How to partner with the right insurance adviser to meet your business’s needs Featured

8:01pm EDT October 31, 2011
How to partner with the right insurance adviser to meet your business’s needs

When you think of your insurance adviser, do you think of someone who is trying to push products on you? Or do you think of someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship and whom you view as a trusted adviser?

There are primarily four key elements in a dynamic partnership: respect, transparency, accountability and communication. If any of these characteristics are lacking, it might be time to find a new adviser, says Andrew Rowles, client adviser at SeibertKeck.

“Your insurance adviser should be a consistent partner, someone you believe is going to represent your best interests. As a CEO, their guidance, experience and capabilities are what protect your passion,” says Rowles. “This is not a unilateral relationship, a trusted insurance adviser should be intimately involved with your organization, going beyond brokering financial products. You want to feel like your adviser is on your side of the fence and that he or she is going to place you with the best possible product to meet your business needs.”

Smart Business spoke with Rowles about finding the right insurance adviser to meet your insurance needs.

How can a business leader find an insurance adviser who will work as a partner?

The key is interviewing your adviser and the agency as if they were an employee of your organization. Look for an adviser who has the right markets, can meet your business needs, works with other firms in your industry, and has the technical knowledge to place the proper program for your company. Review their strategy for placing insurance over the next three to five years. This is a long-term relationship, and this interview will help you find the right adviser.

What is the biggest mistake that businesses make when seeking insurance?

The biggest mistake is forgoing coverage for price. A competitive price is important, but having a consistent partner is more valuable. As a CEO, do you want a price-based relationship with your adviser, or an intimate relationship with someone who understands you and your business? Having a trusted advocate on your side will keep pricing low without compromising coverage. At a time when there is a loss, who do you feel most comfortable with ‘putting out the fire’?

How can this partnership help save a CEO both time and money?

As a business leader, time management is the most important aspect of your day.  Interruptions take you away from other productive activities. Ask yourself if your insurance adviser is helping you utilize your time as effectively as possible. Integrating your insurance adviser into your operation will provide peace of mind that you have the best program to protect the stability of your ‘going concern’ at a competitive price. Selecting an adviser with the experience, capabilities and vision to manage your operation will take the worry out of renewing coverages each year. If you market your insurance each year, ask yourself if the amount of time spent forming a new relationship, reviewing markets and current operation, having loss control visits, and reviewing multiple insurance presentations is justified.

Remember, your adviser represents multiple carriers, so ask for multiple quotes. The best price is not the best program; review every option.

How often should a business review its agency and carrier relationships?

It is important to continuously review the partnership you have with your insurance adviser.  Every agency will manage its clients’ expectations differently. Ask for a clear strategy for managing your complex insurance program. When presented with this strategy, keep in mind this long-term view should include flexibility for losses, business changes and variables in the insurance marketplace. Each time you market your insurance, carriers look at marketing history, losses over the last three-to-five years, competition and target premiums. Does marketing your insurance to multiple carriers every year make your company desirable to an underwriter? In a proactive relationship, your adviser should review coverage 90 days prior to renewal, which should make the renewal seamless.

What should a business expect from its insurance carrier?

There are primarily three avenues to purchase insurance: national, regional and excess and surplus insurance companies.  With the multitude of carriers competing in today’s marketplace, it can seem overwhelming to capture the best price and coverage for your firm.  As you narrow down your selection of carriers, consider financial strength, integrity, transparency, historical rates, loss control services, expertise and claims management.  Here are some questions to ask your adviser:

What has your adviser’s relationship and experience been with this company?

What is his or her experience with the claims team?

What are the historical trends of this company? Has this insurance company experienced dramatic change in rates?

How does its current and available coverages compare to its competitors?

Carriers enter and exit segments of business all the time; are these carriers interested in continuing to write our business?

Lastly, ask to meet your loss control and claims manager and underwriter. In these interactions, ask what loss control services the proposed insurance company offers. If the insurance company niche is manufacturing, ask for a loss control service platform.

Many carriers can assign claims managers to your specific account; ask to meet them as they can help minimize claim costs. Lower claim costs today reduce future insurance premiums. Loss control, claims and your adviser have substantial influence on your account with your underwriter. You should expect communication from your insurance team. If this is not happening, ask yourself ‘why not’?

Andrew Rowles is a client adviser at SeibertKeck. Reach him at (330) 865-6587 or arowles@seibertkeck.com.