Blog

 E&O and COVID-19 (3/24/2020) 
   

E&O Risk Management and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By Swiss RE Corporate Solutions

You are all very aware of the events of the last several weeks and the Coronavirus. We are not health experts and there are many others more qualified to give you that advice. We CAN, however, give advice regarding how to reduce the likelihood of an errors and omissions exposure as a result of this event. We have already become aware of some attorneys who are trying to take advantage of this situation for monetary gain against insurance agents. Our advice during this event is no different from what we have said in the past.  If your agency has developed good practices, you will be better positioned to avoid problems.  Here are the practices of a good insurance agency:

  • DON’T MAKE CLAIMS DECISIONS! Let the insurance carriers do that.

  • DON’T ADVISE YOUR CUSTOMERS IF CORONAVIRUS related claims are COVERED OR NOT! Let the insurance carriers do that.

  • If a carrier takes the position that losses arising from the Coronavirus are not, or may not be covered, do not engage in advocacy asserting that "We thought it was covered..." That will simply be used by your client to prove that you knew the client wanted coverage for perils like the Coronavirus, but you failed to procure coverage.

  • Report all claims and potential claims to EACH AND EVERY CARRIER that could potentially have a policy that could apply. This includes CGL, Personal lines, Umbrella, Excess, Workers Compensation, Specialty and any other policy in place for your customers.

  • USE THE RESOURCES PROVIDED TO YOU BY THE IIABA. Follow this link to the Coronavirus webpage. It is a valuable resource for you, your staff and your agency that provides many sources of information.

  • Be empathetic, but don’t tell anyone that something is covered or not. You can continue to tell them you feel sympathy for all affected by the Coronavirus, but customers MUST report a claim to their insurance carrier to determine if there is any coverage for the event.

  • Remember, if you executed an agency agreement with one or more insurance companies, you MUST report all claims or potential claims as required by that agreement, even if your customer tells you not to do so.

  • Maintain vigilant contact with your insurance carriers to determine what action THEY want you to take.

  • DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT!!! This continues to be the foundation of sound E&O risk management. DOCUMENT EACH AND EVERY TELEPHONE CONVERSATION, EMAIL, TEXT, TWEET, OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS!

  • Assume that any telephone conversation with your customers or carrier claims representatives ARE BEING RECORDED. While some states prohibit the recording of telephone conversations without advising that they are doing so, IT DOESN’T STOP SOME PEOPLE FROM DOING SO.

  • If you use social media for your business, make sure it is up to date! Do not make any promises that something may or may not be covered by insurance companies and policies.

  • DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENTS, RECORDED OR OTHERWISE, WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING YOUR E&O PROVIDER. The Swiss Re Corporate Solutions/Westport Insurance Company/First Specialty Insurance Company claims staff are available if you have any questions about any communications you receive.

  • If you have a conversation with your customer that leads you to believe they may be fishing to make a claim against you, DO NOT HESITATE to contact our claims department.

  • DON’T MAKE CLAIMS DECISIONS! DON’T ADVISE YOUR CUSTOMERS IF SOMETHING IS COVERED OR NOT! Let the insurance carriers do that. We know this was stated before, but it must be ingrained in your mind.

  • If the Coronavirus ends up being declared a "catastrophe" by the ISO Property Claims Service, you may be eligible under your Westport policy for "Cat Extra Expense" benefits:

"CATASTROPHE EXTRA EXPENSE. We will pay up to $25,000 per catastrophe subject to a per POLICY PERIOD aggregate limit of $50,000 for the actual extra expenses incurred by you as a result of a catastrophe during the POLICY PERIOD beginning on the date of a catastrophe and for thirty (30) days thereafter. The extra expense incurred must be incurred by you only to assist in the insurance claims processing needs of your customer(s) who have been affected by the catastrophe. The catastrophe must be a declared catastrophe by the Property Claims Services. A $500 deductible for each catastrophe shall apply. Limits provided by this paragraph are part of and not in addition to the limits provided by this POLICY."

We hope that this will help you as this event progresses. If you should have any questions, please let us know.

This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Swiss Re Group ("Swiss Re") and/or its subsidiaries and/or management and/or shareholders. 

Copyright 2020 Swiss Re

 


 Coronavirus: Member Info and Resources (3/17/2020) 
   

Coronavirus: Member Info and Resources

The members of the Big I Indiana are at the center of everything that your association does for you. We understand that we have all entered uncharted waters with regard to the Coronavirus outbreak and our utmost concern is for the well-being of all of our agencies and employees.

Cancellation of Events and CE

It's probably no surprise to you that due to the virus, Big I in-person events will be cancelled or rescheduled, likely through May. We are closely monitoring this situation and will keep registrants updated about all events that are scheduled in the coming weeks. The National Alliance (CIC/CRM, etc.) is also offering a case-by-case review for extension requests by contacting them directly at (800) 633-2165. Meanwhile, we have plenty of web-based CE options which may be particularly helpful during these next few weeks and we will be sending an email with detailed information in the coming days.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Does Business Income Respond?

Does ISO's Business Income policy respond if a business shuts down because of the Coronavirus? What happens if the authorities require the business to close? The Big I is addressing this major insurance concern in a free 25-minute webinar.

Watch Immediately or Register for Future Date (Online daily 1:30 p.m. EDT now through March 31st.)



 Big I Members Get Free Access to ACORD Forms (11/26/2019) 
   

Big I Members Get Free Access to ACORD Forms

First a significant tax cut and now ACORD forms. Your association is constantly working to benefit you where it helps the most: your bottom line.

Beginning January 1, 2020, ACORD will begin charging all users of ACORD forms a fee. Currently, most users of ACORD forms have access via their agency management systems. In light of this development, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA) negotiated an agreement with ACORD whereby your association will pay ACORD an annual fee for use of the forms, and all Big I member agencies with $50 million or less in revenue will have "free" access to the ACORD forms. This is a new and significant benefit for Big I members!

"Industry-standard forms are a critical component of an independent agent's business," said Bob Rusbuldt, Big I president & CEO. "With this licensing program, the Big I is helping our members improve their operational effectiveness. We are proud to play a key role in facilitating the delivery of these assets to our members and to further enhance the value of their Big I membership."

Non-Big I members, at this time, will have to pay fees to ACORD. 

Below is a list of frequently asked questions that you or your staff may have regarding this exciting new member benefit.

What has changed with ACORD form and agent access?

ACORD has been maintaining a complete library of forms for our industry for almost 50 years - They are working through updated agreements with their management system partners. ACORD will be charging new fees for the users of their forms, beginning on January 1, 2020.

How does this affect Big I member agencies?

The Big I has worked to ensure their members are covered and will not incur fees when accessing needed ACORD forms. All Big I members with less than $50 million in revenue will get the forms free as part of their Big I membership.

Does this affect my current agency workflow?

No - Agents will still access forms via their agency management system workflow as they have previously.

How will ACORD know that I am a Big I member agency?

Big I staff is working with ACORD to validate Big I membership through our databases - This validation will be transparent to agency users. 

What if I have questions or need further help?

More background on ACORD Forms is available at www.acord.org/forms, and members can also call ACORD directly at (845) 620-1700.

Read more in a press release from ACORD announcing the partnership with the Big I. If you have questions or need more information, please let me know. Thank you for your continued support and membership in the Indiana Big I.  


 Held Named 2019 Insurance Professional of the Year (11/12/2019) 
   

Held Named 2019 Insurance Professional of the Year

Erica Held, CPCU, CIC, from Donegal Insurance Group is the recipient of the 2019 Big I Indiana Insurance Professional of the Year Award. This award recognizes an individual from a Big I associate member organization who demonstrates strong leadership abilities with a willingness to assist independent agents, regularly supports the Big I, and fosters strong professional relationships with agents.

Held has served on the Big I Emerging Leaders Committee for seven years, three of which as the company liaison. She has volunteered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indiana, coordinating activities for the Youth of the Year program since 2015. She serves as Donegal’s business relationship manager in Indiana. As the representative of a 130-year-old carrier who recently entered the state, she’s had the opportunity to plan and execute many firsts for Donegal in Indiana, such as the agency forum and agency outing. She’s worked hard to develop strong relationships with agencies. She bridges the gap between producers and underwriters by conducting a weekly call with her commercial underwriter, where they discuss new business flow to help make writing business easier for both sides. The open lines of communication have resulted in her nearly doubling her sales goal for the year.

As Donegal’s only relationship manager in the state, she is the eyes and ears of the company in the ever-changing industry. Held shares her agents’ feedback and concerns directly with the strategic leaders within the company. “I have the best job ever,” Held said. “I have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with business owners in my community and help them grow the business they have worked so hard to establish.”

 


 Lemont Receives 2019 Distinguished Customer Service Award (11/12/2019) 
   

Lemont Receives 2019 Distinguished Customer Service Award

Kathleen Lemont, CIC, ACSR, LOMA, from ONI Risk Partners in Indianapolis, Ind., is the winner of the 2019 Big I Indiana Distinguished Customer Service Award. The award is presented annually in memory of Ethel Heckman, IIAI’s Director of Administration from 1948 to 1983. The criterion of this award recognizes an employee of a member agency who demonstrates loyalty, dedication to the achievement of results, and continued professional growth in the servicing of the agency’s clients. 

Lemont has made her continuing education a priority. She’s earned her CIC, ACSR, and LOMA designations and completed the Indiana Insurance Company Commercial Property and Casualty Agent’s School. She manages the commercial service operations, including claims, surety, and P&C at ONI Risk Partners and has been in the industry for more than 30 years.

Though there are many elements in the insurance industry that are out of an agency’s control, customer service is not one of those. Lemont makes it her goal to go above and beyond with every single client. “In my opinion nothing has a more direct impact on client retention than customer service,” she explained. “Whether it's staying late to make sure an urgent request for a certificate is met, spending your weekend supporting a client who's had a claim, or just making sure everyone you've talked to that day had a positive experience.”

 


 McEldowney Named 2019 Agent of the Year (11/12/2019) 
   

McEldowney Named 2019 Agent of the Year

Jason McEldowney

Jason McEldowney, CIC, CRM, AFSB, from Pillar Group Risk Management in Indianapolis, Ind. is the recipient of the 2019 Big I Indiana Agent of the Year Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize the outstanding performance and achievement of an individual who is an agent member of the Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana. This individual must be a licensed agent and contribute to the agency’s performance through production and/or other management activities.

McEldowney is the vice president of Indiana sales with his agency. He believes an independent agent’s role is the pivotal bridge between clients and insurance companies. He strives to understand everything about his clients’ needs and have excellent relationships built with carriers so that he can provide the perfect fit. “The best agents are dedicated to their careers, are loyal and responsive to their clients, and are committed to continuous learning and growing as professionals,” he said. He has made education a priority and has earned three designations. 

Throughout his career, McEldowney has been honored with multiple awards, including Producer of the Year from Diamond Brothers Insurance (of which Pillar Group is a division) and the Gold Award for Excellence from the Indiana Surety Association (ISA). He’s served on the boards of the Construction Financial Management Association and the Indiana Surety Association and committees for Indiana Construction, Inc. and Indiana Subcontractors Association. 

 


 WalkerHughes Insurance Named 2019 Agency of the Year (11/12/2019) 
   

WalkerHughes Insurance Named 2019 Agency of the Year

WalkerHughes

WalkerHughes Insurance, based in Carmel, Ind., has been recognized as the 2019 Big I Indiana Agency of the Year. This award is given to a member independent insurance agency that exemplifies leadership and innovation within the independent agency system.

After its recent merger, WalkerHughes has grown rapidly. The agency has doubled its premium volume in just two years. It now has 17 branches and more than 100 staff members. Though its size has changed, its principles have not. The leadership at WalkerHughes believes that the GAP (Guide, Advocate, Pioneer) policy they have in place is the best way to serve their clients. They work hard to center the agency around those core principles. As they’ve grown, they’ve maintained each branch location because they want their clients to be able to connect with them wherever they are. “We believe in the value of being part of the community in which our clients and employees reside,” said President Doug Walker. The agency leaders strive to give back to the industry, serving on carrier advisory councils and association boards.

Employees are a top priority at the agency and technology is used to “empower and not replace”. The agency built its management system, Violet, that handles CRM functionality, advertising requests, PTO management, secure password retention, and all direct/agency bill processing. “Our focus on our people is at the forefront of our automation efforts as well,” Walker explained. “By automating transactional processes, we enable our people to focus on our customers and other value-added services.”

 

 

 


 Safeco Named 2019 Company of the Year (11/12/2019) 
   

Safeco Named 2019 Company of the Year 

Safeco's Indiana Team

Safeco Insurance from Indianapolis, Ind. is the 2019 Big I Indiana Company of the Year. This award recognizes the company that demonstrates the strongest commitment to the independent insurance agency system in Indiana.

Safeco has more than 500 Indiana-based employees and they are represented at more than 400 agencies across the state. The company has a national reach but keeps decision-making local. They rely on their territory managers to stay in close contact with the agents in the state so that they have a deep understanding of unique needs. “We never take for granted the trust that independent agents place in us every day,” said AVP, Region Director Jeff Jansing. “Ultimately, we believe in the value the independent agent provides and that influences everything we do as a company.”

Among their many offerings are a producer development program, CSR development program, Bricks & Clicks, Customers for Life, and apps for both agents and customers.  “We understand that high-quality and cost-effective training programs are vital to our agency partners, so we have developed several training and development programs designed to help agencies grow their business,” Jansing said. “These programs are designed to not only grow their business with our company, but to grow their overall agency among all lines and with all carriers.”

 


 Schultheis Receives 2019 Harry P. Cooper, Jr. Award (11/12/2019) 
   

Schultheis Receives 2019 Harry P. Cooper, Jr. Award

Brett Schultheis, CPCU, CWCA, AAI, from the Schultheis Insurance Agency in Evansville, Ind., is the recipient of the 2019 Big I Indiana Harry P. Cooper, Jr. Industry Award. This award is presented in the name of Harry P. Cooper, Jr. who began with Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Company in 1936 and remained with the company until his death 55 years later, and whose concern for the image of the industry was paramount. This award was developed to recognize someone who enhances the public image of the insurance profession through their professional activities and personal integrity in their business activities and their community. 

Schultheis is the president of his agency and has been deeply invested in the Evansville community for decades. He’s served on the Raintree Girl Scout Council in some capacity since 1988. He’s also served on the Buffalo Trace Council - Boy Scouts, Evansville Day School, Inc., Vanderburgh Co. Redevelopment Commission, and Tri-State Better Business Bureau. He is currently the national director of the Indiana Big I as well.

He sees an insurance agents’ position in their communities as a vital one. “Agents play an important role in the continuity and strength of all communities. Part of what an agent should do is be a teacher or adviser in the community to help others understand that insurance is not about how low a price can be, but rather how it can work as a tool for their benefit,” he explained. “They need to explain the important role that the insurance industry plays in the local and national economy.”

 

 

 


 Watts Named 2019 Emerging Leader of the Year (11/12/2019) 
   

Watts Named 2019 Emerging Leader of the Year

Sam Watts, CIC, MLIS, from NAMIC Insurance Agency in Indianapolis, Ind. is the recipient of the 2019 Big I Indiana Emerging Leader of the Year Award. This award recognizes the involvement and commitment of a Big I member licensed retail agent who qualifies as an Emerging Leader, (a licensed producer under the age of 41 or in the insurance industry for fewer than 6 years), and recognizes his or her commitment to the Indiana Emerging Leaders Committee and the parent association Big I, and his or her strong performance in the industry.

Watts is the director of operations at NAMIC and manages six team members. He is currently the past-chair of the Indiana Big I Emerging Leaders Committee and served as its chair in 2017 and 2018. Although he leverages technology to benefit his agency, he also thinks there are timeless tools any agent can use. “Dedication, diligence, persistence, and perseverance are characteristics of success at any age, experience level, or climate,” he said. “I hold that a new agent learning and applying these skills, especially in the first two years, would help lay the foundation for future success.”

He believes one hurdle many agents face when they enter the industry is being perceived as not having enough knowledge and experience. He encourages agents to establish credibility by "knowing the market, understanding a prospect’s risks and exposures, and being able to provide solution-oriented products to meet the prospect's coverage needs.” To accomplish that, he suggests continuing your industry education. “I think earning designations emphasizes these abilities and displays a committed work ethic toward a better understanding of policies and risk management,” Watts said.

 

 


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