This article highlights why it makes sense to review the risks a business faces, check that insurance policies are fit for purpose and what can happen if this is not undertaken regularly.

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I have this cover – what is it for?

After successfully covering something that the incumbent broker couldn’t, without too much trouble, I was invited to visit their premises, take a look around, and undertake a review. A reasonable way to reduce the time it takes to undertake a business risk assessment is to look at current insurance documentation.

Having collected the information, there was one piece missing, and I received an email to say it would be forwarded on to me as soon as it was received from the broker. At the same time the gentleman said it includes “x cover, and I don’t know what that is”. This is not unusual in my industry. A lot of people build relationships with their brokers and then buy what they recommend. Yet it appeared that the broker had recommended this particular cover, but had failed to remind the client what, or how, it actually protected them.

Does a review mean rates will increase?

When the document arrived it was pretty standard. After discussing various cover with underwriters, we got some options. The next step on such a large insurance programme (we are talking about a company who export £1.7 million of high quality product to America), is to sit down again and discuss the terms and conditions of the options available to us. The rates we had obtained were 25% less than they were used to so it made sense for the Finance Director to invite us back to discuss in detail.

During this meeting I asked about previous incidents. It had previously been declared that there hadn’t been any in 5 years, apart from a mobile phone being lost. Whilst I collected information about staff, including health and safety arrangements, the Director sighed “staff, our biggest expense and liability.” I enquired how they proved to be a liability if no claims had been made and he said “we don’t have to tell them about things that aren’t insured, do we?” I ventured that they may not have to, yet insurance companies were not that kind. Insurance company requirements often mean that every issue has to be disclosed, no matter how trivial or whether it related to the cover they were providing or not. So the client regaled me with the tale of the dissatisfied employee who had threatened starting a tribunal alleging stress they were suffering was related to their work, and they had settled for £15,000 on the recommendation of their Human Resources consultant.

What do you mean we are covered?

I asked the client if they had discussed the stress related claim with their broker. “No” he replied, “we are not covered for this.” I felt it would be cruel to tell him that one of the policies he had in place would have provided him with advice on how to reduce the cost and time spent on such issues. Another may have provided cover for a legal defence and paying compensation if it were awarded. If only it had been explained to the client before the incident happened. This is because some policies only pay out if an issue is reported to an insurer as soon as it crops up.

As I said before, this is not unusual in my industry. Whenever someone tells me that they have insurance, but are unsure of what it covers, I realise that their broker has been order-taking, rather than providing an assessment of risk or any advice. What really sticks in my craw is that the previous broker had sold them a policy which wasn’t much use to them, yet by taking one of the optional extensions they would not have had to pay this £15,000 themselves. So, with their current broker they invested over £100,000 and still had to fund a £15,000 claim from their own pocket.

At the last minute, the incumbent broker did try and persuade the FD that he should stay with them, and even resorted to the underhand tactic of trying to approach the insurance company I had recommended so that they could copy the work I had undertaken, and pull the rug from under us. Luckily they were not successful because we have strong relationships with underwriters and they give us exclusive terms and conditions, that order taking brokers cannot access.

The most alarming thing about this rather typical scenario is that the broker could have prevented his client from obtaining the cover he actually desired by trying this underhand tactic. The broker would have known this was the case, but was far more concerned with keeping the business than helping the client protect his.

Wrap Up: At the beginning of the process I had explained that his incumbent broker would probably try underhand tactics and it was best he didn’t tell them that we were involved in a review because it may prejudice his position if he did. He agreed that that was the case, yet when put under pressure by the incumbent, who begged for one more chance, he nearly shot himself in the foot. It happens, regrettably, all too often – yet not to us.

Top Tip

When seeking an assessment of risk, it’s important to request assistance from someone who has a reputation for looking after their clients rather than being an excellent salesperson. The hard sell is all too evident in this industry and masks the underhand tactics that too many brokers participate in, to protect their not so hard earned income.