In this day and age, insurance is a very important line item for businesses. And you don’t want a broker who is unable to deliver results.

Managing Director David Toth, of Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc., says it’s critical for your insurance agent or broker to be familiar with your specific industry. If you make widgets, the broker should have experience with manufacturers. If you’re running a hospital, the broker needs experience in the health care industry.

“Experience and past performance of underwriting the business successfully is key,” he says. “You don’t want to be a guinea pig.”

Smart Business spoke with Toth about how to vet and ensure good service from your insurance broker.

What should you be looking for and asking about when vetting a new agent?

Use the vetting process to make sure you have a broker who understands your business, is responsive and shows flexibility. For example, in the entertainment field, you need special insurance enhancements and carefully crafted policy language to ensure the broadest coverage possible. You also need a broker who is capable of adhering to your wishes — it’s not how the broker wants it, it’s how the client wants it.

Ask for referrals, which most brokers are more than willing to share, rather than depending solely on a firm’s website. Also take time to meet the key people in the firm.

Inquire thoroughly about what insurance markets are available, because the more competition the broker can foster for your insurance, the better your program. In addition, inquire whether people from the brokerage sit on any of the governing boards of the carriers they represent, as this means they have influence on policy decisions and/or claims procedures.

One more point of qualification to ask a new broker is: What limit of errors and omissions insurance do you carry? If the brokerage only carries $1 million, is this enough if a broker’s mistake results in a loss to your business? Keep in mind this is the limit they carry for all clients in the firm.

Are there ways to tell if an agent provides good service?

It depends on whom you ask. Some clients might place responsiveness at the top of the list, while others need to be kept abreast of changes in the industry, including trends with insurance prices. So, for example, is the agent sharing the upcoming changes with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Has the brokerage advised you that if you’re in California your workers’ compensation rates might increase because of changes with the insurance code? Do you already know that with insurance carriers exiting the California management liability market, those lines could increase dramatically?

Other service concerns are:

•  How does the agent keep you up to date on the claims process? Does he or she regularly follow up?

•  What does the broker do in terms of your premium rates? Is he or she doing all he or she can to obtain the best rates for you?

•  Is the agent delivering the renewal two weeks prior to renewal, or waiting until the last minute? Do you feel as if you are part of the process and have control?

• How available is the agent? If it’s important to you on a Saturday, it should be important to the broker on a Saturday.

How do you know whether to stay with your current broker or to move on?

Loyalty is a great thing, but it doesn’t hurt to have another set of eyes. Ask an independent insurance broker to review your insurance program — usually at no cost — and make sure you don’t have duplicate coverage or coverage gaps, while double-checking for extra benefits and/or cost savings. And if someone else can’t improve upon your insurance policies significantly, it confirms that your current broker is doing a good job.

David Toth is managing director at Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc. Reach him at (818) 933-2721 or dtoth@mmibi.com.

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Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc.

Published in Los Angeles