The building blocks of success USI Insurance Services’ Christine Chipurnoi reveals the key trends – from robotics to natural disasters – that are driving the construction and real estate insurance market
IBA: Which construction trends are having the biggest impact on insurance today? Christine Chipurnoi: There are a couple things right now in the construction field that are both problematic and things we need to look at. The biggest issue is the lack of qualified labor, and from an insurance perspective, that’s really important because if you don’t have skilled labor on the job, you can have more accidents. In New York, we have labor laws, which makes owners strictly liable for any and all falls from a height, grave injuries or deaths on a job site. These claims are non-defendable because it’s strict liability. There’s no comparative negligence between the employer of that employee – who’s likely a subcontractor – and the owner, so if somebody falls and breaks their leg, owners will pay somewhere in the seven-figure range, which impacts our market. The second issue is the major changes going on in technology. Modular construction is changing how we build, what we build and how fast. Structures are built somewhere else, and then we bring them in, stage them, pick them up with cranes and stack them together. What that does is it brings projects to comple-
tion up to a year ahead of schedule. It’s a different way to build, and as such, a different way to structure policies, and the industry is still figuring out how it’s going to charge for those exposures. Builders are also using drones, laser-guided equipment, robotics and wearable technologies that all have an impact on safety, so we have to make sure our policies are crafted to take all of that into consideration.
IBA: What are the most underinsured risks and exposures you see in the construction space? CC: I think the area where most clients
are either misinformed or underinsured is effective risk transfer. A lot of clients will come to us and say, ‘I own a building, and there’s a triple-net lease with XYZ company, so I don’t need insurance.’ Then when we look at the lease, it may or may not say that. Sometimes it says the landlord is responsible for the building systems and certain structural aspects. When people outsource stuff, they think they’re washing their hands of the liability, when in fact they are not. The second big area is cyber. People don’t realize all of the different facets cyber policies cover, and most real estate and construction companies will say they don’t need cyber when
AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE Active in numerous commercial real estate groups, including serving as a board member of CREW Network, one of the largest organizations for women in commercial real estate, Christine Chipurnoi has established herself as an expert in construction, real estate, hospitality and retail insurance. A 30-plus-year insurance veteran, Chipurnoi focuses on being an advisor to her insureds while also tapping into a network of resources when needed. “It helps you build your business and makes you invaluable to your clients,” she says. “It gives you a seat at [your clients’] table to help with business problems, and it makes them want to bring you in early to look at properties before they buy them so you can be consultative and help them make good decisions. My goal is to be a business partner with them and help them be more successful in their business.”
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