder learning how inept their firm is).

One project that is currently under construction has 2 phases – with a total “insured value” of $500,000. The problem only begins when I questioned the builder as to his cost and am told the 1 townhouse structure is $800,000. The worst part of the problem is that the 1 building is nearing completion and won’t finish for another 4-5 weeks while the other building is framed and roofed and ready for the exterior to commence.

If a fire occurs and demolishes both structures (likely to happen with high winds and very frequent in the insurance industry), he is required to insure to 100% of his final cost and is penalized for every dollar of loss, except that he only has $500,000 TOTAL when he may lose $1,000,000+.

Will he be bankrupt, at that point, due to the insurance professional’s lack of business acumen? I hate to imagine anyone ever losing their business because they relied on professionals who were less than that. What might my recommendation be? For anyone without a sufficient understanding of risk management and insurance, never rely on anyone for too long without obtaining a second opinion – it might be the difference between success and failure for your company.

Thinking “Outside the Box”

November 15, 2010

Having just completed my President’s Message (Guild of Industrial, Commercial & Institutional Accountants) for the Christmas Season (yes, it is early – at least for me, I don’t try to think about Christmas until December), I decided to digest this week’s numerous events.

I heard an excellent presentation by Faith Seekings at the Toronto Chapter of CIM’s AGM (for anyone who doesn’t know, CIM is the Canadian Institute of Management) with whom I am fortunate to be connected by LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as personally. I highly recommend her for anyone looking to synchronize their marketing efforts to show some level of uniformity from a website to business cards to stationery, brochures and corporate image.

Yesterday, I also heard someone whom I have wanted to see in person for awhile, now – Wolfgang Jaksch – and the introduction by MediConsult of their new iMRS which will be available in North America in early 2011. My wife has been treated by a health professional with the current MRS offering and I try to keep an open mind concerning anything in life so that “electro-magnetic resonance” is, obviously, something I want to know more about. Wolf even ended his presentation with an introduction to a new online “health network” – www.wellaxy.com – and I wish to promote this site for good health and health-related exchanges of information.

What else is happening, from a business standpoint? It seems that my best month for new business in 9 years (yes, September was amazing) has been the catalyst for some “good luck”, though hard work seems to be the oxygen that ignited the flame. I have been attempting to close a deal for a home builder and was introduced to a realtor who also has need of commercial insurance. Then another home builder and I spoke about insuring “common elements” for a condo complex they are constructing – seems that their insurance broker may not have known it possible to insure (what other reason for the lack of service since it took them so long to provide a reply).

One account on which I have been working has added 6 other properties to insure and a former small business client of mine has asked me to quote on his business again. Recently, I insured a flea market booth for a long-time acquaintance of mine who then proceeded to provide me with a directory of listings to assist me in my solicitation efforts. Another source of business referred prospective clients to me, a new business associate has asked me to work with her on some clients and a member of the Guild of ICIA & CIM has asked me to prepare a quote for a new business of his.

Whether it be general commercial property/liability, commercial auto, Directors’ & Officers’ Liability, Builder’s Risk, Liquor Liability, Group Home/Auto or something as unique as “franchises”, “student rooming houses”, “hot dog carts”, “chip wagons” or Specialized Liability (including Product Recall and Errors & Omissions), I am ready to discuss with you.

My spreadsheet of activity for 2011 is quite substantial – including “hot” files and “cold” files that I hope to move into the warmer category during the next year. What is the reason for much of this activity and confidence? In the past, I felt that I needed to quote “apples to apples”, even if I did not agree with the coverage and deductibles. With limited markets available, it meant that I was unable to provide suitable quotes to a prospect to enable the closing of a deal. Now, our carriers are numerous – enabling us to offer reduced premiums and better coverage in most cases, allowing me to provide terms that I feel are the best for the client’s long-term insurance needs.

Why should a client have low deductibles ($500 or $1,000) if the business is most suited to $5,000 or $10,000 (or higher) deductible – yes, premiums will be lower but the client will not be faced with considering his/her filing a small claim that might mean a policy being non-renewed or having terms amended and fewer insurance companies wanting to insure that client. As the client’s “risk manager”, I might be making the decision but am expert enough to realize it is in the best interest of that client. That is a big difference, the difference from prior packaging and presentation. Confident, yes! But better yet, experienced and certain – not thinking inside old parameters but “outside the box”.