Thomas Curry

Monday, 28 July 2003 05:30

Executive benefits

Ask any business owner to name a key factor in the company's success, and talented and enthusiastic workers will likely be a top answer.

Successful companies know that finding and keeping talent can be difficult and recognize the importance of business plans that accomplish the "three R's" -- recruiting, rewarding and retaining key employees.

One tool used to achieve these goals is an executive benefit plan, which enables companies to design a flexible, cost-efficient compensation arrangement for valued executives, offering incentives beyond those included in standard benefit packages.

While executive benefit plans offer executives enticements to stay with the company and remain motivated to achieve superior performance, these benefits also have business advantages. An attractive plan enables owners to remain competitive in hiring and keeping talented managers, a valuable business strategy in an aggressive marketplace. And the company's bottom line will ultimately show the positive results of enhanced productivity of motivated and successful high-level workers.

Since executive benefit plans are created with a company's goals and unique business characteristics in mind, each is different. However, most offer a variety of benefits, including personal trust and estate planning services and personal financial and investment assistance.

Deferred compensation programs are another popular option. Through participation in these, executives lower their immediate tax bill and build retirement savings by deferring payment of a portion of their income until a determined date. Often that date is retirement, when lower income tax rates may apply.

Companies often offer fully funded deferred compensation programs to certain executives. In this case, participants receive their full salary while the company contributes to the program on behalf of the employee.

Insurance is another key consideration in executive benefit plans. It's important to have a plan in place should the owner of a business or key members of the executive team die or be temporarily disabled. Insurance provides financial leverage to implement succession plans or business transfers. Payouts from a life insurance policy can fund buyouts and benefits packages, depending on how the business plans and insurance policies are written.

While it's important for companies to insure themselves against the loss of top executives, an increasing number, especially small- and medium-sized companies, buy into "key person coverage." This life insurance helps a company fulfill its business obligations in the event of the loss of an upper-level executive.

Key life insurance policies can be especially beneficial for smaller businesses when a company may not be able to succeed without the person.

The appropriate executive benefit plan varies based on the nature of the business, company goals and number of employees. There's no "one-size-fits-all" program; each is customized for the business's needs. Seeking the advice of a qualified expert helps owners develop an executive benefit plan tailored to their circumstances.

Many financial organizations, including banks, offer a range of financial services, serving as a great resource for information and products. Taking advantage of such one-stop shops ensures that benefit packages, insurance and other financial arrangements contribute to the long-term business plan, preserving and protecting a lifetime of work. Thomas W. Curry is vice president of executive benefit planning, Fifth Third Bank. Reach him at (614) 341-2603 or tom.curry@53.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:10

Insurance risks of telecommuting

Insurance risks of telecommuting

Just because some of your employees work from home doesn't mean you're not liable for them.

By Thomas W. Curry

For 11 million workers across the country, a daily commute might mean a few steps out the kitchen door and down a flight of stairs.

I'm one of those workers. Two and a half years ago, I officially joined the growing ranks of corporate telecommuters, turning in my office key for a house key.

My position as an outside salesman for Berwanger Overmyer Associates is a natural for telecommuting. Today's technology allows the flexibility of working from home while remaining in close contact with the corporate office. Phones, fax machines, computers with modems, voicemail and pagers allow home-based employees like myself to remain connected to clients without taking up corporate office square footage.

Working for the insurance industry and as a telecommuter, I am sensitive to the potential risks involved in moving employees from an office environment into their homes. My advice to employers is to view those potential risks prior to making telecommuting a standard practice.

Before I moved the first piece of office equipment to my home, we made sure the company's insurance policy extended coverage to me for any losses I incurred while conducting business in my home. Some of the more common liability issues for telecommuters include:

  • Workers' compensation coverage. Consider how your company's premiums might be affected by a transition to telecommuting. The two biggest workers' comp concerns relate to ergonomics and the difficulty in drawing distinctions between those injuries related to work and those that are not.

  • Protection for damage to the home office or equipment. Keep track of the employees' homeowners or renters insurance policy as well as any umbrella policies they might have in case of potential losses that might require contact with that insurer.

  • Security of computer information and equipment stored in the home. Maintain an inventory of all home office equipment and furniture, along with model and serial numbers, in the event of a loss. This will help when filing a claim.

  • Injuries to people who visit the home on business. Make sure your business policy coverage extends to your workers' home offices and train employees how to report accidents or losses.

  • General office safety. Some companies make it a practice to visit each of their telecommuters annually to ensure compliance with a standard safety checklist. Inspections can include such items as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, proper use of extension cords and lighting, and ergonomically correct office furniture.

    Employers should choose their telecommuting employees carefully. Not all people can adapt to such an independent work environment. For me, I can think of no better way to work. Bringing my office home has been the best business move I've ever made.

    Thomas W. Curry is senior vice president for Berwanger Overmyer Associates in Upper Arlington.