Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Insurance Term: "Underwriter"

When discussing insurance, whether in the news or with your own insurance agent you hear the term “Underwriter”. I thought that with this blog post I would tell you a little bit about what an underwriter does in the property and casualty insurance world and tell you where there name comes from.

An underwriter is a person who works for a financial institution, and for this blog we will specifically talk about a property and casualty insurance company. The underwriter’s job is to assess risk and determine if an individual or business is eligible for the insurance company’s products and what pricing they will receive. They pour over the data give them by either you the customer, your insurance agent, other third party data sources and/or the historical data of your account to help them come up with their decisions.

So where does the term “Underwriter” come from? Back in the late 1600’s groups of merchants, investors and sea captains gathered at a little coffee shop in London owned by a man named Edward Lloyd. Between sips of Ed’s coffee the merchants who had a large cargo of goods to ship overseas would sit down with business investors and ask them to give some kind of financial backing if something happened to their cargo of goods while being shipped. Investors would agree to pay for the lost cargo if the ship didn’t make it to its destinations but required a fee or premium from the merchant for taking on this possible loss. Eventually the merchants started to post on the walls of Ed’s coffee shop the amount of backing they needed for their shipment. The investor would then come and writer their name under the request and there the contract was bound. The fact that the investor wrote “under” the request is key because there is where they came up with the term “Underwriter”.

One other item to note; does the named Lloyd sound familiar? Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop was the birth place of Lloyd’s of London.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Products and Completed Operations Hazard

If you manufacture, sell or distribute a product, there is a possibility that the use of the product could cause bodily injury. The example everyone thinks of is a stepladder. Next time you are at the home improvement store take a look at all the warnings that ladder manufactures put on their product. Who really needs to be told not to stand on the top rung of a ladder? But, it is because of the product liability hazard that manufacturers feel it is necessary to include so many warning with their products. Even if you are not the manufacturer, and simple sell someone else’s products, you could still be liable.

The second part of this coverage is completed operations coverage. If you install or repair products such as a heating system, you could be negligent should damage be caused by your work after you work is done. Let’s say that you installed a new furnace in a restaurant, and later that day a fire ensues. The fire marshal determines that product literature that was left inside the furnace caught fire further melting a plastic cover causing black smoke to spread throughout the premises. The business had to close until repairs and cleanup could be completed. A substantial amount of money was lost and the cleanup was in the thousands of dollars.

Both of the situations cited above would be covered if your policy includes products and completed operations coverage. Not sure if your package includes this coverage; give us a call to review.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Insurance Score, What is it?

When it comes to figuring out what premium an insurance company is going to charge a person to insure them, there are a lot of factors. On a homeowner it depends on the year the house was built, where the home is located, what kind of construction is the house, etc. On auto insurance it was based on age of the driver, type of vehicle, how much you drive the car, what type of limits and deductibles you have, etc.

A number of years ago a new factor was added to this list for both home and auto insurance called insurance score. An insurance score helps insurance companies determine the future likelihood of auto or home claims. The insurance score takes into account two major categories. The first is your past claims history, meaning what claims have been reported and paid by the home and/or auto insurance company.

The second is your financial behaviors. By financial behaviors they mean things like your current outstanding debt, how much credit history you have, how often you pay or not pay bills on time, have you ever foreclosed or declared bankruptcy, how often do you apply for credit card or other loans. It does not factor in, however, your age, race, income level, marital status, etc.

So what does this insurance score do to your insurance premiums? Well, if you have a good insurance score, companies give you a break on pricing because they feel you are less likely to have insurance claims and therefore should be paying less in insurance premiums. If you have a poor insurance score, then they may charge debits to your insurance premium which can then cause your premium to increase. As mentioned earlier, insurance companies feel that if your insurance score is poor then you are more likely to have claims and therefore you should pay a higher premium.

This is great news for those with good insurance scores but bad news for those with poor scores. So, it is important to stay on top of your financial behaviors, not only so you can get a good credit score and better loan rates but also so that you can have a good insurance score and have better insurance premiums. It is important to make sure you monitor your bill paying, keep outstanding debt to a reasonable level and just have a good overall credit history.

One final thought, Fey Insurance Services is not a big fan of insurance scores but it is something that all insurance companies are using. The main reason we are not a big fan of insurance score is that there is no way to inform a customer exactly why their score is what it is. Your credit score is a big factor in determining the insurance score, and it is private information. We prefer methods all parties totally understand. However, as mentioned previously, all insurance companies are filed with the states to be able to use these scores so it is out of our control. We can simply keep you educated on how it can affect you and make you aware of the factor.