Start Your Renewal Process Early This Year

Turbulence in the contracting business, probably at an all-time high.  Businesses are shrinking or expanding constantly.  As a risk manager, you must embrace reality and try to resolve the current state of affairs.

Start your renewal process today by comparing your policy estimated payrolls with the summary W-2 sheet produced by your accounting department (must be completed by February 1).

Review the 1099s and check these recipients against your files to assure certificate compliance and proper risk transfer techniques.

After reassessing your payroll exposures for the coming year, estimate your current premium.  Talk to your agent about optional markets at that premium level, insurance companies have different appetites for different size risks.  Find several appropriate insurers.

Many insurers now demand loss control inspections prior to commitment to offering any quote.  Get your reports in order.  Make sure loss control measures are in place and working.  Order loss runs from your current carrier to have on hand.

Most important: leave enough lead time for the inspections to occur.  At least ninety days, so new insurers can inspect your operations.

The insurance markets retool every few years and create new identities, new brands within the industry.  Currently, insurance companies are deciding what size accounts they will seek, single lines like workers’ compensation or general liability, or supporting lines requirements: like workers’ compensation, general liability or automobile liability.  Ask your agent what the current view is among their companies.

The key to having choices is starting early now.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the renewal carrier.

While your reassessing your policies, rethink your program as well.  Your program consists of the risk management decisions that have subtle but important impacts on your insurance costs.  For example: what is your best expiration date?  In the construction industry, January first or April first are popular choices in a well-managed risk management program.

One secret within the insurance industry: rates tend to change on calendar quarters.  If rates are increasing on April first, you can always renew on March thirty-first if you have enough lead time.  But you need to know in advance and have friendly underwriters, and proactive agents.

Calendar quarters allow for government filings to be used as a basis for the insurance auditors, and audits go smoother.  Corporate financial years can be good, especially if they fall on calendar quarters.  Decide your best expiration date (and you want all liability lines to share that date)and begin 120 days in advance gathering quote information and loss data.  Shop early.

EQUIPMENT FLOATER INSURANCE: DON’T LEAVE YOUR OFFICE WITHOUT IT!

By definition, you operate away from your premises. Let’s say that a hailstorm damages two of your bulldozers on a job site – or a carrier transporting one of your backhoes is hijacked at a rest stop. Did you know that Property insurance will not reimburse you for these losses!

To cover loss or damage to construction equipment when it’s on the job or in transit, you need an Equipment Floater policy. This type of coverage goes back as far as the 17th century when Lloyd’s of London extended insurance on ship cargos beyond ocean voyages to their final destinations. Because this property was essentially “floating,” these policies came to be known as Floaters.

Equipment Floaters for construction businesses cover a variety of mobile equipment – from bulldozers and backhoes to forklifts, bobcats, and cranes – when they’re away from your premises. (Please note that coverage does not extend to cars, trucks, and vans, for which you should have, Commercial Vehicle insurance).

You can buy an Equipment Floater policy on either a “named peril” basis – which lists the specific risks covered – or as an “all risk” policy – that includes losses from all causes not specifically listed. In most cases, the policy will not pay for losses or damage from such reasonably foreseeable causes as mechanical breakdown, wear and tear, and improper loading or use of the equipment.

As Construction Insurance professionals, we’d be happy to help you choose an Equipment Floater that’s best for you. Feel free to get in touch with us at any time.

Tips To Boost Your Cyber Security In The New Year

Cyber attacks threaten more than your company’s computers. They could affect your company’s ability to stay in business. Prepare for a safe and secure 2018 when you boost cyber security.

Update Software Often

Ensure that every device in your network is equipped with anti-virus software and set to update automatically. Commit to check for patch updates, too, often throughout the year.

Use Firewalls

Firewalls protect your computer from many viruses and other malicious content. They can block suspicious content and prevent employees from accessing malicious websites. Double check that your firewalls are working and updated.

Open Email Carefully

Cybercriminals often place viruses, malware and other malicious content in email attachments, or they entice readers to share personal information. Because your employees may receive hundreds of daily emails, host a training and equip them to recognize and avoid threats.

Improve Passwords

Require employees to change passwords every month or more frequently. Also, encourage them not to share their password with anyone, even with coworkers, and never to write down their passwords. For security, passwords should follow several guidelines.

  • Be hard to guess
  • Include eight or more characters
  • Contain a mix of uppercase and lower letters, characters and numbers
  • Be different for every site

Share Files Wisely

Many companies rely on file sharing, and your employees and clients can collaborate safely when you use cloud-based sharing resources like Google Docs, OneDrive or Dropbox. Remind employees never to share files with strangers, and disable sharing of all hard drives to prevent infections.

Back Up Data

All systems should automatically back up data throughout the day. Now’s also a great time to select and begin using an off-site data storage option for greater security.

Perform Regular Security Scans

Legitimate anti-spyware programs scan your computer and remove damaging files, malware and other malicious content. Choose a program carefully, then set it up to scan daily.

Implement a Cybersecurity Team and Safety Protocol Steps

Whether you hire several IT specialists or rely one one chief security officer, your company needs a team who will monitor, prevent and address cyber threats. Additionally, implement protocols that guide your employees on how to address and report cyber security challenges they face like pop-ups, outdated network security certificates or suspicious emails.

Purchase Cyber Insurance   

Insurance can’t prevent a cyber attack, but it does cover financial costs associated with breaches. Purchase or update your cyber insurance so you can pay for damages, remediation and other costs that result from a cyber attack.

Cybersecurity threats affect hundreds of businesses every year. These steps boost your security and prepare your business to stay safe in 2018.

DOG-BITES-MAN COSTS INSURERS BIG BUCKS

Insurance companies shelled out $479 million to pay for dog bites last year, up from $413 million in 2010.

One company alone, State Farm, paid more than $109 million in Homeowner claims related to bites. California – which has more people and dogs than any other state – led the nation with 527 State Farm claims costing more than $20 million, followed by Illinois, Texas, and Ohio. The nationwide average claim was $28,800.

Dogs bite some 4.7 million Americans a year, nearly half of them children, Nearly 400,000 of these bites require medical treatment – and an average of 16 result in death.

Children age 5 to 9 are the group most likely to be bitten. The ASPCA predicts that one of every two children in the U.S. will suffer a dog bite before he or she turns 12, in most cases by their own dog or a pooch owned by a friend or neighbor. Seniors are the next most vulnerable group, followed by mail carriers. Dogs bit some 5,600 USPS carriers in each of each of the past two years, costing the Postal Service more than $1 million worth of medical bills in 2011.

Heredity, socialization, training, physical condition, and activities of humans can all affect the animal’s propensity to bite. Because children are by far the group most vulnerable to dog bites (a child is 900 times more likely to be attacked than a letter carrier) the ASPCA recommends that youngsters should never:

Maintain eye contact with a dog
Go near a chained canine
Approach or touch a dog who is eating, sleeping, or off-leash
Scream or run if an off-leash dog approaches
Pet a dog without asking its caregiver for permission (it’s wise to have the animal sniff your closed hand first – many dogs perceive an open hand as threatening)
Approach a dog from above its eye level

WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCE CREDIT SCORES

Credit card companies, lenders, landlords and even prospective employers use credit scores to determine an individual’s level of financial responsibility. Credit scores are supposed to be snapshots of a person’s credit history. They are determined by Fair, Isaac & Co., which is commonly referred to as FICO. When individuals have low scores, their credit applications are usually denied. In some cases, a score that is low but not too low for approval will result in a high interest rate. Many lenders use a person’s credit score to set the loan cost. It is important for everyone to understand how credit scores are calculated.

Factors Affecting Credit Scores.

The method FICO uses to compute scores is very complex. However, several factors represent a percentage of the overall score. Here is a summary of the factors and their corresponding percentages: Payment history comprises 35% of the total score. This includes data from monthly bills, collection accounts and past bankruptcies. In today’s world, a 30-day delinquency is worse than a bankruptcy filed five years ago.

Outstanding debts make up 30% of the score. If the total amount of debts is close to the total amount of available credit, the result is usually a lower score. Having a high balance on one credit card is worse than having low balances on two cards.

Credit history length comprises 15% of the score. Accounts that have been open for a long time are better for a score than new accounts. The types of credit accounts make up 10% of the score. Loans obtained from finance companies usually result in a lower score.

Recent inquiries on a credit history account make up 10% of the score. People who have recently applied for new loans or credit accounts may see negative effects on their scores.

Some credit companies are more concerned about specific parts of a person’s credit history. For example, one company might put a heavy emphasis on payment history. However, another company might be more concerned about the types of accounts open. One of the biggest questions people have about their credit scores is which numbers are good and which ones are bad. As a rule, scores range between 300 and 900.

The average score is about 750. As peoples’ scores increase from this number, their default risk decreases. Research has shown consistent connections between high default rates and low scores. People who have scores below the average number of 750 might have difficulty convincing creditors to offer affordable loan rates. However, it is important to compare rates. Not all lenders gather data from the same reporting bureaus. There are three main bureaus, and each one might have different information than another.

For example, Experian might include information about a sizable collection account that another bureau might not. This can result in a lower score from Experian. If one lender uses Experian and another uses Equifax, the lender using Equifax would probably offer the best deal in such a scenario.

Although credit scores are usually different from one bureau to the next, it is rare to find large gaps. For example, the average person would see a set of scores such as 750, 745 and 760. It would be rare to see a set of scores that include 750, 760 and 505. However, inaccuracies can bring such rarities into reality. This is one of the reasons why it is important to monitor credit scores.

Everyone is entitled to one free annual report copy, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. For a fee, consumers can view their credit scores online. Ask our agents about approved sites for obtaining credit scores. Not all sites are reliable, and some are only out to collect personal data. Not all people are happy when they see their scores. If it is necessary to raise them, follow these suggestions:

Keep all payments current, and make up any missed payments.
Pay all obligations on time.
Keep low balances on credit cards and any revolving lines of credit.
Pay off debt constantly instead of letting it pile up or transferring it to a new account.