Laura Farmer Joining Service Lloyds Insurance Company

LauraIt’s with mixed emotions that IIAT announces Laura Farmer, CPCU, CIC, will be pursuing a new role at Service Lloyds Insurance Company.

During her time at the association, Laura has managed the ELITExas (Emerging Leaders of Insurance in Texas) Advisory Council and spearheaded programs to promote the insurance industry to younger generations. In 2016, ELITExas took home the Outstanding Breakthrough Award at the Big “I” Fall Leadership Conference in Chicago.

In her new role serving on Service Lloyds’ Business Development Team, Laura will be responsible for working with the company’s partner agencies, growing Service Lloyds’ business in Central Texas. She’ll also continue to build relationships with Young Agents across Texas and maintain her involvement with ELITExas.

“We are sorry to see Laura go, but excited for her as she starts a new challenge with one of our partner companies. Laura has been an enthusiastic ambassador for independent agents and the IIAT brand,”  said IIAT President & Executive Director Marit Peters. “We look forward to working with her in her new role to continue building on the success of ELITExas and promoting the insurance industry to the younger generation entering the workforce.”

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IIAT Member Agencies Share Disaster Preparedness Measures that got them Through Harvey

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Two IIAT member agencies headquartered in Houston, Wortham Insurance and Risk Management and Focus Insurance & Financial Services, were featured in a recent Big “I” Independent Agent magazine article on disaster preparedness. In the article, “How Would Your Agency Fare During a Hurricane Harvey?,” Wortham Chairman Richard Blades and Focus COO Mickie Comiskey, shared preparedness measures that helped them get through Harvey when their clients needed them most.

When Harvey struck Houston, Wortham’s basement completely flooded and so did nearly four feet of the first floor — a big problem for a building that houses all its power equipment in the basement. But because Wortham stores data and telecommunications offsite, they were down for only a couple of hours.

Staff already had the ability to work remotely with full access to email, phones and systems. But as an additional layer of support, Wortham also rented two mobile recovery units and parked them in the building’s parking lot once the waters receded. Each unit accommodated 36 employees – a welcome respite for staff members who were unable to work from home due to flooding, power loss or network issues resulting from the storm.

“When you’re headquartered in Houston, you always have to be prepared for catastrophe,” Blades says. “You need to take care of your people, and you need to be able to continue to service clients and assist them with claims. You can’t say, ‘We’re down, we’re flooded, we’re not available.’ You have to be operating as close to business as usual as you can.”

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‘Tis the Season: Hunting Accidents Will Happen

It’s hunting season, so chances are that you have insureds asking you some version of the following questions.

  • Will the liability insurance on my homeowners policy cover me if I accidentally shoot someone while hunting?
  • What about some other kind of accident on my hunting lease?
  • Do I need any special coverage on my hunting jeep and 4-wheeler?

One other thing is as certain as the questions customers ask about hunting: Someone is going to be shot by a hunter somewhere in Texas this year. According to the most recent annual report from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 24 people were injured in hunting accidents in 2016 and five of them died. Each injury or death is a tragic event for those involved – including the errant shooter – and we imagine most of these incidents resulted in legal action of one kind or another to compensate the injured and deceased persons’ families.

The good news for the shooter is that liability insurance on the homeowners policy will defend a lawsuit and pay legal damages under any circumstances except an intentional shooting. Whether you hunt for free on a family farm, pay a daily fee to a farmer or rancher for the privilege, or lease acreage for the season or year-round, your farside-deerhomeowners policy provides liability coverage for hunting activities.

Refer to the InfoCentral Client Communications article, Hunting Accidents Will Happen, for more information on coverage issues involving:

  • Accidental shootings,
  • Hunting leases,
  • Employees on hunting leases,
  • Vehicles used on hunting leases, and
  • Membership in hunting clubs.

The article closes with a suggestion for the client to review liability limits and consider purchasing an umbrella policy. You can also find more information on Hunting Exposures in the Coverage Issues section of InfoCentral.

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Register for October’s InfoCentral CE Webcasts: Intro to Surplus Lines & Roof Claims Issues

Each month IIAT’s Jim Gavin presents two 1-hour webcasts covering personal lines and commercial lines issues. Register for the next IIAT InfoCentral CE webcasts. Each hour-long webcast costs $25 for members and is approved for 1 CE credit.

Introduction to Surplus Lines

Thursday, Oct. 26 | 10-11 a.m. | 1 CE Credit | $25wc_icon

Surplus Lines is an essential element of the insurance marketplace in Texas. Learn the basics about how it operates, your responsibilities, and how Surplus Lines carrier differ from other insurance companies.
Register

Roof Claim Issues in Texas

Thursday, Oct. 26 | 2-3 p.m. | 1 CE Credit | $25

Wind and hail are the leading causes of loss for Texas homeowners. Learn how the adjustment process works and how new legislation is designed to prevent lawsuit abuse.
Register

You must be logged in to iiat.org to register for these webcasts. If you have trouble registering, please call member services at 800.880.7428.

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When Tomorrow Never Comes: The Challenge of Business Continuity Planning

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Agents ‘of a certain age’ will recall Popeye cartoon character “Wimpy” and his perpetual promise: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Devoted viewers also recall, though, that Tuesday never seemed to arrive.

Looming on the horizon for many of us is that red letter day most of us look forward to, a few dread and everyone arrives at one way or another – retirement. But, there are other, unforeseeable outcomes lurking out there that may get in the way of your workplace farewell, notably death and disability.

What will happen to your agency if one of those things occurs unexpectedly, and how can you minimize the disruption they bring?

Thoughtful business continuity planning is the obvious prescription, but who has time for that? After all, Wimpy would have you believe planning for the future is something that can be taken care of Tuesday – and many of you are listening to him.

Is that wise? Below are a few examples of actual claims involving a retired, deceased, or disabled agency owner. Some valuable lessons can be learned from the experiences of others that should change “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitudes into “I’ll do it today!”

Untimely Demise

One of our insured agency owners personally handled the account of a customer who had a motor vehicle accident for which there was no auto coverage in place. The customer proceeded to make an E&O claim against the agency alleging the lack of auto coverage was due to an error by the agency owner. Sadly, in the midst of the ensuing lawsuit, the owner unexpectedly passed away.

Because it was one of the household’s major assets, the grieving widow had little choice but to take over running the agency. She had no experience in insurance or running a business and, to make matters worse, had no idea where or how to locate documents and information to assist in the defense of the agency.

Without the testimony of the owner, the agency had to rely on a long-time employee to assist with locating documents, activity log notes, and phone log notes. Fortuitously, that loyal employee was able to locate documents and activity log notes that resulted in a favorable outcome for the agency. Had the owner/agent not been diligent in documenting his file, including verbal communications with the claimant, even with the assistance of surviving employees this claim likely would have had a different outcome, because there was no live witness to dispute the customer’s version of events.

The failure of the owner of the agency to put a contingency plan in place in the event of his untimely death placed the burden of this lawsuit squarely in the lap of his newly bereaved spouse. Fortunately, this agency had a seasoned, long-time employee that could step in and locate the information that assisted with the favorable outcome.

What is your plan to help your family grapple with your untimely demise? Having a succession plan in place is essential to the business continuity of your agency and alleviation of the added stress your family, customers and employees already face in the wake of your untimely demise.

Disability

Another insured agency owner had a stroke that left him permanently incapacitated. The owner’s daughter had started her career at her father’s agency, moved to another state and worked in a much larger agency in a large city. Upon learning of her father’s stroke, the daughter returned home to assume the helm of the family agency.

She arrived home to find that a 30-year employee of the agency had taken over and claimed the agency as her own. Her story: she was going to leave 10 years earlier to start her own agency when the owner talked her out of it. Instead, her commissions were decreased slightly as a way for her to buy her way into agency ownership. According to her, the owner told her that, upon his retirement, the agency would be hers. In fact, there were some notes and draft agreements drawn up along with the reduction in commissions, but nothing formal was ever completed, much less signed.

Westport denied coverage because internal ownership disputes are not covered under an E&O policy. The last we knew, both the daughter and longtime employee firmly believed they were the rightful owner of the agency and each was spending money fighting it out in court. Is this the legacy the agency owner intended?

Retirement

Contrasted with the first two examples, a third insured agency owner managed to sell his agency and retire after a long, successful career. He turned over lock, stock, and barrel to the new owner and rode off into the sunset. For their part, the new owners merged the purchased agency customers into their existing insurance agency.

A few years later a lawsuit was filed by a customer against the former agency, prompting our insured to report the claim to Westport Insurance under the tail coverage he had purchased. When his file documents were requested by counsel for both sides, the retired agency owner had a shock: the purchasing agency had destroyed his agency records. The former owner and Westport Insurance were left trying to defend a suit with no agency file. To make matters worse, the record retention requirement of that state was seven years. Thus, the documents were destroyed at a time when the agency was under a legal obligation to maintain them.

This had unfortunate legal implications for the agency in the defense of the lawsuit.  Defense counsel had to attempt to recreate the file and craft legal defenses for having destroyed the documents prematurely, which all resulted in sizeable defense costs. Due to the lack of documentation for the agency, the case was settled with the plaintiff under less favorable terms than the (undocumented) recollections of the agency owner would suggest.

When the day comes to retire, a copy of all customer files should be retained for the minimum document retention period followed in your state. While this agency did not destroy the records directly, the purchasing agency did not consider the time requirements and legal implications prior to destroying the former agency records prematurely. Nonetheless, the former agency was penalized for the decisions of the purchasing agency, which could have been avoided by scanning or copying the customer files and preserving the activity log notes.

Having a business continuity plan in place, open communication, good documentation, and forethought are key to your agency continuing to operate, defend itself against E&O claims, and avoid statutory violations. It is never too early to put a plan in place to protect your family, your partners, your employees and your loyal customers.

Of course, noted organizational expert Wimpy would still have you believe that today is too busy, that your calendar is too full. You would gladly formulate the perfect business continuity plan … on Tuesday. General George Patton had the right response: “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

That’s sound advice because experience teaches that, all too often, ‘tomorrow’ never comes.

Janice S. Blanton, is an assistant vice president, claims specialist with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and teleworks out of the office in Overland Park, Kansas. Insurance products underwritten by Westport Insurance Corporation, Overland Park, Kansas, a member of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

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IIAT Advantage E&O Offers Professional Liability for the Texas Independent Agent

Call IIAT’s Gunnar Kephart at 800.880.7428 to learn how IIAT Advantage E&O can help protect your business against E&O claims. Learn more.

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IIAT Matchmaker: A Free M&A Service for IIAT Members

Agency buyers continue to outnumber sellers, which is good news for any IIAT members looking to sell. IIAT Matchmaker is a free service for IIAT members who want to source suitors without prematurely alerting employees, customers or carriers.Webp.net-resizeimage (1)

Here is a brief overview of the process, which is designed to maintain a level playing field for all interested parties:

  1. IIAT maintains a master buyer list and buyer parties are added to the list whenever requested.
  2. A seller contacts IIAT about their interest in selling. The seller is directed to the M&A Toolkit for more information about the process.  If interested in proceeding, the seller completes a seller’s profile that contains as much information as possible without compromising their identity. A random four-digit number is assigned to the seller.
  3. The master buyer list is sent to seller to review and approve for distribution of the profile.
  4. A “Matchmaker Alert” is e-mailed to all parties on the approved buyer list, with the seller profile attached, announcing the opportunity. The alert instructs interested parties to communicate interest via a reply e-mail and to include anything they would want the seller to know.
  5. Buyer e-mails are forwarded to the seller who uses them to choose which parties to contact.
  6. If asked, we help get a confidential non-disclosure agreement signed before contact information is exchanged. The agreement is forwarded to buyer to complete and sign as recipient and return via email or fax. The signed agreement is forwarded to seller. Depending on seller preference, the seller contacts chosen buyer parties directly or IIAT forwards contact info to buyer parties.

If you find yourself wrestling with perpetuation issues, fighting a losing battle with economic forces or just wanting to pursue a different agency business model, contact IIAT’s Rick Bondurant at 512.493.2436 about how Matchmaker can help you find and screen suitors. Buyers may also contact Rick to be added to the buyer list.

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NFIP Issues Clarification, Changes

FEMA recently issued two bulletins in regards to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you write flood insurance, please review them to stay in the know.

UNDERWRITING CLARIFICATIONS
Bulletin W-17062 addresses the fall-out from April 1, 2015 Program Changes, which required policies to be re-underwritten to ensure the correct flood zone. At issue, according to FEMA, is that:

Some agents or policyholders are using information from policy Declarations pages that contain incorrect information because they were issued prior to the policy being re-underwritten. The use of these incorrect Declarations pages allows policyholders to obtain new policies from a new insurer using incorrect grandfathering information for rating, which thereby results in a policy misrating.

The memo goes on to warn insurers that the Standard Flood Insurance Policy must include accurate information to ensure payment in the event of a loss.

Read Bulletin W-17062

UPCOMING PROGRAM CHANGES
FEMA also announced upcoming changes to the NFIP, including April 1, 2018 Program Changes and Jan. 1, 2019 premium changes for Preferred Risk Policies and Newly Mapped procedure policies.

Read Bulletin W17061

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Teach, Reinforce, Challenge – IIAT’s Online New Hire Training is Convenient, Affordable and Effective

IIAT’s online New Hire Training is a flexible, affordable and immediate solution to train new employees and current staff. Online training provides an ideal way to fit basic coverage and business skills education into the busy workday.

Training modules include:

  • Introduction to the Insurance Industry
  • Commercial and Personal Lines Coverage Basics
  • Advanced Communication and Negotiation Skills
  • Business Communication Fundamentals
  • Client Management Essentials
  • and more

Watch this short video to learn the benefits of using the online modules as a flexible learning solution for any learner.

Learn more about IIAT’s New Hire Training

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Registration Now Open for the 55th Annual Joe Vincent Management Seminar

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Registration is now open for the biggest insurance management event in Texas — IIAT’s Joe Vincent Management Seminar! For 55 years, agency owners, managers, and producers have convened in Austin to explore the latest agency management concepts and techniques.

January 28-30, 2018 | Renaissance Austin Hotel
REGISTER NOW

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Futurist Jim Carroll

The 55th Annual Joe Vincent Management Seminar features a dynamic lineup of speakers and innovative topics. World-renowned futurist Jim Carroll will present a one-of-a-kind keynote, “Insurance in the Era of Disruption: Transformation and Reinvention.”

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a massive global blue chip client list, Jim helps transform growth-oriented organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes! Even NASA has had him, twice, to help shape their thought process about the future!

The Joe Vincent Management Seminar covers all aspects of agency management – sales, operation, human resources, and leadership. Session highlights include:

  • MarshBerry’s State of the Industry: Where the Industry is Trending and How to Ensure Your Agency is Built to Last
  • Active Shooter and Workplace Violence
  • Six Themes That Will Shape the Global Oil Market for Years to Come (and What That Means for Texas)
  • Lessons Learned from Hurricane Harvey
  • Insurance and Public Policy Issues Arising From the 911 Terrorist Attack
  • Chuck Bauer presents Marketing Yourself Shamelessly
  • Enhancing Employee Engagement
  • The Future of Agency Technology
  • Talent Recruiting and Development
  •  And More!

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Small Agency Conference Presentation Recordings Now Available to Download

Did you miss the Small Agency Conference, or is there a session you want to share withatr your colleagues?

Recordings of most of the sessions at IIAT’s recent Small Agency Conference in Waco, including, Compensation Models for Producers and Service Staff, Effective Selling and Marketing with Chuck Bauer, and Building a Profitable Book, are now available to download on iiat.org at no cost.

Download the audio files here. You can also view photos from the event here.

 

 

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