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GREEN MOUNTAIN AGENT A PUBLICATION OF VERMONT INSURANCE AGENTS ASSOCIATION

MARCH 2018


Seasons May Change, But Our Commitment to the Independent Agent Channel Remains the Same...

V

ermont Mutual is proud to have served Vermont and the New England market through the longstanding partnership with our Independent Agents. It remains our privilege to work with the finest Independent Agencies in the industry … the only place you can buy a Vermont Mutual policy.

89 State Street, P.O. Box 188, Montpelier, VT 05601 | 800.451.5000 | VermontMutual.com

Vermont Mutual is proud to sponsor the Vermont Insurance Agents Association’s new Education Center in Williston, Vermont.


Green Mountain Agent is a publication of

In This Issue: March 2018 4 Message from the President 7 On the Hill

600 Blair Park Road Suite 100 Williston, VT 05495 Phone: 802-229-5884 Fax: 802-876-7912 www.viaa.org VIAA Officers President Erin Odell Vice President Paul Plunkett Secretary/Treasurer Alan Kinney National Director Ron Bixby

Directors Chip Ams Daniel Rodliff

9 Under the Dome 12 Department of Financial Regulation

Features 13 Insurance Commentary 19 Agency Operations 21 Sales & Marketing 25 Knowledge 28 E&O Corner

Company News 33 Acuity Insurance 34 Vermont Mutual 35 Concord Insurance Group

Michael Barrett

Staff Executive Director Mary Eversole meversole@viaa.org

GMA Publication Design LONDONmiddlebury londonmiddlebury.com

Agency News 37 The Richards Group

Help Wanted 39 The Richards Group


Message from the President InsurPac Works for You! Next month thousands of independent agents will converge on Capitol Hill for the Big “I” Legislative Conference. This is a one-of-a-kind legislative event for the independent agency system and an opportunity to educate members of Congress on issues important to us and our clients. VIAA is proud to be attending with several members of our Young Agents Committee. Some may cringe at the mere mention of a PAC in this climate of partisan discord in our nation’s capital. Political Action Committees began in the 1940s when Congress decided that labor unions and corporations would not be allowed to contribute directly to congressional candidates. A PAC simply provides an organized way for an association to support political candidates, legislation, regulations or initiatives that promote the independent agency system. The U.S. Congress regularly considers legislation that directly affects the livelihood of Vermont’s Independent Agents. The Big “I” Government Affairs Team advocates for us daily and InsurPac plays a key role in their success. The proposed federal budget includes cuts to the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), as well as changes to the NFIP.

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The Federal Crop Insurance Program protects $32 million of liability on growing crops in Vermont. It insures 77, 125 acres of farm land that produces dairy products, maple syrup, apples and more. Agriculture is an important part of Vermont’s economy and agent livelihood. NFIP is currently funded through March 23. It is set to expire if not reauthorized by Congress. With the current flood maps, Vermonters need flood insurance. They cannot buy a home without it in many cases. NFIP needs a longterm reauthorization to ensure stability in the marketplace. Underlying the cuts to FCIP and NFIP is the risk of agents losing commissions. Anytime an independent agents commission are at risk we should all be concerned. In order for the PAC to thrive and be effective on Capitol Hill, it is necessary to build a solid culture of participation among independent agents. VIAA members have a strong record of participation. Last year, thanks to Paul Kendall’s leadership as InsurPac Chair, we exceeded our InsurPac goal by 10% and the YACS exceeded their goal by 112%! That is phenomenal. Let’s keep that momentum going in 2018. At the end of the day, elected officials who receive InsurPac support might not always vote with agents, but it does enable the Big “I” to constantly remind officials about where agents stand on important issues. Please consider a donation to InsurPac today to protect your commissions and agency. It is a wise investment. Erin Odell, CIC, CISR, MBA Odell Insurance Agency VIAA Incoming President


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On the Hill President’s Budget Targets FCIP and NFIP By Jennifer Webb

On Monday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a proposed budget for FY2019 that includes cuts to the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), as well as changes to the NFIP. For crop insurance, the proposed budget creates an adjusted gross income limit of $500,000, reduces the premium discount farmers receive between 10 and 15 percentage points, and sets a 12% cap on underwriting gains for the companies that participate in the FCIP. The Big “I” opposes any cuts to the crop insurance program, including limiting the assistance that farmers receive and proposals that take away from private-sector delivery of crop insurance. The FCIP is an example of a successful private-public partnership and is a critical safety net for the rural economy. The Big “I” also opposes efforts to means test the FCIP. The FCIP is actuarially sound and benefits from a large and diverse risk pool. Means testing would only serve to destabilize the risk pool and increase every farmer’s premium. Furthermore, means testing unfairly penalizes regions with high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables, and regions with larger-

acreage farms. The crop insurance proposals are expected to gain little traction on Capitol Hill and run counter to positive crop insurance statements from the White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year. Nevertheless, attacks on the FCIP and the private-sector delivery system are expected to continue during negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill. For flood insurance, the budget proposes an affordability program to offer premium assistance based on income or ability to pay, rather than property location or date of construction; recommends reducing the appropriation for the NFIP’s flood mapping program by $78 million; and recommends FEMA continue to purchase reinsurance. The Big “I” supports efforts by FEMA to purchase private reinsurance. In 2017, FEMA received nearly $7 for every $1 of reinsurance coverage it purchased. The Big “I” also supports improving maps and utilizing more advanced flood mapping technologies is imperative to helping property owners better understand their risk. Finally, while affordability of flood insurance is important, any potential subsidies should not detract from efforts toward riskbased rating. The NFIP was originally set to be reauthorized by Sept. 30, 2017. However, because Congress did not reach a consensus on reforming the program, it reauthorized the NFIP on a shortterm basis. The program is currently funded through March 23. The Big “I” believes a longterm reauthorization is necessary to ensure stability in the marketplace. The Big “I” will discuss the FCIP and NFIP, among other issues on Capitol Hill, at the 2018 Big “I” Legislative Conference, to take place in Washington, D.C. April 18-20. 7


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Under the Dome Insurance Issues in Play as Legislature Reaches Midway Point By John Hollar DRM | Government and Public Affairs Group VIAA Retained Lobbyist

The legislature is nearly at the midway point of the session, which is signaled by the “Crossover” deadline. Bills must be passed out of their committee of origin by Friday, March 2 in order to receive further consideration this year. The Crossover deadline always create a last-minute scramble, and it is no different this year. AOT Proposes Major Reduction in Transportation Bonds Under current law, contractors that engage in state transportation projects in excess of $100,000 are required to post a performance bond. The House Transportation Committee is considering legislation, as part of its annual transportation bill, that would increase the bond threshold to $1 million. The proposal has been submitted by the Agency of Transportation, which argues that the current bond requirement imposes unnecessary costs on small contractors. The AOT proposal would place Vermont’s bond requirement at a level that is far higher than any other state. It would create risks to subcontractors and the state in the event of a default on a project that falls under the bonding requirement. The VIAA has communicated its concerns about this proposal to the House Transportation Committee, which is expected to make a decision on it during the week

of February 26. AOT staff members and members of the Transportation Committee have expressed a willingness to consider a compromise proposal. Task Force on Workers’ Compensation Safety The Scott Administration has created a Task Force for High Risk Occupations to consider proposals to enhance workplace safety and lower workers’ compensation costs in certain industries. The Task Force will be chaired by Sam Lincoln, Deputy Commissioner of Forrest, Parks and Recreation. The initial meeting of the task force will be on March 8. The Administration has asked for input from the insurance industry, and VIAA will participate in this process. The Administration has proposed a pilot on-site safety certification program focusing initially on non-mechanized and mechanized logging. This program would be based on safety programs offered by the Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP). The goal is to create a model for other high-risk occupations. Under the Administration’s proposal, successful completion of the program would result in a premium credit for employers. The Administration has further requested that by November 1 the task force examine and provide a summary of safety programs in other high-risk industries with the goal of instituting similar industry-side certification programs in logging-related industries. Independent Contractor Issue – Resolved at Last? After nearly a dozen years of debate in the legislature, the issue of workers’ compensation coverage for independent 9


contractors may have finally been resolved – and without any legislative involvement. The Vermont Supreme Court issued a decision earlier this year in the case of In re Bourbeau Custom Homes, Inc.in which it held that a limited liability company could not be considered to be an “employee” for purposes of the unemployment compensation statute. After that decision was released, Vermont business organizations came together and argued that the Bourbeau decision should be applied to workers’ compensation. Under the logic of Bourbeau, an LLC or corporation should not be considered to be an “employee” of a hiring entity under the workers’ compensation statute. The business association efforts were supported by a recent Department of Labor opinion, Koski v. BlackRock Construction, Inc. That

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case held that an LLC member or corporate officer who obtains an exclusion from workers’ compensation coverage cannot be considered to be an employee of a third party hiring entity. Based on these decisions, business groups – including VIAA – were successful in persuading the Departments of Labor and Financial Regulation to issue guidance to employers and carriers making it clear that an independent contractor who registers as a corporation or LLC, and who receives a certification from the Department of Labor, will not be considered to be the statutory employee of a general contractor.This is a monumental change that will provide significant clarity for insurance agents who have struggled to understand how to advise general contractors about their workers’ compensation liability for subcontractors.


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Department of Financial Regulation State of Vermont Department of Financial Regulation 89 Main Street Montpelier, VT 05620-3101 www.dfr.vermont.gov

For consumer assistance: [Banking] 888-568-4547 [Insurance] 800-964- 1784 [Securities] 877-550-3907

Vermont to receive $140,000 from Merrill Lynch and agent for unauthorized actions Customer spurs investigation with complaint, receives full restitution

Michael S. Pieciak, Commissioner Contact: Stephanie Brackin, Information Management Officer, 802-828-4872 For Immediate Release: February 22, 2018 MONTPELIER, VT – The State of Vermont will receive $140,000 from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) and Lawrence K. Barber as a result of a Department of Financial Regulation investigation. Commissioner Michael S. Pieciak announced today that Merrill Lynch and Barber will pay a combined administrative penalty of $98,000 to the general fund, $30,000 to reimburse the Department for the costs of its investigation. They will also pay a combined $12,000 to the Department’s investor education and training fund. The investigation stemmed from a customer complaint seeking reimbursement from Merrill Lynch for losses incurred due to the actions of Barber, a registered broker-dealer agent and investment advisor representative in Merrill Lynch’s Burlington office. The Department’s investigation revealed that Barber made unauthorized changes to the client’s account, gained inappropriate access to the client’s online account, failed to follow the client’s express instructions, and did not follow Merrill Lynch policies and procedures. The investigation found that Merrill Lynch failed to provide adequate supervision of Barber to prevent and respond to conduct that was contrary its own internal policies. In addition to the $140,000 paid to the State, the client has received full restitution from Merrill Lynch for all losses related to these events. Pieciak said he recognizes the cooperation Merrill Lynch provided during the investigation and is satisfied with their actions in making full restitution to their client. “This department’s number one priority is Vermonters’ financial well-being,” he said. “When someone is harmed financially, we strive to make them whole and achieve a just outcome — Merrill Lynch stepped up to the plate in this instance to do just that.” “I encourage Vermonters to use the Department as a resource and reach out if you have a question, concern, or complaint about your finances” he said. The department can be reached through its consumer hotline at (800) 964-1784 or by email at dfr.pubinfo@vermont.gov. Merrill Lynch is a Vermont-registered securities broker-dealer with an office in Burlington. ###

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Insurance Commentary Big Bad Voodoo Data By Bill Wilson It’s no secret that I’ve written things about the Holy Crusade known as “InsurTech” that are critical or at least suggest caution in climbing aboard the hype and hyperbole bandwagon. InsurTech has been touted as the Holy Grail of industry nirvana with its ability to turn ‘lead’ data into golden predictions: “Insurtech is the ‘superpower’ for assessing, managing and transferring risks…All the players in the insurance arena will be InsurTech….” One component of this “movement” is something referred to as “big data,” more specifically, the miracle cure for perceived stagnant industry profits known as data analytics and predictive modeling. There is nothing new about the importance and value of data and its wiser big brother, information. Predictability, in the aggregate, is the cornerstone of industry stability and profitability. It’s the foundation of actuarial science. But, to be of value, the data must be credible and the models that use it must be predictive by more than mere correlation. And, to be usable, the data and models must meet legal requirements by being risk-based and nondiscriminatory. That’s where one of my concerns lies. Just how valid and relevant is the data and how is it being used? What prompted this article was a blurb in Shefi Ben-Hutta’s Coverager newsletter [emphasis added]: “Certain domain names are associated with more accidents than others. We use a variety of pieces of information to accurately produce a competitive price for our customers.” – Admiral

Group in response to research by The Sun that found the insurer could charge users…extra on their car insurance, simply for using a Hotmail email account instead of a Gmail one.” This revelation came just days after The Sun ran an article accusing the UK insurer of charging drivers with non-English-sounding names up to £900 extra for their insurance. I don’t know enough about insurance in the UK to opine about the potential discriminatory nature of jacking premiums on people whose names don’t sound “English,” but my guess is that U.S. state insurance departments likely would not look favorably on this as a rating factor. Historically in the U.S., P&C insurance rates have been largely based on factors that are easily ascertained and confirmed. For example, the “COPE” acronym (Construction, Occupancy, Protection, and Exposure) incorporates most of the factors used in determining a property insurance rate. From the standpoint of the fire peril, frame construction is riskier than fire resistive construction. A woodworker is riskier than an office. Having a fire hydrant 2,000 ft. away from a building is riskier than one 200 ft. away. It makes sense. It’s understandable. It’s provable. The risk inherent in these factors is demonstrable. The factors are understandable by consumers and business owners. It’s easy to identify what insureds can do to improve their risk profile and reduce their premiums. Advice can be given on how to construct a building, install protective systems, etc., in order to reduce risk and insurance costs. Traditional actuarial models are proven commodities and state insurance regulators have the expertise and ability to evaluate the efficacy of rate changes. 13


What these factors are not, in many cases, is inexpensive. Confirming this information may require a physical inspection. Some state laws require or compel such inspections. In my state, our valued policy law says that buildings must be inspected within 60 days of policy inception or the law is triggered and a carrier may have to pay policy face value for a total fire loss. Are the InsurTech startups selling homeowners insurance even aware of this? It is understandable that insurers want to reduce any unnecessary underwriting expenses if there are acceptable alternatives. Doing so may improve profitability and/or make them more competitive by enabling premium reductions. This is where Insurtech and technology in general can play a valuable role. Using reliable data on construction and size of buildings, building code inspection reports, satellite mapping for hydrant location, and so forth can have an almost immediate impact on the carrier expense side and potentially the loss component. To large extent, this is actually being done, but the search for something more (or less, if we’re talking about expenses) continues. Enter “big data” and predictive modeling, along with a horde of people who know absolutely nothing about the insurance industry but a lot about deluding gullible people with hip press releases. They tout the salvation of phone apps, AI bots, and “black box” rating algorithms with 600 variables and factors. Factors such as whether someone, according to their Facebook page or other online source, bowls in a Wednesday night mixed league where (speaking from personal experience) the focus is more on beer consumption than bowling and how that might impact the risk of an auto accident. The $64,000 question is how reliable are these predictive model algorithms and how credible is the data they use? The author of an article entitled “How Trustworthy Is Big 14

Data?” claims that there is typically a lot less control and governance built into big data systems compared to traditional architectures: “Most organizations base their business decision-making on some form of data warehouse that contains carefully curated data. But big data systems typically involve raw, unprocessed data in some form of a data lake, where different data reduction, scrubbing, and processing techniques are then applied as needed.” In other words, there may be little upfront vetting of the information because that takes time and costs money and, when acquired, there is no certainty that the data will ever be used. So, the approach may be to vet the data only when used and, as the article suggests, that can be problematic. The article also addresses the ethics of acquiring information on individuals for what may be perceived as nefarious reasons (e.g., price optimization): “Just because something is now feasible doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. If your customers would find it creepy to discover just how much you know about their activities, it’s probably a good indication that you shouldn’t be doing it.” Going back to The Sun’s Admiral reports, what impression would it make on Admiral’s customers if the insurer advertised, “Pay less if you have an English-sounding name!” Would any insurer proudly and publicly advertise something they’re allegedly doing behind closed doors? It’s like the ethical decision criteria of, what would your mother think if she knew what you were about to do? The right to do something doesn’t mean that doing it is right. Does black-box algorithmic rating enable and potentially protect this practice? I mentioned at the outset of this article, that the Admiral report prompted the article.


What compelled the article was a recent personal experience when I received a $592 auto insurance invoice a little over two months into my policy. The invoice attachments never really said why the carrier wanted additional premium, but a quick review indicated the reason. Our son moved out of the house three years ago and we removed him from our insurance program, including his vehicle. He still uses the same agency (different insurer) I’ve used since 1973 to insure his auto, condo, and personal umbrella. Our insurer learned that his vehicle registration notice is still mailed to our address. With that information, they (i.e., their underwriting model) unilaterally concluded that he still must live here, so they added him back to our insurance program and made him the primary driver of one of our three autos (the most expensive one, of course). I’m not sure what they thought happened to his vehicle. But, of course, no one “thought” about anything. An algorithmic decision tree spit out a boiler-plated invoice. I’ve been with this carrier now for four years, loss free, and paid them somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 in premiums, yet they could not invest 10 minutes of a clerical person’s time to make a phone call and confirm my son’s residency. Neither we nor our agent received any notice or inquiry prior to the invoice, but my agency CSR (who, thankfully, is still an empathetic human) was able to quickly fix the problem.

I have written about my personal experiences with a prior insurer involving credit scores. My homeowners premium was increased by $1,000 and, by law, I was advised that it was due to credit scoring. As it turned out, the credit reports of a Wilson couple in Colorado were used. Two years later, my homeowners premium was bumped $700 based on three “reason codes” which I was able to prove were bogus and the carrier rescinded the invoice. Now I’m being told that my current insurer’s information source tells them that my son has moved back home. I realize that these tales are anecdotal, but three instances in five years? How pervasive is this misinformation? Is this what “big data” brings to the table? Big, BAD data and voodoo presumptive (not predictive) modeling? Who really benefits from this? Anyone? One of the InsurTech buzz words going around is “transparency.” What’s transparent about “black box” underwriting and rating? At a convention last year, I spoke at length to a data scientist who was formerly with IBM and is now an insurance industry consultant. 15


Without naming names, he characterized some of the predictive models he has examined as “Rube Goldberg” constructs, with the worst ones resembling “a bunch of monkeys heading up the Manhattan Project.” Another consultant expressed his concern about some data companies. An NAIC presentation he attended listed some parameters relative to data points being used/allowed by carriers. The presenter expressed confidence that carriers were disclosing all of their data points. He is convinced, however, that carriers are using 25-50% more data points than the NAIC seems to be aware of. He has written about the abuse of data that lacks an actuarial grounding in risk assessment, again, a requirement of some state laws. Among the many problems with “black box” rating is the fact that no one may be able to explain how a particular premium was derived. No one may be able to tell someone how to reduce their premium. Perhaps most important, regulators may be unable to determine if the methodology results in rates that are unfairly discriminatory or otherwise violate state laws that require that rates be risk-based. Presumably, future rate filings will simply be a giant electronic file stamped “Trust Me.” “Big data” might be beneficial to insurers from a cost, profitability, and competitive standpoint, but it’s not clear how or even if it will impact consumers in a positive way. All the benefits being touted by the data vendors and consultants accrue to insurers, not their customers. In at least one case, if you have a “non-English sounding” name, the impact is adverse. The counter argument from the apostles of big data is that the majority of people will benefit. Of course, that was arguably the logic used when schools were segregated but that doesn’t justify the practice. 16

In the book “Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech,” the author points to an investigation of a correctional facility system that used proprietary algorithms to help decide bail terms, prison sentences, and parole eligibility using various factors, some alleged to be discriminatory (e.g., arrest records of neighbors where the person lived). A Wall Street Journal article, “Google Has Chosen an Answer For You – It’s Often Wrong,” demonstrated how searches often indicated a bias or manipulation by whomever constructed the algorithms being used or by how the search parameters were entered by users. Errors in building replacement cost valuations are often blamed on incompetent and/or untrained data harvesters and users…even when the data is presumed to be accurate, it can be used incorrectly. In 2016, I wrote an article for Independent Agent magazine entitled, “The Six Worst Things To Happen To Insurance In The Past 50 Years.” Number 3 on my list was the growing obsession with data vs. people. When I write about these things, I know I run the risk of being characterized as the old man on his front porch yelling at the “disrupter” kids to get out of his yard, but I don’t think I’m a Luddite. I love and embrace technology. I had a PC before IBM did. I still have the first iPod model. My phone is full of nifty apps. My son is a data scientist in the healthcare industry. I get it. But technology is a tool, not a religion. Far too many people treat technological innovation as sacrosanct and infallible, and anyone who questions or challenges its legitimacy and righteousness is committing heresy. What’s next, a SnapChat invitation from an AI bot that says, “Welcome to the Insurance Matrix, Mr. Anderson”? Not yet, I hope..


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Agency Operations How to Properly Train Your Staff on Binding Authority By Big “I” Virtual University Faculty Q: What is the best process for training agency staff on binding authority with each appointed carrier? Should every agent have a copy of the agency agreement, or is there a better method?

Response 4: I truly believe what many errors & omissions programs preach: that every staff member should read through each agreement, because each job function is associated with specific information. Management should create, monitor and update these items on an ongoing basis, in addition to preparing a quick cheat sheet for all staff members to review when writing, reviewing and updating coverage. Response 5: In my humble opinion as an E&O instructor, every agency should have a manual or intranet page that spells out the binding authority for every company it

Response 1: Create a resource that contains clearly defined guidelines regarding the procedures, market positions and appetite of each carrier. Review this information at meetings with all agency personnel. During their initial months on board, young or newer agency employees must gain the consent of the commercial or personal lines manager to bind anything. Response 2: Every licensed person in your agency needs to be trained on the binding authority of every carrier. Violation of binding authority is a common claim carriers make against agencies. Add the details of each carrier’s binding authority to your agency management system so everyone can access them any time. Make sure you keep it up to date. Response 3: The easiest method might be summarizing details of binding authority into an Excel spreadsheet everyone can access.

represents. In addition, every employee should receive explicit training and a copy of the manual for reference. When changes are made, immediately notify all employees and revise the manual page for that company. This question was originally submitted by an agent through the VU’s Ask an Expert Service. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

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Sales & Marketing How to Overcome Adversity: Stretch Yourself By Brandie Hinen I have struggled with something for years. It’s a little-known secret: I don’t like being in the spotlight. I speak at conferences. I show up at dinners and cocktail parties. But although I’m totally at ease on stage in front of hundreds, I feel anxious in crowds. You will often find me sneaking off to my hotel room after a presentation, usually early, to watch “Dancing with the Stars.” I love working to ignite a passion with sales teams, motivating young people to succeed and helping service teams feel valued and heard. But I’m not an extrovert. I have a difficult time with people who delight in self-promotion, shameless or otherwise.

overpower. Rarely did I look up, let alone find the courage up rise up and lean in. But leaning in is what separates the “campers” from the “climbers.” Over the years I’ve spent building a successful training and coaching firm, I’ve come to an important conclusion: It’s OK to be who you are. You just have to be willing to stretch! Several years ago, I was on the faculty of a national training organization. During a multiday training program, we did a basic four-quadrant behavior style analysis. My big takeaway was that 67% of professionals in the industry are what we call “doves”: kind, amiable, tender-hearted individuals who avoid conflict at all costs. Guess what else? Doves are also the slowest to change. Shocking as it is, the majority of the workforce consists of people who are the uninspired participants of significant change. They mask their desire to grow by settling into the comfort of the status quo.

I often credit one of my favorite topics to the author Paul Stoltz, whose work on adversity has greatly impacted my life. In short, Stolz suggests our No. 1 factor for success is how well we withstand and overcome adversity. I’ve always had a deep, core desire to succeed, but I have not always been exceptional when it comes to handling tough times. I was taught to “hunker down” and take a beating when life’s circumstances 21


But even if you’re an introvert, you can still be a climber. Don’t let stereotypes get the best of you. Speak up! Get involved! Make your voice heard! Believe you have something valuable to contribute.

If your position is customer care, think about how you can lean in to those tough conversations about additional coverages or account rounding so your customers know you’re looking out for them.

If you’re a leader reading this, write down two or three things you’ve resisted changing and set a deadline to try something new.

Each of us has a part to play. Each of us serves a valuable purpose. For me, it’s about overcoming a naturally shy tendency. I stretch to share my passion and vision to serve others. What about you?

If you’re in sales, think about how you can attract more loyal customers by explaining to them how your approach will help them achieve cohesiveness in their insurance program. This necessarily involves changing up your old dusty proposal templates.

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Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.


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The Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) designation program is a nationally recognized education program directed at a very particular job description in the agency—the customer service representative. CISR COURSES MAY BE TAKEN FOR CE CREDITS FOR THOSE NOT SEEKING THE DESIGNATION.

CISR Elite status now offers an even higher distinction for those eager to gain greater skills and knowledge of insurance service and sales.

The CIC Program is for agency and company personnel -- owners, producers, agents, account managers, brokers, underwriters, and marketing or claims personnel. Participants should be licensed agents, brokers, adjusters, or solicitors; or have at least two years of full-time experience in the insurance industry or as a risk management professional; or have served for at least two years as a full-time insurance faculty member at an accredited college or university. CIC COURSES MAY BE TAKEN FOR CE CREDITS FOR THOSE NOT SEEKING THE DESIGNATION. ATTENDANCE REQUIRED FOR ALL DAYS TO RECEIVE CREDIT FOR INDIVIDUAL CLASSES.

James K. Ruble Graduate Seminars are designed specifically for CIC Designees and feature a variety of topics along with real-life applications in a seminar that is designed to satisfy the CIC annual update requirement. YOU MUST BE A CIC OR CRM AND A DUES-PAYING MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY TO ATTEND A RUBLE SEMINAR.

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Knowledge UM/UIM Coverage vs. Medical Insurance: What’s the Difference? By Big “I” Virtual University Faculty Q: Why purchase uninsured motorist/ underinsured motorist umbrella coverage when medical insurance—less deductibles and copay—would cover such a loss? What else would a person be able to recover from either of these coverages? Response 1: Consider these three examples:  • A driver with modest liability limits hits a van carrying a young family, killing the mother and a child. The second child is paralyzed from the waist down; the third child is rendered quadriplegic. Both paralyzed children are preschool age. • A young business owner is severely injured in an accident with a driver who carries minimum liability limits. The business owner is unable to work for months, incurring large medical rehabilitationrelated expenses that are not covered by health insurance. The business manages to survive, but diminishes significantly. Thirty years later, the business owner is still limited by his injuries.  • An honor student suffers catastrophic brain injury in an accident. After a seven-figure medical expense and exemplary care over several years, the student can function at only a marginal level as an adult. Response 2: UM/UIM coverage pays what a tortfeasor’s liability should pay. In addition to medical bills, the at-fault party could owe for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other non-

medical losses. Response 3: Damages from UM/UIM coverage would pay far more than medical expenses, including the injured party’s loss of income and derivative damages, such as loss of consortium. I have seen more than one multimillion-dollar UIM claim.  Response 4: UM/UIM coverage pays medical expenses not covered by medical insurance, including deductibles, copays and excluded procedures and treatment. UM/UIM also covers pain and suffering, lost wages, disability and other expenses. Think of it as a third-party liability policy in terms of the scope of coverage. If someone hit you while you were in your car, on your bicycle or as a pedestrian, you would have broader recovery under their personal auto policy than you would under your own medical insurance. UM/UIM coverage is similar, but it is attached to your own policy to protect you when the other party has either no insurance or lower limits than you need. Response 5: An umbrella policy is designed to increase the limits provided by underlying policies. It is not designed to provide basic coverages provided by other policies. Response 6: Medical insurance does not cover pain and suffering, loss of consortium, disfigurement or other general damages. UM/ UIM coverage pays what the insured could legally expect to recover from an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Response 7: UM/UIM coverage is essentially liability coverage that the at-fault driver didn’t have, or didn’t have enough of. It pays more than just medical expenses—it can also cover loss of consortium, pain and suffering, loss of income, and, in some cases, punitive damages. 25


Remember, too, that some health policies exclude auto accidents. Response 8: Pain and suffering along with mental anguish, and don’t forget lost wages if workers comp does not apply. UM/UIM coverage would also address loss of consortium from the passing of a loved family member. At the very least, offer this coverage to the client and obtain a signature from both spouses if they decline. Otherwise, your errors & omissions insurance will be providing the coverage, less your deductible. Response 9: If you were injured to the extent that you could never walk again, work or play catch with your child, you would not be satisfied with payment of your medical bills only. That’s the difference between liability and simple medical payments. UM/UIM coverage

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pays when the driver who caused your injury either has no liability coverage, or has lower limits than your injury warrants.Response 10: Medical insurance covers only direct medical costs. UM/UIM covers lost wages, impairments, pain and suffering, and certain costs either not covered or limited under medical insurance, such as retraining, rehab and certain living arrangements.y. This question was originally submitted by an agent through the VU’s Ask an Expert Service. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.


THE MEETING SPACE YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR

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&O ECORNER Handling Winter Weather Related Coverage Questions By James C. Keidel, Esq. Keidel, Weldon & Cunningham, LLP

This winter has been extremely harsh, with heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures all across Vermont. In addition to the heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures, we also have experienced strong winds with sleet and driving rain. This harsh weather has resulted in significant property damage all across Vermont. Every day, the news is filled with stories about the havoc that this winter is causing for homeowners, motorists and businesses here in Vermont and across the nation. Collapsed roofs, bursting pipes, stranded cars and trucks and even flooding are in the headlines every day. In addition to these types of losses, there has been an increase in the number of fires in houses and apartment buildings that have resulted from the use of space heaters, electric blankets, fireplaces and other efforts by people to keep warm. In this issue of the E&O Report we will review some of the principles we have stressed over the years that insurance agents and brokers should keep in mind when faced with coverage questions, especially those related to winter weather claims.   For insurance agents and brokers, this severe weather means an increase in the number of claims that are reported by customers. With the large number of claims that are occurring as a result of the extreme winter weather, Vermont insurance agents and brokers should be certain that that they are following good practices with regard to their claims handling procedures. Claims should always be reported to the insurer by the 28

insurance agency or brokerage as soon as it is advised that a claim has occurred. However, even before a claim strikes, concerned customers may be contacting the agency or brokerage with questions related to their coverage. In the past few weeks, we have seen several news stories suggesting that in light of the extreme weather, both personal and commercial lines insureds should review their insurance policies and then raise with their insurance agent or broker any questions they may have concerning their coverage. As we have cautioned repeatedly over the years, since the insurance company is the one that will ultimately make the determination as to whether a claim is covered or not, the question of if there is coverage for a particular type of loss is most appropriately answered by the insurance company and not by the insurance agent or broker. Keep in mind that the more specific the inquiry, the more likely it is that an accurate response regarding coverage can be provided by the insurance company. As an example, if the customer asks “what is covered under my policy,” it would be almost impossible for an insurance company, or anyone else, to provide a proper response. Similarly, if the question is whether “collapse” is covered, while this is more specific, it may still generate confusion as to what type of collapse or what damage the customer is seeking to cover. On the other hand, if the customer asks more specifically whether they are covered for water damage to their home if their pipes burst as a result of freezing temperatures, they are likely to get a more accurate response from the insurance company. If you are faced with a customer who is asking about coverage for a particular type of claim, it is a good practice to ask the customer to put the specific inquiry that they have in writing to you. This is true whether the question comes from a customer, a mortgagee or other interested party, or even another broker. Having the request in writing will help avoid any confusion as to what


&O ECORNER information is being sought and will provide an easier means for transmitting the inquiry to the insurance company to get a coverage determination. The quickest and most efficient way to transmit the written inquiry to the insurance company is by e-mail or fax. After providing the written inquiry to the insurance company, it is good to then request that the company provide its response to the agency or brokerage back in writing. If a request for a written a response is rejected by the insurance company, this should possibly raise some red flags. Nonetheless, in order to exercise caution, it may be wise to confirm any conversations that may occur regarding the coverage question in writing, and then be sure to save that writing as documentation of what occurred. 

or issues that may exist with their insurance coverage. Finally, allowing the insurance company to respond to the inquiry will help the insurance agency or brokerage protect itself against possible E&O claims and lawsuits that may arise in connection with the coverage in question. The prudent insurance agency or brokerage that handles coverage questions in this manner will not only help protect its customer, but will also protect itself from a potential E&O claim or lawsuit against it.

As a general rule, an insurance agent or broker should not summarize or editorialize the inquiry that they receive; the inquiry that is received should be passed along to the company in the form that it was received. While an insurance agent or broker may summarize or editorialize a customer inquiry with the best of intentions, in our experience doing so can lead to an inaccurate translation of the question or possible confusion. As with any communication that concerns issues of coverage, the agency or brokerage should be certain to retain in the customer’s file the writing containing the inquiry, along with the transmittal email or telefax and the response from the insurance company. Doing this will help ensure that information is available in the event an issue arises later on. Careful handling of coverage inquiries can provide good customer service by an agency or brokerage and also help to put customers at ease. In addition, the careful handling of customer coverage questions will better enable customers to understand and address any gaps 29


Helen Collins hcollins@viaa.org


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Company News Acuity Hits $2B in Policyholders’ Surplus, Earns Impressive 2017 Financial Results

policies in force for the first time. In commercial lines, Acuity received a record number of quote requests and achieved an all-time-high 43.7 success ratio on writing those quotes, finishing the year with over $1 billion in premium for the second consecutive year. In personal lines, Acuity achieved a new milestone in written premium with over $386 million, driven by new business growth that was greater than the previous year. _______________________________

Acuity released its 2017 financial results, which showed that the insurer surpassed $2 billion in policyholders’ surplus (GAAP) for the first time in the company’s history. Acuity’s statutory surplus grew at 13.3 percent in 2017, compared to just 1.0 percent for the industry.

Acuity, headquartered in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is a property and casualty insurer that operates in 26 states, generates nearly $1.4 billion in revenue through 1,000 independent agencies, and manages over $4 billion in assets. Named one of the top 10 large companies to work for in America, Acuity employs over 1,200 people.

Also highlighting Acuity’s 2017 performance is a 94.6 combined ratio, nearly 14 points better than the insurer’s competitors in the property/casualty industry. This marks the largest positive spread between Acuity’s performance and the industry’s in 15 years and the seventh consecutive year Acuity has earned a combined ratio of less than 100. For an incredible 18 years, Acuity has outperformed industry averages across key areas of measurement. “Acuity’s performance compared to the industry is confirmation that we are doing things right— pricing products fairly and accurately, maintaining underwriting discipline, and operating at a high level of efficiency,” said Ben Salzmann, Acuity President and CEO. “Most important to our customers and independent agents, our consistent performance builds financial strength they can depend on.” Acuity showed other areas of strength in 2017 as well. The company reached $4 billion in assets for the first time, ending the year at $4.378 billion (GAAP). Additionally, Acuity maintained a leverage ratio under 1:1 for the ninth consecutive year, finishing 2017 with 0:76:1. In 2017, Acuity combined financial performance with sales growth, including surpassing 300,000

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Company News Vermont Mutual Once Again Recognized as a ‘Best Place to Work’ for 2018 For Immediate Release Media Contact: Thomas Thamm 802.229.8975 tthamm@vermontmutual.com MONTPELIER, Vermont (February 22, 2018)— Vermont Mutual Insurance Group®, has once again been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Vermont for 2018. This is the third consecutive year Vermont Mutual has received this recognition. Every year Vermont Business Magazine, in conjunction with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Department of Labor, the Vermont Department of Economic Development, the Society for Human Resource Management, Vermont State Council and Best Companies Group, surveys Vermont companies to find the best places to work in the state. “Since first entering the Best Places to Work survey in 2016, employees have continuously voted Vermont Mutual as a Best Place to Work and we’re very proud to receive that designation” stated Dan Bridge, Vermont Mutual’s President and CEO. Bridge continued “And we’re equally proud of our employees, all of whom help to create a working environment we believe is second to none.” Companies from across the state enter a two-part survey process to determine the Best Places to Work in Vermont. The first part of the survey consists of evaluating each nominated company’s workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part of the process is worth approximately 25% of the total evaluation. The second part consists of an employee survey 34

to measure employee satisfaction. This part of the process is worth approximately 75% of the total evaluation. Susan Chicoine, Vice President of Human Resources, noted “We all work hard to make Vermont Mutual a healthy and rewarding place to work, but it’s our employees that really make the difference. Everyone works together to create a supportive and collaborative work experience, which is the foundation of our organizational culture here at Vermont Mutual.”  The rankings of all of the companies that participated will be revealed at the Best Places to Work in Vermont Ceremony, to be held in Burlington, Vermont on March 21, 2018. To learn more about Vermont Mutual, visit: VermontMutual.com. _______________________________ Vermont Mutual Insurance Group® is a trade name of Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, Northern Security Insurance Company, Inc. and Granite Mutual Insurance Company. Chartered in 1828, Vermont Mutual is one of the ten oldest mutual property/casualty insurers in the United States and provides coverage throughout New England and upstate New York. Through more than 400 independent agencies, the Group insures over 300,000 policyholders with a direct written premium of more than $435,000,000. The group is rated “A+ Superior” by A. M. Best and a Ward’s Top 50 performing property/casualty for the past nine consecutive years.


Company News Leadership Changes Announced at Concord Group Insurance Companies Concord, NH – The Concord Group is committed to providing exceptional products, services, and growth opportunities through our Auto-Owners affiliation. In support of this commitment and our focus on the future of the organization, we are pleased to announce the following leadership changes: Daniel L. McCabe is appointed Vice President & Chief Business Development Officer. He will retain his position as Head of Massachusetts Operations and will oversee Accounting, Actuarial, Customer Service and Facilities. Dan previously served as Vice President – Operations. Michael P. Nolin, Jr., CPCU is appointed Vice President & Chief Underwriting Officer and will oversee Personal Lines Underwriting, Commercial Lines Underwriting and Marketing. Mike previously served as Vice President – Personal Lines Underwriting.

number of senior level positons in underwriting, marketing and regional operations culminating as National Sales Director for a New York-based insurance group. Most recently, he was the COO of a large commercial insurance agency in Waltham, MA. Bruce W. Sorette, CPCU is appointed Assistant Vice President – Finance. Bruce previously served as Assistant Treasurer. John S. Fournier is appointed Assistant Vice President – Facilities. John previously served as Manager – Facilities. _______________________________ Concord General Mutual, an A (Excellent) A.M. Best rated carrier, began in 1928, and operates in the New England area, including Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. A member of Auto-Owners Insurance Group, Concord Group has been recognized as a leading insurance provider through the Independent Agency System in these states.

Michael Capozza is appointed Vice President – Corporate Planning. He will facilitate Concord Group’s Auto-Owners Affiliation activities and oversee Information Systems and Claims. Michael previously served as Vice President – Information Systems. Amy M. Kezar is appointed Vice President – Information Systems. Amy previously served as Assistant Vice President – Information Systems. Anthony L. Sychtysz joins our leadership team as Vice President – Commercial Lines Underwriting. Prior to joining Concord Group, Tony served in a 35


Agency News The Richards Group to Acquire Centurion Insurance from Mascoma Bank The Richards Group is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement to acquire Centurion Insurance Group from Mascoma Bank. The transaction will be completed in April of 2018. The Centurion office will remain at its current location while The Richards Group’s Norwich branch office, which has served Upper Valley clients for the past 10 years, will consolidate operations into Centurion’s office space. “We feel fortunate that the leadership of Mascoma Bank decided The Richards Group was the best fit to serve the needs of their insurance clients going forward,” said Drew Richards, Vice President of The Richards Group. “We’re thrilled to be part of the vibrant community in Hanover and to deepen the commitment we’ve made to the Upper Valley over the past decade.” “We are very pleased to be partnering with The Richards Group on this transaction,” commented Clay Adams, President & CEO of Mascoma Bank. “Both our customers and the Centurion employees will be well served working with the breadth and depth of their product offerings and expertise. Like Mascoma Bank, The Richards Group has a deep commitment to their communities, which they have dependably served for three generations. This acquisition allows them to strengthen their connections and service to the Upper Valley.” “Having spent the better part of my life in the Hanover community, this acquisition means a great deal to me and I’m excited with how The Richards Group is now positioned in the Upper Valley,” added Tom Scull, Vice President of The

Richards Group. “With our expertise, technologies and service models, we bring outstanding capabilities to our local clients in the commercial and personal insurance, employee benefits consulting and retirement plan advisory areas. Our scale gives us access to the type of valuable resources and best practices you would typically find in a national firm, which we deliver through our local, high touch service model – it’s the best of both worlds. We’re excited to demonstrate this to our new clients.” “We appreciate our collaboration with Mascoma,” continued Scull “and we look forward to working closely with them going forward. We welcome the talented Centurion team to The Richards Group and look forward to helping them continue the excellent work they have done for clients.” Centurion will begin operating under The Richards Group name in the Spring of 2018. The Richards Group, headquartered in Brattleboro, Vermont, has provided local Insurance, Employee Benefits and Retirement Plan solutions to clients throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts since 1867. The firm currently has over 115 employees and was named one of the “Best Places to Work in Vermont” in each of the past 3 years by Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Mascoma Bank, a mutually owned bank established in 1899, is headquartered in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The Bank has $1.7 billion in assets, 340 employees, and 26 locations throughout the Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire and Vermont. Mutually owned and not for sale, the Bank has no stockholders to please. They are committed to remaining independent and to re-investing profits into the community. The bank has been serving the banking needs of the local community for generations by offering a full range of personal and business accounts and services. 37


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Please send your resume to: Dan Rodliff Vice President, NFP P&C • Accounting Assistant, Brattleboro PO Box 2243 • Receptionist, Brattleboro South Burlington, VT 05407 • Commercial Lines Sales Producer, Or Rutland and Middlebury Email: dan.rodliff @nfp.com • Accounts Payable Coordinator, Brattleboro • Personal Lines Account Manager, Brattleboro • Employee Benefits Account Manager, all locations For job description and requirement please visit https://therichardsgrp.com/about/careers/ Submit Cover Letter and Resume to jobs@therichardsgrp.com

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