Archive for the ‘Insurance Contracts’ Category

Is YOUR Business selling to RETAIL?

April 24, 2017

It wasn’t that many years ago when a manufacturer didn’t really worry about Accounts Receivable (A/R’s) if one sold or supplied to a BIG NAME firm, e.g. General Motors (GM), Chrysler, Delphi, Kodak, Blockbuster, Schwinn Bicycle, Marvel Entertainment, Hugo Boss, Reader’s Digest, Trump Hotels, Sears, Radio Shack, etc., because they always paid you and you really didn’t worry the same as the neighborhood “Mom & Pop” operation, right? Even if you gave 30 or 60 day terms and didn’t get paid for 90 days, it just meant you waited but why would you really need worry.

Unfortunately, today’s world has changed substantially and auto makers like GM had to restructure with governments bailing them out, Radio Shack went under and Sears recently said there was “substantial doubt” as to their long-term operating ability. WOW! Many of the names listed above have all had to restructure and that meant unsecured vendors were not very happy.

So how do YOU manage your business to ensure that you will be paid and remain afloat? I have met so many companies, through the years, that would often have 80% of their sales from a small number of customers and I would always recommend prudent Risk Management – “don’t put all your eggs in 1 basket” – and suggest they consider diversifying their markets and considering options for transfer of their risk, e.g. trade credit insurance. Some clients neglected to follow any or much of my advice and I do know of several who are no longer in business.

Trade credit insurance is often used by firms in Europe but not so often in North America. Why? Europeans may have been less reliant on one’s reputation, perhaps, but my own banking background tells me that North American banks don’t suggest the option, don’t know enough about it and don’t vary credit terms adequately to encourage YOU obtain this. I also hear that terms are much more favorable in European banks for those companies who do purchase the option so many of you don’t feel the savings warrant the added expense.

Where I do find many Canadian (can’t say the same is more or less frequent in the US) companies using Trade Credit Insurance is in their Export Financing but why only for those types of deals? Perhaps you Factor your A/R’s but I just read “Wells Fargo & Co. is among the firms no longer providing Sears vendors with factoring — short-term financing that helps gives them a cushion.” Imagine then what I seem to hear more often than not – insurance works when you really don’t need it but often doesn’t respond when you truly have the need. Do you feel that way or have you heard this said?

This is why I continue to preach Risk Management and supplementing with a suitable Risk Transfer mechanism (insurance should not be solely price-driven when purchasing but knowing what is and is NOT covered and buying the policy from a reputable agency/brokerage with adequate Errors & Omissions insurance of their own and a suitably rated (I tend to like AM Best A-ratings or better) underwriter for your General Liability, Trade Credit, Cyber, Crime, Specialty and Directors’ & Officers’ Liability policies.

I do hope you realize that insurance buying may be 1 of the most important business decisions you make each year but I do know that you overlook this importance because of the trust you place in your providers and the lack of understanding of what is really behind an insurance contract.

 

Let’s discuss today! I can be reached on Twitter (@WRiskManager), on LinkedIn or Facebook and by e-mail – larryewinsurance@gmail.com

 

Info derived from http://www.msn.com/en-ca/money/companies/sears-payless-woes-push-retail-vendors-to-get-more-militant/ar-BBAcFIC?li=AA54rW&ocid=spartanntp and other online material.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY (OHS) – FINES, SURCHARGES, EXPENSES AND CONVICTIONS – WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH INSURANCE?

August 15, 2014

Through the years in which I have been working in the insurance business as a broker, it became apparent to me that most clients will simply view his/her broker as a salesman, not as the professionals we all strive to be. That was why I focused my career in the consulting field of Risk Management. I realized that insurance won’t always do what I felt it did, previously, for clients and what we all would say it was designed for, ensuring the client is placed back in the same position following a loss as that client was prior to the event.

Some insurance companies have gone on to do surveys and express results that show only 50%, for example, of any business losses are ever covered by insurance! YES, only ½ of your losses can and will be reimbursed by the purchase of an insurance policy.

So what does this mean YOU should then do? Well, finding a professional and reputable insurance brokerage who understands Risk Management can be a wonderful step; but I know many businesses will still feel they are dealing with a “salesman”, someone who derives financial reward from the selling of an insurance policy to YOU! This may be quite accurate, in a large number of situations. I will gladly consult with businesses within my “licensed” territory (ONTARIO, CANADA) on a “fee” basis (but even then I will – if you read further – offer something SPECIAL to YOU) but also perform further reviews outside my territory for those who understand my expertise may be limited by some restrictions of knowledge (e.g. Workers Compensation laws in the various US states) that would need to be supplemented by other experts.

As a former retail commercial banker in both Canada and the USA and a licensed Life/Accident & Sickness insurance agent (“we” in the industry prefer the term broker since it represents multiple insurance company representation) and Property/Casualty broker in both Canada and US, I have been working for my clients, in a manner different than usual, for 10+ years. In reviewing leases, contracts, loan agreements and other legal documentation – supplemented by financial statements to ensure the client knows what all their major risks of conducting business are – I can identify and advise whether it is suitable to “retain” or “transfer” various identified business risks to others. The definition of retention includes assuming all risks by self-insuring all or a portion through deductibles, under-insuring, etc. Most businesses are not aware of the many risks they face nor whether it is even possible or if they have insurance to rectify a loss when it occurs. Transferring one’s risk may be through the purchase of an insurance contract that transfers the risk of loss to an insurance company, pool, captive or obtaining a Hold-Harmless Agreement, etc.

In my own region, for example, I will highlight some possible circumstances that might relate to your own business and real risks you know about and, without pointing fingers, tell you why you might want to talk with me. After reading this statement, if you don’t contemplate contacting me then do discuss with your insurance professionals and get a second opinion because many, in my field, are NOT aware of the availability of insurance for these expenses – (TORONTO (Canadian OH&S News) Penalties for workplace safety violations in Ontario are harsher than any other province in the country, threatening employers and supervisors alike with thousands of dollars in penalties at the least, and jail time for the most egregious of errors.).

I know many of us are familiar with Bill C-45 – http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/legisl/billc45.html – but if, for some reason (possibly you are not a Canadian and immigrated here) then you should be. Penalties for violation can result in substantial fines and/or jail terms. Insurance will never suffice if a jail term is meted out by the judicial system but the legal defence costs, while you are assumed innocent until proven guilty, need to be paid and here is where some form of insurance may meet your need.

Canada: Canadian Employers Hit With Record Setting Occupational Health and Safety Fines – is $750,000 excessive or fair for a family-run corporation? http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/269016/employment+litigation+tribunals/Canadian+Employers+Hit+With+Record+Setting+Occupational+Health+and+Safety+Fines+The+HR+Space

BOLTON, Ontario—A 67 year old contractor lost his life while making repairs to a reach truck. http://www.mmdonline.com/safety-and-security/contractor-dies-repairing-reach-truck-77870/

TORONTO, ON – Symtech Innovations Ltd., a construction business in the commercial and industrial sectors, has been fined $90,000 after a worker died following a fall through a skylight. http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2014/08/symtech-innovations-ltd-fined-90000-after-worker-dies.html

WOODSTOCK, ON – Erie Greenhouse Structures Inc., a company that produces and installs greenhouses and related equipment in Tillsonburg, has been fined $73,000 after a worker lost part of a finger in machinery. http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2014/08/erie-greenhouse-structures-inc-fined-73000-after-worker-injured.html

BRAMPTON, ON – Action Trailer Sales Inc., a company that sells, leases, maintains and repairs all types of semi-trailers, has been fined $50,000 after a worker was injured while changing equipment on a trailer. http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2014/05/action-trailer-sales-inc-fined-50000-after-worker-injured.html

BRAMPTON, ON – General Kinetics Engineering Corporation, a manufacturer of vehicle suspension systems, has been fined $50,000 after a worker fell from a ladder. http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2014/06/general-kinetics-engineering-corporation-fined-50000-after-worker-injured.html

Now what is the “something SPECIAL to YOU” that I offer? As a consultant, I would normally charge a fee for service but anyone – within Ontario, CANADA – who contacts me and mentions this Blog will be entitled to 1 hour of FREE analysis and feedback, without any further obligation. I can be reached by e-mail – larryewinsurance@gmail.com and I might call this my “end of summer” special but the sale won’t be limited to a timeframe if YOU mention to me at any other time since I am hoping that my Blog is the reason and wish to promote blogging as an effective tool in my business promotional efforts. If you don’t live/operate from Ontario, CANADA and still wish to discuss, I am very happy to see if there might be an opportunity to assist you – again at no cost, but it may NOT be 1 hour FREE but a shorter time.

Student Apartments, Residences, Housing, etc. – NOT Apartments!

September 20, 2011

Any property investor or LENDER in the Province of Ontario, CANADA who has an equity or financial interest in student accommodations should take special care when purchasing, renewing or accepting as collateral an insurance policy – insurance companies do NOT like to insure any properties with multiple students living in any unit.  Many insurance companies decline the class of business so that anyone who is selling insurance through those companies may not be insuring you, whether you hold an insurance policy or not!

If you are reading this and own or lend on student housing where the insurance policy does not identify as such, e.g. shows as “apartment building” on your policy – do yourself a huge favour and ask to have the policy amended by the insurance company – not just the agent/broker.

Some commercial realtors are not yet realizing the predicament in which this places an investor – buyer or seller (and also the realtor) – if you own any of the many student apartments being advertised as such.  And many insurance salespeople are also not aware of the consequences to the client, the firm (brokerage or agency) or the insurance company if written as an apartment building and a claim occurs.  If declined by an insurance company for “material misrepresentation”, our whole industry is tarnished by your oversight and I, for one, do not appreciate hearing of another insurance company claim that was not paid, legitimately or otherwise.

Insurance companies on both sides of the border do not like multiple tenanted risks – “rooming houses” by definition – and most of these student apartments have 5 in each unit; well, how can anyone describe this occupancy in any other terms?  If you don’t wish to take my word for it, please do some research and you will quickly learn and agree with me.

Many of you (I have to take each of you at your word when I hear that Aviva, Economical, etc. are insuring you) have an insurance policy that may not respond to a claim in the event of a loss – property or liability – because the insurance company will not insure “student residences”!  Yes, this is common knowledge among the insurance community so anyone who is insuring as an apartment building had better be extremely careful in dealing with you; do NOT rely on their written evidence that you have an insurance policy but insist on the insurance company showing on the policy or verifying in writing that you have students occupying the property.  There are acceptable insurance markets for this category of risk – Lloyd’s being one, Zurich (yes, we have access for fire-resistant structures through this carrier) and, possibly, others through “subscription” or wholesale facilities.

I specailize in working with investors, lenders and property managers so why not just contact me for advice and assistance to ensure that you do not face the terrible consequences of having an insurance policy but not really having insurance?  I have an appointment this week with someone who thought State Farm still wrote student apartments until they contacted the company to determine otherwise (after I encouraged them to obtain written verification that they do have coverage).

And one final note: ask your insurance professional to explain cancellation when done “ab initio” – it means that you were cancelled as if there never was any insurance policy written.  I am sure that you do not wish for that to happen to you!

Student Apartments – calling all investors, underwriters and brokers – BEWARE!

September 20, 2011

Why is it so easy to lie (well, I am frank – let’s call it “stretch the truth”) when someone asks a question?  I made a phone call that resulted in exactly what I anticipated and an outright “LIE”!  ‘Who do you have that will insure “Student Apartments”?’  This, after I explained that it was a 4-floor building of 7 units and 5 students in each apartment which I know is a “STUDENT ROOMING HOUSE” description – NOT a description for an Apartment Building.

The office I phoned was a smaller brokerage I know that advertises they insure these exact type buildings (I’ve run into them in my travels) and did exactly what they were expected to do – ask me for my information where I was very evasive since I am a competitor of theirs, unknown to them as John Smith.

Because they have a website and a Facebook page, it becomes easier to document what I need to use in a blog of this sort.  There are “X” insurance “markets” showing in total for their firm – this includes Auto, Substandard Auto, Surety, etc.  This means I can eliminate several and a few more who have expressed to us  (Aviva, for example, does not have the property capacity to exceed $1Million, Intact has withdrawn quotes and Economical refuse to insure) that they do not have an interest in insuring “student housing/apartments” of any sort in our geographic territory (I won’t say they do not in other parts of our country or the world because I know they do have smaller percentages of property on subscription policies available through specialty wholesale markets) – Ontario, CANADA.

I will say the broker stretched the truth, unless they were counting wholesale markets when replying to me.  Why tell me one has 4 or 5 insurance companies that will insure this kind of risk?  Either it is a lie to the caller or to the insurance company when describing the type of business when quoting is requested – OK, I will tell you their firm is also a member of an apartment managers association, and, if they were a larger brokerage, may then have exactly what they told me BUT they are NOT.

I will not accuse the brokerage of misrepresenting to the insurance company – I have only seen 1 policy they had in force where I know this may have happened but if you’re a member of an association, would it not be easier for an insurance brokerage to include this sort of property in their portfolio?

What I do know is that there are several insurance brokerages in my territory of operation who have been misrepresenting STUDENT APARTMENTS to the insurance companies as APARTMENT BUILDINGS – and, for those who are not familiar with the differences, they are huge!  An apartment will house a single family or a couple of unrelated individuals – NOT 5 students who are unrelated in EACH apartment unit.  The risk is greater and very significant to an insurance company so why would any insurance company insure for the same premiums as an apartment and 1/3 or 1/4 what Lloyd’s might charge for Student Rooming Houses?  They would not, knowingly!

I have been researching this a great deal – in both Canada and the USA – and will tell you that there is a good likelihood, in the event of a significant claim, you will find you do NOT have any insurance so why pay for a policy that is not going to respond when you need it to?  If you are paying an insurance premium for “fool’s gold”, do you really believe you can collect for “gold” after the loss?  I am not trying to scare business to my door but being very practical and hope that each of my readers understands that.

It would be easy to document for any company underwriter where the streets are (there are at least a half dozen university campuses – Guelph, Laurier, Waterloo, Western, McMaster, Conestoga – within 1-1.5 hour drive of my home office).  Since I am so familiar with the territory, why not ask?  Even Google Maps will assist if you’re not anxious to contact me.  For those underwriters who are not familiar with this simple fact – Economical and Aviva are presently on risk for many of these buildings that they will not and do not insure – HMMMMM!  How many other insurance companies are insuring “multi-family apartments” within 1-2 kms. of an university campus?  Look at Google Maps and check your building addresses and descriptions!

Knowing that the market in the USA is anticipated to grow (and Canada is following suit) where starts were expected to tally as much in 2011 as in the prior 3 years, I fully understand why insurance brokers are targeting this sort of risk but how long before your reputation is tarnished by not disclosing to your underwriters what is being insured?  How long will it be before loss ratios mount and you risk losing company contracts?

Yes, it may be an impossible task for me to educate everyone involved in the buying, selling and investing in the latest real estate craze but I surely hope to try.  Insurance companies do not have to pay a claim or defend you if there is any known “material misrepresentation” and it will then be up to you to decide how to pursue your insurance agent/broker.  What is the cost – both financially and in time – to you?

Try cutting to the root of the problem and discuss with a professional who is expert in the field of student housing.  I await your comments, mail, calls.  And I cover from Ottawa to Windsor and do know the niche!

Insurance – a written contract, credibility and integrity vs. “Material Misrepresentation” and “ab initio” cancellation

September 9, 2011

It is strange to sit here and think about how I should address such a topic as one’s integrity and credibility in the Financial Services field – especially given the global financial meltdown of a couple of years ago and some of the lessons that, as a society, were learned – I thought – at the time.

Unfortunately, I have to be critical of competitors of mine which I don’t really like to do.  The reason is that I have seen something, recently, that brought this to the forefront while I have been contemplating it for the past 1-2 (surely, it can’t be 10-20) years now.

When an individual or business owner wishes to “shop” his/her insurance, how should this be done?  Should research be done into the insurance agent/broker and what degree of checking can they do?  Do you care about the “rating” of the insurance company that is quoting and issuing the insurance policy?  What significance is that to whether a claim – your claim – might be reimbursed?  Can an insurance company not pay a claim?  What is “Material Misrepresentation” and something called cancelling “ab initio”?

I’ve been through some excellent training – yes, even Roger Sitkins may have an excellent approach – but I don’t always agree with what is being implemented (hiring people from outside the insurance industry with various specialties and experience to then sell to those same industries but not really know anything about insurance?).  Might that not give cause for misrepresenting the description of operations (how important can this be?) to an insurance underwriter because of a lack of understanding of the insurance business?

Having seen a number of insurance “contracts” – yes, that is what the policy is and what the broker/agent’s “summary of insurance” (or any other written offer/binder until the insurance policy is issued) is – that do NOT properly address a client’s true “description of operations” is incomprehensible.  For many years, I have known of insurance companies who refuse to quote a submission where a licensed restaurant/facility may occupy a strip shopping plaza or where a portion of a multi-tenanted building is vacant.  And yet, that same insurance company will be insuring many clients in that identical situation!

How can any agent/broker explain to his/her client the reasoning behind this?  I don’t know if it is possible!  As to why one individual will provide a quote from “XYZ Insurance Co.” and that same company has declined similar/identical submissions to another broker?  Well, an important reason can be the information that was provided to an underwriter!  If I describe an apartment building that houses 5 or 6 students in each unit as a High-Rise Apartment Building, will I see the same result as a properly worded submission – “High-Rise Apartment Building occupied as Student Housing”?  Anyone who is familiar with our industry will know that the answer to this question is very obvious!  It is just as apparent to a seasoned veteran as describing a frame building as fire-resistive and we all should know that critical difference.

This week, I was advised by an insurance company that they have a “capacity” of $1,000,000 for property in a specific class of business – meaning buildings, contents, etc. (and $1,000,000 is NOT a large sum of money).  To insure a greater amount will then require obtaining their Head Office approval and the possibility of purchasing “re-insurance” at much higher rates than their normal charge might be – this is not too likely to happen!  They would, in all likelihood, not be competitive, either.  That company, apparently, quoted a competitor of mine (according to a client) for $20,000,000+ in Property values at lower premiums – hmmm?  What does that tell you?  It tells me the insurance company may now rescind that very quote (and I would hate to be the broker having to explain that one to the client – oh, it is easy to say it’s the insurance company’s fault, right?).

And when there is a claim that your (not my) client – I’m now directing this at my competition – expects to be reimbursed by the insurance company, will you be there to explain why – due to “material misrepresentation” – that the insurance company refused to pay?  I surely hope so but tend to doubt it.  Maybe my industry competition will claim that this is a case of my crying over “sour grapes” but I was raised in a family where a handshake meant something and a written contract wasn’t necessary (yes, I know those were the days, as is often said) and credibility and integrity still mean something to me!  Where is your integrity and credibility going to be?

I have known, countless times, of manufacturers who exported most of their product and were not paying suitable liability insurance because the company underwriter has limits for percentages of foreign sales and was never advised that they were exceeded (e.g. 10% when it was 90%!).  One instance, I know quite well, was a Wholesaler/Importer of goods from Southeast Asia where the insurance company was not aware of what the product was or where it was manufactured – and yes, it was “critical”!  Yes, company websites are checked, sometimes, and the info showing can be significant in the event an underwriter is reviewing your quote or renewal.

Having as many years in this industry, as I do, should give some of my clients and prospective clientele a degree of comfort but when another individual can insure someone for not 15-20% less but at 1/3 of my quoted premium, will you be really caring about that?  I surely hope so!  Then again, maybe you will think that insurance is a necessary evil and that nothing will ever happen to you and your business!  GOOD LUCK!

Oh, if you really care to know more about “material misrepresentation”, cancellation “ab initio”, etc., please contact me by your feedback, here or elsewhere, on the many postings I have.  Only then you may find that your provider is not too credible and wish to replace him/her!  But I won’t be waiting with nothing to occupy my time because I do have many clients who want a professional handling their insurance business for them.