TWIA: Hurricane Harvey Claim Deadline Approaching

The anniversary of the date Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast is quickly approaching on August 25, 2018. Texas law requires TWIA policyholders to report claims for windstorm damage within one year of the date the property was damaged.

We are asking for your assistance to share this important information with your clients and fellow agents about TWIA claim deadlines, so we can ensure all TWIA policyholders have submitted their claim for windstorm damage by the applicable one-year deadline from when Hurricane Harvey caused damage to their property.

If a TWIA policyholder already has a claim with TWIA for damage resulting from Hurricane Harvey, they do not need to report a new claim. Policyholders may simply provide TWIA with information about the damage that has not been addressed as part of their existing Harvey claim. This can be done by:

  • Contacting their current claims examiner, or
  • Reporting the information along with their claim number to TWIA’s claim-reporting service (800-788-8247) or to claims@twia.org.

TWIA policyholders who have never submitted a Harvey claim and need to report a new claim, may also do so by calling TWIA immediately at 800-788-8247. Additional information about the TWIA claims process is also available on the TWIA website at www.twia.org/claimscenter.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact TWIA’s Agent Services team at 800-788-8247 or agentservices@twia.org.

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4 Reasons Why Smart Execs Use Recruiters

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In literal terms “to recruit” means “to raise or strengthen.”  Professional Recruiters strengthen the organization by raising the talent bar while saving valuable Employee Resources.

It’s a widely known tactical practice that top executives use Third Party Search Consultants i.e. Recruiters and Head Hunters to hedge the competition. In the hands of the right Recruiter, companies save big money and time. But what about the less obvious yet equally impactful BENEFITS to using Recruiters, let’s unveil…     

Prevent job orders from going stale:
Dodging this impact is paramount to attracting top talent and promoting healthy corporate image. How does this happen? One reason is that the hiring authority’s perception of talent is not in line with current market trends. Maybe it’s a department where turnover has been relatively low, yet due to retirement or need to increase production, adding staff is eminent. However, the job market is constantly evolving. It’s no longer the recession, employee preferences change. They’re asking for more flexibility and getting it. Subsequently, certain industries like insurance, that typically set up Regional Hub Offices designed to capitalize on existing talent pools teaming with ample workforce readiness, are finding it harder and harder to leverage this source. Why? Because a number of these pools such as Claims and Underwriting are drying up, causing certain positions to stay open for months. Partnering with the right specialized Recruiting Firm, that recognizes the unique hiring challenges specific to your industry, creates a winning formula to solve many recruitment dilemmas.

Avoid Warm Body Syndrome:
Ever had a vacancy where the initial sense of urgency was minimal, a need verses want? Recruitment process takes the normal course; engage HR to open the requisition post job then wait. Weeks later a few external candidates surface who could do the job, and even though there was an internal referral who definitely could do the job, you let them slip away because they lacked, WOW. Then, almost overnight, the unexpected resignation occurs. This want is now priority numero uno!  Uh, contingency plan? Just putting any warm body in the job or by following the Golden Rule “always be recruiting,” may not be enough. Efficient and effective hiring authorities know it is essential to develop a strategic relationship with a known industry Recruiter. Then you will already have a robust pipeline from with to choose your WOW.

Remove the “Hirethink” Goggles:
Applying “Groupthink” premise to Corporate hiring practices, hiring authorities within organizations innately make hiring decisions trying to promote harmony and conformity, yet despite the best intentions to minimize conflict and reach consensus (taking the path of least resistance), these decisions can yield irrational outcomes (bad hires). External Recruiters disrupt this unhealthy phenomenon. How? They’re not wearing corporate goggles. While Recruiters appreciate client-corporate values and should keep at the core of every effective search process, Third Party status frees them from the corporate bias, red tape and politics that can cloud internal search efforts. Enabling Recruiters to help identify then deliver the BEST candidates for your job.

Unlock Passive Candidate Access:
In the data driven world of lead generators, job boards, virtual RPO’s, and Social Media outlets, why does the demand for niche industry search firms continue to rise? Supply & Demand, absolutely! Another explanation is ACCESS. Savvy Executives know that real time access to resources albeit financial, technological or human is vital to running a healthy productive business. Niche Recruiters generate value by providing access to passive candidates, the “A” players who are busy creating profit for their current company not applying to job boards or responding to countless unvetted “in-mails.” Can’t tell you how many daily conversations (yes, actual telephone conversations) in our office occur between us and passive candidates that begin with… “this opportunity sounds interesting …I was emailed about something like this but never responded because…”  What if this candidate could have been your next superstar? What’s the cost of this lost revenue? What’s the exponential value they are adding to your Competitor’s bottom line?

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Still convinced your company “always” hires the best?
When in doubt engage a Pro, a  Questpro.

IIAT has partnered with insurance recruiting specialist Questpro to help IIAT members hire, train and retain the next generation of insurance professionals.

Get 5% Off Questpro’s Hiring Services

IIAT members get an exclusive 5% discount on Questpro’s staffing services and a portion of the fee will go to support ELITExas, IIAT’s young professionals group.
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TDI Reminder: Deadline Approaching to Report Harvey Claims

As the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, the Texas Department of Insurance is reminding Texans that some insurance policies have a one-year deadline to file claims.

Harvey made landfall August 25. Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) claims must be reported by the one-year anniversary of the date the damage occurred unless the policyholder can show good cause for the delay.

To file a TWIA claim, go to www.twia.org or call 1-800-788-8247.

 

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IIAT Joins TAHU in Filing Amicus Brief

Recently, IIAT joined TAHU (Texas Association of Health Underwriters) in filing an Amicus Brief in the case of Papalia vs. Richard Bryan, currently pending on appeal at the Texas Supreme Court.

Q: What is the issue that IIAT and TAHU is concerned about?

A: The original lawsuit involves a transaction in which an insurance agent set up a Welfare Benefit Plan in an effort to reduce the taxes paid by a small business and its owner. This plan involved the purchase of a premium variable life insurance policy, which resulted in the insurer’s payment of a large one-time commission to the agent.

While the agent was not a certified financial advisor, the plaintiff presented evidence at trial that the agent acted as his financial advisor and that the plaintiff relied on him as such. After the IRS audited and challenged the tax deductions, the business owner sued the agent for fraud and negligent misrepresentation and obtained a jury verdict for return of the commission and out-of-pocket losses, as well as $2.5 million in exemplary damages. After the trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict and ordered that the plaintiffs take nothing, the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal the Houston Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s fraud finding on the plaintiffs’ failure to disclose theory. In so ruling, the court rejected the agent’s argument that he had no duty to disclose a commission paid solely by the insurer based on Section 4005.004 of the Texas Insurance Code.

This statute says that an agent who accepts compensation from a customer may not also accept compensation from an insurer unless the latter is disclosed and approved in writing by the customer; however, section 4005.004(c)(3) of the statute also says that it does not apply to an agent whose sole compensation is derived from commissions or other payments from the insurer. Despite this provision, the court of appeals suggested that the agent could have had a duty to disclose the commission because he was also acting as a financial advisor or under various scenarios where the common law has recognized a duty to disclose. In other words, the court did not interpret section 4005.004 to relieve an insurance agent of a duty to disclose a commission in all circumstances. This interpretation would seem to render the statute meaningless and potentially impacts all insurance agents in Texas in the sale of any product involving a commission. If applied across the board, the case would mean that every Texas agent has a duty to disclose every commission they receive on any product, whether paid by the carrier or the consumer.

Q: What does the brief say?

A: The crux of IIAT’s and TAHU’s argument is that the appellate opinion in this case ignores the plain language of the Insurance Code, which only requires commission disclosure for an insurance agent if that agent is paid by both the consumer AND the carrier. It clearly excludes disclosure if the commission is only paid by the carrier (which was the case for Mr. Bryan). By doing so, it creates uncertainty for agents everywhere as to when and if we are required to disclosure commissions. It will also lead to an increase of litigation filed against agents for failing to disclose in all cases.

The legislature carefully considered the issue of when to require agents to disclose commissions and the law it passed on that issue is codified in the Insurance Code. We encourage the Court to uphold and follow the law as written since it is the job of the legislature to decide these issues. It is not appropriate for one appellate court in Texas to create a different and conflicting duty of disclosure. It will create chaos in the marketplace if that court case is allowed to stand.

The brief does not expressly or impliedly argue against the idea of disclosure in any way. It in fact states that consumers are free to ask their agents about commissions and find another agent if theirs will not disclose a commission. The Brief makes clear that we are only asking the Court to follow the current law on this issue for purposes of consistency. Our Brief does not argue that agents should not be required to disclose commissions or imply that we would oppose a requirement to do so.

Q: What happens next?

The Plaintiff filed a Response to our Brief, asking the court to disregard our arguments. The Texas Supreme Court now gets to decide whether to take up the case. The Court doesn’t have to issue an opinion on every appeal that is filed so it is possible the Court will do nothing and let the appellate court opinion stand.  Typically they take up cases of first impression (an issue that has never been decided before) or cases where a conflict between appellate courts or statutes exist.

Our hope is that we have convinced them some clarification is needed on the Insurance Code interpretation in this case and they will take it up. We will monitor it and provide you with updates on the Supreme Court’s actions. We are hopeful the Court will overturn or clarify the holding in this case which sets a confusing precedent that agents may have an additional duty to disclose commissions above the one required by the Texas Insurance Code. We will inform the membership once that occurs.

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Questpro is Now the Preferred Recruiter for IIAT

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IIAT is proud to announce a new partnership with insurance recruiting specialist Questpro that will help IIAT members hire, train and retain the next generation of insurance professionals.

Questpro provides insurance agencies and companies with access to the best talent, whether it’s a direct-hire or contract-to-hire. They also specialize in recruiting and training millennials.

“IIAT is honored to partner with national insurance recruitment firm Questpro to assist IIAT member agencies with industry placements and hiring strategies and to help continue to grow our young professionals group, ELITExas. Questpro’s recruitment professionals have solid relationships with students, educators, laterals, and agency management alike,” said IIAT member and ELITExas Chair Billy Crocker of Higginbotham & Associates in Austin.

Get 5% Off Questpro’s Hiring Services

IIAT members get an exclusive 5% discount on Questpro’s staffing services and a portion of the fee will go to support ELITExas, IIAT’s young professionals group.

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Treasury Issues Draft Regulations on New 20 Percent Deduction for Pass-Through Businesses

Today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the first of three potential regulations governing Section 199A of the tax code. Section 199A provides the 20% tax deduction to an owner or shareholder of a pass-through entity where the owner or shareholder’s annual taxable income does not exceed $315,000 for joint filers and $157,500 for single filers in 2018.

In other words, all owners or shareholders that are organized as pass-throughs under the above income thresholds can utilize the full 20% deduction and any regulations or guidance released by Treasury, including the draft released today, will not impact this. However, an owner or shareholder of a “specified service trade or business” with annual taxable income between $315,000 – $415,000 (joint) and $157,500 – $207,500 (single) will slowly see the deduction phased out and those above $415,000 (joint) and $207,500 (single) will be prohibited from utilizing the new deduction.

The big question for insurance agents and brokers has been whether we would be considered a “specified service trade or business.”

We are happy to report that INITIAL review of these draft regulations indicates that the IRS DOES NOT consider insurance agents and brokers to be a “specified service trade or business.

Specifically, the draft regulation states:

“Proposed §1.199A-5(b)(2)(x) uses the ordinary meaning of “brokerage services” and provides that the field of brokerage services includes services in which a person arranges transactions between a buyer and a seller with respect to securities (as defined in section 475(c)(2)) for a commission or fee. This includes services provided by stock brokers and other similar professionals, but does not include services provided by real estate agents and brokers, or insurance agents and brokers.”

The Big “I” government affairs team has been working hard on this issue on the Hill and with the Administration arguing that insurance agents and brokers should NOT be considered a “specified service trade or business” and this is a very positive step towards ensuring that Big “I” members organized as pass-throughs receive the full benefit of the new 20 percent deduction. The draft regulation is now open for a public comment period and will become final later this year. The Big “I” is currently reviewing the draft and will provide comments to the IRS, and further guidance to members as needed moving forward.

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Key Fundamentals of Flood Insurance Seminar Presented by NFIP

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Earn 3 hours of CE Credit for Texas Insurance Agents Only

August 14, 2018
Fort Worth, TX

Marriott Champions Circle 3300
Championship Parkway
Fort Worth, TX 76177

REGISTER

August 15, 2018
Houston, TX

Courtyard Marriott
West Energy Corridor
2401 Katy Freeway
Houston, TX 77079

REGISTER

Course Overview
The Key Fundamentals of Flood Insurance Seminar course covers the topics listed in the Federal Register notice on training and education requirements related to Section 207 of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004, otherwise known as FIRA 2004.

Participants will receive the latest information on reform legislation impacting the NFIP as the course reviews key elements that insurance agents need to know about the NFIP and how it works. The seminar also discusses many of the federal flood program’s general rules as well as some of its more advanced topics through the use of a case study approach. In addition the course includes the following topics:

  • NFIP definition of flood
  • Amount of coverage available
  • A review of flood zones and flood risk
  • Use of the FEMA elevation certificate
  • Subsidized rating versus full-risk rating
  • Grandfathered rating
  • Newly Mapped procedure
  • Preferred Risk Policy
  • Coverages, limitations and exclusions
  • Loss settlement provisions
  • And much more!

Registration Information
8:30 – 9:00 am (Sign-in)
9:00 am – 12:00 pm (Seminar)

Register early! These seminars are FREE to attend, but seating is limited.

To register, please use the links above.

Continuing Education
Provider: Flood Insurance Training Solutions, #33452,
Course: Key Fundamentals of Flood Insurance Seminar, #110773

Key Fundamentals of Flood Insurance Seminar is approved for 3 hours of continuing education credit in the state of Texas. It meets the minimum flood insurance training requirement for this state.

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Earn CE Without Leaving the Office with ABEN: New Users Get a 40% Discount

Earn CE online through IIAT’s Agents & Brokers Education Network (ABEN). ABEN’s unique webcast platform lets you skip the travel and the hassle of traditional CE. ABEN offers a wide array of courses that cover the most relevant, up-to-date commercial lines, personal lines and agency operations topics (including ethics) taught by top industry experts.

View live streaming video, submit questions, take notes and get full access to written materials. Additionally, ABEN’s help desk is standing by 24/7 to assist if you encounter any difficulty with the technology.

Class topics include:aben promo

  • Insuring Condominiums
  • Ethics for Agents
  • E&O Risk Management
  • General Homeowners
  • General PAP
  • Property and Liability Concepts
  • Personal Lines Claims That Cause Problems
  • And more.

Learn more and register for an ABEN class today.

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All Contracts are Not Alike

A member recently brought to our attention the importance of reviewing contracts with companies, brokers and others. He found that a particular contract placed ownership of the business with the broker, not the agent.

The ownership of expirations is a key component in agency valuation and should be protected in any agreement. Also, termination provisions should be reviewed to assure that you are given proper notice should the other party decide to cancel the agreement. In Texas, there are notice provisions built into the law but those can be set aside by an addendum to the contract signed by you. And although everything may seem great today, it is important to recognize that the future may not be so bright.

IIAT has compiled a variety of resources to help guide you through the process including sample wording that addresses the most critical issues for our members. If you need help, check out the Agency Agreements information on our website which can be found here.

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How to Speak Flood to Your Clients

Last year’s hurricane season was one of the most devastating and costly on record, and it Global warming, house on a lifebelt, rising sea levels, floodingcan happen again. Forecasters predict that 2018 will be a near-to-above-average hurricane season.

Below are some messages and resources you can use to communicate with clients when flood events are likely, but not imminent. The goal is to reach current or potential clients when the threat of a hurricane is top-of-mind, but to avoid the perception of marketing flood insurance when a storm is about to hit (or after it has hit), as it is likely too late for clients to get covered at that time.

In addition to communicating about the importance of flood insurance, make sure to help clients understand other the hurricane preparedness steps that they can take.

How to Speak Flood

  • Now is the time to prepare for hurricane season: Buying flood insurance is one of the most important steps you can take to protect the life you’ve built. Don’t delay because flood insurance policies typically take up to 30 days to go into effect.
  • It can happen again: The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most devastating and costly on record, and forecasters predict that these severe storms will continue this year.
  • Just one inch of water in an average-sized home can cause more than $25,000 in damage: Remember, most homeowners insurance does not cover flooding.
  • Flooding can happen anywhere, not just in high-risk areas: More than 25% of flood insurance claims come from outside the high-risk area.

Hurricane Preparedness

  • You can’t control the weather, but you can prepare for it: This hurricane season, make sure your family is protected. Make a communication plan, know your evacuation routes, and create a storm bag filled with essential disaster supplies, like medication and key documents (insurance policies, bank information, etc.).
  • Take time to document: Take pictures and video, and keep a record of your most valuable belongings. In the event of flooding, this documentation will help you file a claim and recover more quickly.
  • Prepare your home: Remove damaged trees and limbs, secure and reinforce the roof, and remove debris from gutters to prevent water damage.
  • Before a hurricane: NFIP flood policies will cover up to $1,000 in expenses incurred to protect your insured property from an imminent flood event. This includes purchasing sandbags, plastic sheeting, and lumber.

IIAT Advantage offers Flood Insurance Programs for IIAT members underwritten by Assurant Flood Solutions and Selective. For more information please contact Polly Middlebrook at 512-493-2425.

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Posted in IIAT Advantage, Markets, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment