Insurance Cost Cutters

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2009

›› To navigate today’s insurance jungle, you need the right agent or broker, an insurance strategy that fits your business and a good story about your business to tell the underwriters who decide whether to offer you coverage and what to charge.

That is the advice of Bradenton insurance specialist John C. Laurie, who is the finance committee chairman for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents and vice president-agency manager for BB&T - Wyman, Green & Blalock.

A typical business carries property and casualty insurance, liability, workers’ comp and employee benefits such as group health and retirement plans.

“Agent and broker selection is critical to the success of your insurance program and pricing,” 

Laurie says. “Look at what tools the broker has to evaluate your risks, assist in your risk management program and present you properly to the marketplace.” This approach attracts more attention from more carriers. A business represented by a qualified professional may get 12 to 15 quotes for insurance rather than two or three.

Business owners make a mistake when they oversimplify their needs and go for bids on the insurance package they've been carrying. “We see this ‘bid mentality,’ which is understandable, because business owners get bids for machines and other equipment, but it is unwise to use this approach with insurance,” Laurie says. “The markets can get tired when they see you looking for bids every year. A lot of insurers may choose not to play, and that can limit your opportunities.”

What will help business owners is a comprehensive, positive story to tell underwriters about the business, its record of claims and losses and its commitment to risk-reducing programs such as an injury-free, drug-free workplace.

“Taking the ground-up approach with an agent to understand your exposure, the nature of your business and your appetite for risk, you can design the best insurance program for the best value,” Laurie says.


Choose what to insure. Decide what you really want to protect your business against and select the best level and type of coverage and most appropriate deductibles. For smaller risks, consider bigger deductibles. Laurie says some people pay to cover some things “where the likelihood of loss is so low that it is better to self-insure them.”

Establish drug-free programs and safety policies. A business with a drug-free workplace is eligible for a 5 percent credit on workers’ comp premiums. There is an additional 2 percent credit on workers’ comp premiums for a business with a formal written safety program and safety committee.

Mitigate risks. “If the business owner does nothing, premiums will escalate,” Laurie says. But if you have changed employee training or taken other steps to mitigate risks, your broker can use that to improve your chances with underwriters for lower rates, or at least to prevent a premium increase.

Review property values and consider lowering your coverage. The market value of properties has fallen dramatically from five years ago. The cost to replace a building may also be down if lower-priced materials are available. A building that once had a replacement value of $3 million may be down to $2.5 million and that can mean a lower premium.

Ask your agent about a cost recovery analysis. “This is a new and exciting tool that helps us figure out if a business has been overcharged for insurance over the past three years, due to some clerical error in the computation of rates,” Laurie says. If mistakes are found in the analysis, the broker goes to the insurer to get a refund for the business. “We have recovered as much as $70,000 to $80,000 for some clients,” he says.■

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