Below are the “First Steps” I personally take when attempting to understand and present an account. These are not concrete in any fashion but simply methods I’ve developed and which have received positive feedback. If you can be an expert on your own clients then you can present them much more holistically to your carriers, and any sort of give-and-take will be far, far easier because of it.
Create a Profile
Without exception, every single one of you clients should have a profile. Think of these as “sell sheets” – they are the highlights of your client and provide a basic overview of history and operations.
Profiles will be the first thing most carriers review and, as such, help to frame the discussion. Think of it this way: if you were to simply rely on ACORDs for information you would know very little about an actual company and anything that “stood out” to you, say seeing an extra heavy fleet, will do so in the worst possible way. You would start to ask yourself why they’re on there, think about the huge risk associated with extra heavy units rather than PPT, etc.
You do this because you’re an insurance person and you’re supposed to go off on mental tangents like that. After all, our job is to anticipate the unexpected as best we can and protect our clients from it. But you absolutely do not want a carrier making their own assumptions about what is and is going on.
In essence, the more open ended questions you leave your carrier partner with the more they’re going to assume negatively in your favor. After all they have a limited time frame in the day just like you, so why would you make it hard for them to find relevant information, especially when it’s on something that may be concerning with appetite or capacity.
Profiles are an introduction and, if done right, allow the entire process to proceed with much less resistance and stumbling. It puts both you and your carrier partner on the same page – literally (see what I did there?).
At the very least, these profiles should contain:
- Name, history, size, employee count
- Description of operations
- Safety program/risk management
- List of operating entities/FEINs
I cannot tell you the number of times simply going through this process has produced new information for me – whether it’s finding a new corporate entity, or finding one that has shut down, or getting details on a service offered I never knew about.
Consider the profile a little research project and treat it accordingly – because any carrier partner is going to do the same thing and you do not want to be the one learning new information about your client when you discuss policy terms.
Review Legal Sources, Review Ownership, Review JVs, and Make an Org Chart
Related to the Profile but important enough that it bears repeating: look up all entities your client has. Domestically, nearly every state will provide you with free access to the Secretary of State business register website where you can search by name, sometimes owner, etc. The number of entities you will find will astound you – I have even had the pleasure of telling the client about an entity that was opened up in their name.
On the flip side, always, always, always ask about Joint Ventures. These often will not show up in searches since they will be under different names, or ownership will be in the name of an executive and not the company. Especially in certain industries (looking at you, construction) JVs are incredibly common and set up almost without thought. However, when it comes to insurance programs, consequences can be dire if you don’t have it set up correctly.
Finally, you need to review ownership – especially if your client has JVs. Never think that something is a subsidiary until you see the stock holdings. Often you will be told something is a subsidiary when it’s really a sister company. And to the client it is – if Martha owns both 100% of Company A and Company B, she basically considers them subsidiaries. However, from an insurance standpoint, they are separate – you will not get “automatic” coverage for one simply because you insure the other.
Get DETAILS on the Operations
The number of industry people I’ve met who know nothing about their client beyond “oh they’re an XYZ maker” is astounding. If someone makes wood products do they also have tree farms or storage areas? Do they take in recycled or treated wood? What machinery do they use and is it a fire or personnel hazard? If someone is a medical office do they use third parties, such as overseas radiologists? Do they moonlight anywhere? If your client is in construction do they also design? Etc. Etc.
Your client is the best source of information for them, so as you’re getting the “basics” down for your profile make a list of questions you have – what kind of equipment is used? What’s your territory of operations? Do you sell overseas?
A great place to review what might be asked are the applications that are ultimately going to need completed anyway. So take a look at those and see what carriers want to know about and then go even a step further. This is because if an application asks “Do you perform XYZ” the question is likely there because of appetite or coverage reasons. So if you get that information beforehand you’re in a much better position than trying to figure it out 2 weeks after you sent in an application and 3 days before you need the quote.
Review Safety Programs
Every client of decent size will (or should) have a safety program. While not all industries will be as critical of these, it’s incredible information to have and to provide with an application even if it’s not specifically asked for. Being able to show a dedicated, robust safety program up front will help allay concerns should they arise later.
If your client requires all your employees to get a certain certification state it loud and proud! If they won awards, provide magazine articles showing such! If they work with very large national/international partners say that as well – those entities have the luxury of being judicious regarding who they use and it’s a definite star on your record if you are in such a trusted network.
Review Claims, Loss Picks, Details/Response
This topic is incredibly important because it’s likely the part your direct carrier partner (underwriter) has the least control over. If someone picks out at $X then it’s hard to bargain around that.
However, what you can do is review everything yourself first. Get 5-10 year loss runs and run a loss pick. For any significantly sized claims get details and, just as importantly, get responses your client made to their operations to prevent that from happening.
This is because anything of concern in claims is going to get kicked upstairs and you’re going to have near-zero influence on it. But what you can do is get all the information beforehand and present a compelling case to your direct partner (underwriter) then *they* will have the tools to advocate on your behalf. This underwriter, and their direct reports, will be the ones interfacing with whichever division is able to make an exception. So if you leave them hanging with imperfect information then you’re sabotaging your own efforts.
Anticipate and Provide
A few years into the insurance service game and you should know what is generally required of each client and/or carrier. It’s crazy to think that though we are busy all the time, we actually only “work” on a submission for a very short period of time, just at multiple intervals.
Your carriers work the same way – they want to pick up a file and complete it. If they can’t it gets put back down and you either get to wait another week or you get a 10 word e-mail with a single question. Then another. Then one asking for a copy of financials. Then, then, then….
You can save literal days or weeks off of processing time by eliminating as much of this back and forth as possible – and your carriers will love you for that. Can you imagine the feeling you’d have if you got a piece of new business that had a full copy of all policies, endorsements, applications, and currently valued loss runs – rather than the misspelled name of the business on a cocktail napkin we usually get? You’d be ecstatic – you’d be able to work on that start to finish.
Again, carriers want that to. So if you can anticipate needs – even going so far as to securing supplementals which “may not” be needed but are nice to have – it will make your relationship, and the potential outcome for your client, so much better.
You may look at this and say this is way more work than you’re doing when (e.g.) a piece of new business comes up. And you’re probably right. But I have found that these efforts save so much more time in the future and, in fact, things like the profile become a personal reference for me; I can literally open them up and copy/paste an org chart to someone rather than trying to make one from scratch via 12 screens in a management system.
But caveat emptor: these are things I do personally and they may not transfer to others. But whatever you end up doing I would suggest you track how your carrier partners respond because, ultimately, if they are happy with your work then they will be much better and able to respond to your coverage asks.