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This catch-all section of the VU research library includes all of those square peg topics that just don’t seem to fit the other round hole Agency Management categories.

About the time you become satisfied with your knowledge level, figuring you know all there is to know, you become a danger to yourself and everyone else. For example, the most dangerous time for any pilot or insurance practitioner is that point when they begin to feel comfortable in themselves and their knowledge.
Insurance policies are subject to the standard law of contracts but beyond simple contract law, insurance contracts are bound by unique provisions and requirements specific to insurance. An understanding of these unique legal characteristics is necessary to understand the insurance contract.
The “heart” of networking is rooted in selfishness. There are serious problems with this single path to success. Of course, we do need relationships with others; but how can we cultivate those relationships and bypass all the ineffective networking garbage?
As the presidential race cranks up you will hear more and more Medicare for all, a.k.a. the single payer plan. What you won’t hear much about are the ramifications that will ripple through the insurance industry. It’s imperative that Big “I” members and your customers understand the magnitude.
Taxes, what would we do without taxes? (I’m sure most of us would like to find out.) When choosing your business entity type, you need to understand how each is taxed. This brief article lays out a few important taxation facts surrounding C-Corps, S-Corps and LLCs.
True experts worry more about what they don’t know than what they do know, continually looking for ways to fill their knowledge gap. Self-proclaimed experts ignore the breadth of what they don’t know and are satisfied (mainly because they don’t know what they don’t know). Be VERY wary of anyone calling themselves an “expert.”
First, you should never “quote” a policy; and second, you should never propose coverage that only matches what the insured had previously. If all you provide is an “apples-to-apples” proposal, you are not providing ANY service to your prospect; in fact, you are doing them a disservice.
I asked underwriters from all over the country to recount some of the strangest, most unusual, or simply irritating situations involving agents. Here are some of their responses.
A passion for BBQ and honor for those who serve combine in this great tale (a true story).
An agent invested many hours in landing a prospect only to have the business give all of the agent’s work to another agent, along with a BOR that was accepted by the same carrier that quoted the account. Is this legal? Is it ethical?
Ethics is a rather irrelevant CE topic. Knowing the difference between theoretical and applied ethics does not help the insured avoid a catastrophic financial loss because the agent didn’t understand coverage. Yes, the agent could have the most “ethical” intent, but if he/she has no coverage knowledge, the insured suffers. This article explores the concept of ethical education compared to educating on ethics.
COVID has affected many areas of life in the US, one is the cost of building materials. Regardless the reason, the cost to rebuild a structure has increased dramatically over the last year. Are you addressing this increased replacement cost issue?
COVID and the government actions that resulted were never anticipated, but now it has happened. Such government actions are now a known exposure, what must the agency do to going forward to address this new possibility?
For the seventh time, the ISO Emerging Issues team has just completed our annual bracket challenge, in which insurance and risk management professionals around the globe weighed in on what emerging risks are, or may become, most impactful.
We keep hearing how ChatCPT is going to revolutionize the written word, putting millions of copywriters out of business and creating a plagiarism nightmare for the educational system. However, how strong is ChatGPT when answering specific coverage questions? Randy Maniloff has some answers, and here’s a sneak peek – Don’t fire your insurance copywriters any time soon. If you do, you may face an errors and omissions claims arising from coverage description and other mistakes in your website or social media content.
David Thompson, FAIA Education Instructor and BBQ master, says thank you to his local first responders.
Every insurance practitioner knows what happens when there is an ambiguity in policy language, the insured is supposed to win. But what makes a provision ambiguous? Is an ambiguity created simply by disagreement, or is more required? Guess what, creating ambiguity requires more than simple disagreement over a policy provision.
An agent asks: COVID and all the coverage debates swirling around it has raised the question in our agency regarding the use of a disclaimer. Several in the agency think we should develop disclaimer language to, essentially, warn our clients that there may not be any coverage for a COVID-related loss. Can you suggest the best way to word such a disclaimer?
Agents live and work in a wondrous world. Everyday offers opportunities, some taken, and some missed. But the most entertaining part of any agent’s day is their interactions with their clients. Without clients, you have no business; likewise, without clients we would have nothing to laugh about.
Unless you're still taking your morning coffee sorting punch cards with Herman Hollerith, you've spent the last year or so trying to wrap your head around artificial intelligence (AI) and what it will mean in our industry, and in society in general. In all sincerity, I suspect every person reading this is doing their own research and forming their own views as to the benefits of AI, and maybe even some of the potential issues or challenges. At Agents Council for Technology, we are too. Read on for more information on the Big I’s experience with AI.
I asked agents from all over the country to recount some of the strangest, most unusual, or simply irritating situations involving underwriters. Here are some of their responses.
Generally, an insurer’s duty to defend flows from the facts alleged in the lawsuit. When the pleadings alleged damage or injury that is covered by the policy, the insurance carrier has a duty to defend, regardless of whether the insured is ultimately liable and/or the insurer has a duty to indemnify. Conversely, when the pleadings allege facts or events not covered by the policy, and the insurer has no knowledge of facts to the contrary, the carrier is not obligated to defend – but this is a question of law.
Eliot Spitzer, former New York Attorney General, sued Marsh & McLennan Cos. on October 14, 2004, for supposed bid rigging and other misdeeds and misinformation. This suit led to laws requiring insurance agents and brokers to disclose who they represent (the carrier or the insured), the sources of income, and sometimes the amount of income. Fifteen states currently have commission disclosure laws on the books possibly as an indirect result of Spitzer’s suit.
Apparently the FIO has set its sights on becoming the protector of the insurance consumer, maybe in partnership with state regulators or to the exclusion of state regulation – it’s not clear. But in its November 2016 report to the Treasury, the FIO addresses five topics it thinks state regulators aren’t managing as well as they could.
Politicians want votes, lawyers want a percentage and business owners simply want their business to survive and thrive. These facts collided near the end of March 2020 when states began enforcing various stat-at-home orders in response to COVID-19.
A reference library is essential for true insurance professionals. One of the best reference tools for every serious insurance professional is one written by attorneys Randy Maniloff and Jeffrey Stemple. General Liability Coverage Issues: Key Issues in Every State is a must for every insurance professional.
Unlike “traditional” businesses, an insurance agency has a unique business model with low capital requirements and no significant working capital needs. But when capital is needed to seize an opportunity, the capital required can be substantial. Since many principals may never have borrowed from a bank, they may not be familiar with how credit is gained.
Are your clients’ workers’ compensation claims failing to close in a timely manner? Given the injury, does it seem like the claim drags on, with no clear plan of action or solution? Does your insured suspect that an employee is malingering? Social media investigations are an investigatory tool that can help close even the oldest workers’ compensation or liability injury claims.
What does the future of insurance hold for we mere mortals? Your guess is as good as mine, but we need to imagine it. Technology and the world in general are changing quickly; insurance has historically been very slow to respond to change – but we can’t wait like we could in the past. Take a walk down the path of “Insurance 2050” and glimpse the coming wildness.
According to the experts, our industry is in almost immediate need of nearly 400,000 new workers due to retirements and other transitions. However, many hiring managers say the industry is having the same problem it has always had – insurance is not sexy. Well, I beg to differ! Insurance is the sexiest profession out there!
Six “costs” in addition to the premium combine to develop the insured’s true total cost of risk: 1) Deductibles or Self-Insured Retentions; 2) The cost of uninsured or self-insured losses (intentional or unintentional); 3) Legal costs; 4) Loss control and safety costs; 5) Claims management costs; and 6) Opportunity costs. Do your clients understand these costs?
Insurance was an honorable profession, the habitat of honorable professionals. It can be again, can’t it? Only we can pull us from a fate from which there is no escape.
Insurance carriers are required to make decisions regarding which endorsements to add, which ones to remove and how best to structure the coverage to protect both the insured and the insurance carrier. It’s called underwriting. Sadly, neither side, the agent or the underwriter, fully understand what constitutes “underwriting.” Too many underwriters believe a system-generated endorsement is a required endorsement that is not able to be removed. Likewise, many agents believe the carrier should remove any endorsement the agency requests. Neither extreme is true, there is a middle ground called underwriting.
Join some industry titans at the Mid-America Insurance Conference in Kansas City November 6 – 8, 2022.
Because agents work in a contract-based industry subject to many legal concepts, understanding specific legal terms is necessary.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), increasing federal attention is on state departments of insurance. This report focuses on resources and regulatory activities of NAIC members. These members include the following. - The 50 states - District of Columbia, - American Samoa - Guam - Northern Mariana Islands - Puerto Rico - U.S. Virgin Islands
In 1995, the Legislature added section 1725.5 to the California Insurance Code (Cal. Ins. Code) to require various types of insurance licensees to print their license numbers on business cards, written price quotations for insurance products, and print advertisements distributed exclusively in this state for insurance products. That law took effect in 1997. The California Department of Insurance has added a new requirement on license disclosure on emails which takes effect on January 1, 2023.
Following a horrific natural disaster, agents must plan on receiving calls from angry insureds. Knowing the angry calls are coming is the first step toward managing them. Storm victims need to feel some level of control to move through and past the “inventory” / “reaction” stage. Knowledge allows a feeling of control. Provide clients as much information as possible – even if it’s news they may not want to hear. Storm victims follow a known pattern of recovery, know the pattern.
Whether you are new to using social media to increase customer engagement or want to increase new business leads, how you communicate across the multiple social media platforms is critical. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of tweeting and other platforms or you’re just dipping your toes in the social media waters, this article provides ten top tips for using social media outlets to improve your online presence and increase leads.
Insurance policies promulgated advisory organizations and other independent bureaus serve to establish consistency in policy wording. Even when a carrier creates and uses a proprietary form, that form generally contains much of the same policy wording promulgated by these advisory organizations. However, state laws can alter HOW policy wording, even consistent policy wording, is applied to a loss.
Insurance carriers spend in excess of $6.7 billion on advertising. Progressive alone spends over $1 billion. Most of this advertising is about price and how much the insured can save. Only a few companies and a few ads ever even mention coverage and the need for protection. Such an incredible marketing effort combined with several other industry failings to create the idea that insurance is all about price. Even some producers think it’s about price. After all, every policy is the same except for price – right!
It takes a special breed to work in the IT department. Take your kid to work and you may find that special person.
Many good agencies that have worked hard, done things well, and are not grasping at straws, are still at a competitive disadvantage. The categories in which this is occurring are widespread. Here are some important examples....
This article outlines the claims handling process from the adjuster’s perspective so that you as an agent can be a better partner to your client – the policyholder.
Being offended is a personal choice; political correctness tries to keep change from occurring; and people who preach tolerance generally aren’t. Our society is in need of more adults who don’t need protection from the opinions, statements and beliefs of others.
Randy Maniloff, an attorney and insurance expert, discusses what is really required before a carrier can be found guilty of bad faith. The threshold for bad faith is more than simply issuing an improper claim denial.
Many insurance industry “giants” have been lost to cancer in the last few years, including Don Malecki, John Eubank, and Jim Harrison. But the greatest, in my mind, was my dad – Ronald E. Boggs. I doubt you ever heard of him – that’s OK, I can assure you that did not bother him.
The Digital Transformation of the Insurance industry is underway. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are already making an impact. But where will this end? What will the Insurer of the Future look like? Alan Walker doesn’t paint a happy picture, but it’s not necessarily dire either.
A serious problem has been created by the misuse of the word “volume.” When companies say they want more volume, agency owners form clusters to “give” companies more volume. As a result, the company is no better off and arguably worse because now the cluster may have some leverage and may qualify for more profit sharing, and the company does not get a dime for better results. But, they got what the requested.
Following a communal catastrophe, such as a hurricane, victims go through several phases of recovery. Agents must know to expect these phases and how to prepare for them. It’s the psychology of downed trees and it’s quite fascinating.
Social inflation refers to factors unrelated to general inflation in the economy that underlie rising court awards. Although there are some who deny the existence of social inflation, the preponderance of evidence shows that social inflation and its effects are real. The insurance industry must take time to understand the reality of and potential harm that may or will result from social inflation.
Every state and the District of Columbia grants insurance carriers an “underwriting period.” Insurance carriers are granted broad authority to cancel a newly-written policy during this statutorily-limited period.
The Wall Street Journal has taken an interest in some of the new(ish) insurance products now available such as “Active Shooter” policies, Tuition Insurance, and Cyber coverage.
The VU asked our readers to take part in the first ever survey/quiz. Well, the results are in from our nearly 250 participants. If you took the quiz, see how you did compared to the group. If you didn’t take the quiz, see how you would have done and how the group did.
Many agents possess a significant fear that they are not big enough. No matter if an agency has $500,000, $1 million, $5 million or $100 million, I’ve had agency executives tell me they do not have enough volume to please their carriers. The carriers simply have an insatiable appetite. With such insatiable appetites, no one ever has enough and size in and of itself is the wrong goal.
When can an insurance carrier cancel a policy during the middle of the policy term? Everyone knows and can easily explain cancellation for non-payment, but that’s not the issue. The real problems and misunderstandings seem to flow from the concept of a “change” in risk. How much “change” must there be before the insurance carrier can cancel a policy during the term?
An agent asks: An insured is under scrutiny by media and news outlets for what the reporters are alleging is improper employee terminations. The news is readily available. If the insured's agent sees that news, is there any duty on the agent's part to report the potential claim to the insurer?
Premium leakage costs the insurance industry about $30 billion per year in premium and $3.6 billion per year in commissions – it’s a major problem for both carriers and agents.
Although it seems reasonable that the carrier’s duty to defend ends when no insurable allegations remain in the suit – this is not necessarily always true. Some courts have a different opinion as to when an insurance carrier’s duty to defend ends. In some cases, the insurer has been required to defend insureds when NO covered allegations remain in the suit simply because there was the possibility a covered allegation may be brought back on appeal. CRAZY! Or is it?
In record numbers, today’s teachers are fleeing the classroom for less political, safer and better-paying jobs. Could a former teacher or a school librarian be your next hire?
Every insurance policy has exclusions. In this article, we discuss the six main reasons for policy exclusions. This article covers those reasons and provides a few warning tips for insurance agents regarding disclosure of exclusions to policyholders.
As I progress in my career and in life, I work to be more intentional about learning life’s lessons. A lot of what I learn comes from my own warped sensibilities and view of life. I try to keep track of the really good thoughts that pop into my head; I try to forget the ridiculous stuff.
Society decides what behavior is “right” and which actions are “wrong.” At its basest level, ethics are the result of mob mentality. Thus, individuals can only act ethically or unethically – but they are NOT, within themselves, ethical or unethical. So then why is Ethics a required CE topic?
In the past year, we have averaged an 'Ask an Expert' question about every other month involving agency clusters. In this article, we'll present the questions, our faculty responses, and an article by Chris Burand on cluster tips. In addition, an article and FAQs by Al Diamond are presented on an alternative concept he calls 'The Virtual Insurance Agency.'
A question posed to our agency management faculty: 'I am an agency owner. At one time we changed to an 'S' corporation and our CPA told us it was best to be a 'C' corporation. We changed and since then I'm of the opinion we should have remained an 'S.' Can you give any insight on the matter? We are about $15,000,000 in volume if that is of any help.'
March is Ethics Awareness Month. I want to ask if you can afford to be ethical? You may be surprised to learn that my short answer may be 'No.' It is expensive in many ways. To learn how from the findings of a study and my own personal experience, keep reading....
We recently received this question: 'Are you aware of any firm that provides insurance company scorecards...something an agent may use to compare companies that he/she may wish to do business with?' Well, as a matter of fact, we of our VU faculty members has such a tool, along with one from our Best Practices Joint Agency/Company Planning kit. And while we're at it, we'll direct you to a VU tool for evaluating carrier solvency.
The ACORD certificates of insurance indicate that the issuing insurer will 'endeavor to' provide notice of cancellation to the certificate holder. Typically, nothing in the policy requires this and many of your insurers say they do not even want copies of certificates, much less plan to provide notice. Is telling the certificate holder that the insurer with 'endeavor to' provide notice of cancellation (when they clearly have no intention of doing so) ethical?
Change is hard for all of us. It is easier, however, for those businesses that face failure and losses due to performance-related problems. Change out of weakness, while difficult to implement, is always easy to reconcile and rationalize. The most difficult change, on the other hand, is changing from a position of strength. In this article, we'll dispel the myth of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
As a cluster matures, you can actually see the lines between agencies blurring. The Virtual Insurance Agency (VIA) takes a maturing cluster to its logical conclusion, a mega-merger of all of the agencies into one corporate entity with several owners based on the values of each owner’s business as it converts into the VIA.
Problem solving, innovating, cost cutting or just making things easier are all reasons why many insurance agency owners wish they had a Ouija Board at their beck and call. With new sources of problems and concerns exploding in our business arena daily, making the right decision has never been more difficult. Happily, it can be reported that a far superior decision making tool to the mystical Board already exists.
Sometimes when an insurer encounters financial problems (real or perceived), cut-through endorsements may be issued. A cut-through endorsement is usually attached to insurance policies of the primary carrier by both it and a reinsurer. The endorsement should specifically reference the policy by number and policy term. What, however, does the endorsement actually represent?
Inertia is the greatest force against progress and change. Too often, agencies run into the 'Inertia Wall.' The Inertia Wall is invisible. It is soft and comforting. It is “the way we’ve always done it.” It doesn’t stop progressive change. Rather, it simply absorbs it. What causes Inertia to become such a strong force against change? What can be done to defeat INERTIA? Let's find out in this article...
In March 2002, Ethics Awareness Month, we ran a contest with three ethical dilemmas, asking our newsletter readers to respond with their answers. Below is one of those questions, along with many of the responses we received. If you have any thoughts you'd like us to add, email them to
In March 2002, Ethics Awareness Month, we ran a contest with three ethical dilemmas, asking our newsletter readers to respond with their answers. Below is one of those questions, along with many of the responses we received. If you have any thoughts you'd like us to add, email them to
In March 2002, Ethics Awareness Month, we ran a contest with three ethical dilemmas, asking our newsletter readers to respond with their answers. Below is one of those questions, along with many of the responses we received. If you have any thoughts you'd like us to add, email them to
March is Ethics Awareness Month in the insurance industry. This has become an annual event, sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Applied Ethics and the CPCU Society, and endorsed by a number of industry organizations. In keeping with the spirit, below are some 'ethical dilemmas.'
You’ve seen those headlines about unscrupulous corporate executives cooking the books. The passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is supposed to have forced many employers to take the ethical temperature of their workplace. It is coming as no surprise that what they're finding is an outbreak of seemingly innocent, yet clearly inappropriate, workplace behaviors that are often a breeding ground for unethical conduct.
I constantly discover huge accounting errors, legal problems, and operational issues in agencies, all courtesy of professional advisors like CPAs and attorneys. Part of the problem is these advisors do not know enough about insurance agencies. Many do not accept the fact that insurance agencies are different and have unique needs. Here's how to make these advisers work for you....
As an agent, you have knowledge of other agents telling their clients not to list youthful drivers. After all, the ISO PAP covers resident family members automatically whether listed or not. Is this fraud? Is it unethical? What will you do, what will you do?
The last three agencies we visited had problems so similar that we decided to see just how many agents have the same experience – and the same problems. The key issue for each agency owner was EXTREME FRUSTRATION. When probed for more information and better focus on the issues, the owners in each agency echoed the same sentiments...
With the beating that many carriers have taken over the past few years in personal lines, it is more important than ever to improve loss ratios. In this article, our agency management gurus will offer some suggestions to improve agency underwriting of personal lines accounts.
Several excellent studies have shown that a key cause of so many loan defaults has nothing to do with the economy or with the people taking out the loans. The weak link is underwriting. Which brings us to the focus of this article, the insurance industry....
In this article, agency consultant Chris Burand explores the myth of 'bigger is better.' While, in general, growth is essential for agencies to retain markets and profitability, Chris demonstrates why unrestrained growth via acquisition can be perilous. Getting big through internal growth, while slower and less glamorous, does work and has continually proven to be the most profitable method for growing a company.
Much of the call on consultants has to do with breaking through the barriers to natural growth that agencies experience at different stages of growth. Agencies find it particularly difficult to break through the $1, $2 and $3 Million revenue marks. Once the $3 Million ceiling has been broken, agencies seem to be able to grow to $10 Million without severe management changes. But getting there requires breaking some barriers.
Do you believe there has been an industry shift towards short-term profits at the expense of long-term stability and service? I am writing a book on the subject, and want to hear from agents willing to share their perspectives and ideas. In what ways do you see our industry letting consumers down, and losing their faith? Are there instances in which you, the agent, have taken steps personally to rectify situations in which your customers were not made whole as they and you expected?
Since this 'article' covers so much ground, the only logical spot for it was the Miscellaneous section of Agency Management. This was a question submitted to our 'Ask an Expert' service and the composite responses are shown after each part of the question.
Over and over again we encounter agencies for whom claims is and entry-level position, one combined with other clerical functions or relegated to a secondary responsibility for people who have other priorities within an agency. From the standpoint of your clients, claims are not just AN important reason for using an agent – it is THE MOST important reason for using an agent.
Time is running down! Of critical importance to agencies, companies and other financial institutions are the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). In this article, we'll summarize some important features and tell you how to get more information, including sample notices.
Our father’s agencies are gone. If you wish things were like they were in the “good old days,” please remember that, along with 25% commissions, more respect and customers seeking agents services, came polio, high infant mortality rates and world wars. The past is, indeed, past. Look to the future and grow and profit and CHANGE with that future. Let's examine the past, present and future...
Many smaller agencies would like the market clout and economies of scale of larger agencies. Historically, about the only way to do this has been through mergers or clusters. Now there's a new way that has benefits for all parties involved.
In another article entitled 'Binding Authority Weather Restrictions,' we discussed how nebulous (and onerous) some underwriting restrictions can be when they're based on rapidly developing weather conditions. With the recent series of Gulf Coast hurricanes, similar situations arose involving both underwriting and coverage restrictions, one of which appears to violate the policy itself. In this article, we'll further explore what may or may not be permitted by the contract or underwriting guidelines.
An aggregator, according to our definition, is an entity that 'clusters' distribution entities together to achieve economies of scale, without assuming the autonomy or ownership from the individual owners. Consolidators and acquirers take over ownership. Aggregators may take a share, but leave the predominant ownership with the individual agencies.
An agent discovers that his insured, a childcare center, has been underpaying her premium for at least five years due to a clerical coding error. He knows for a fact that she cannot pay any past-due premium. His choices are remaining silent or telling the carrier about the mistake and risk subjecting his client, a surefire renewal without competition for the next 10 years, to an unexpected financial burden. What would YOU do?
Mission. Integrity. Ideal. Excalibur. Universal. Enterprise. Great Global. American Excel. Champion. Adjectives for the Virtual University? Nope...names of companies that used to insure millions of individuals, families and businesses. Perhaps you were affected in some way by these or other insolvencies because you were blind sided when they went belly up. There are proactive steps that you can take today to protect yourself and your clients.
Mission. Integrity. Ideal. Excalibur. Universal. Enterprise. Great Global. American Excel. Champion. Adjectives for the Virtual University? Nope...names of companies that used to insure millions of individuals, families and businesses. Perhaps you were affected in some way by these or other insolvencies because you were blind sided when they went belly up. There are proactive steps that you can take today to protect yourself and your clients.

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