INTHISISSUE: ______________ Social networking 101 Member success stories
I’m celebrating our 100th year by planning for our next 100 years. Jason Bogart, CPCU, ARM, Vice President of Branch Operations Our future will be marked by the relationships we forge with you—the independent insurance agents who represent us. You’re the reason we’ll continue to investigate new market opportunities. Why we’ll develop competitive products. Why we’ll maximize the use of new technologies. Why we’ll emphasize ongoing professional development for our staff. By helping you profitably and efficiently grow your agency, EMC Insurance Companies will continue to serve you and your customers today and well into the future.
Valley Forge Service Branch: 800.333.3622 | Home Office: Des Moines, IA
www.emcins.com © Copyright Employers Mutual Casualty Company 2011 All rights reserved
PRIMARY AGENT MAGAZINE Social networking 101 While Twitter or Facebook or any other specific platform may not stand the test of time, social networking, as a concept, will. Like it or not, Web-based connections and the explosion of consumer-generated media are here to stay…. Here’s how to make it work for you.
Page 12 Member profile: Connie Phillips Insurance At Connie Phillips Insurance in Frederick, Md., online marketing is about the whole picture: a revised website, e-newsletter, social networking presence, Google paid advertisements and process for rounding out accounts and picking up referrals
Member profile: Lacher & Associates Insurance Agency For Mark Lacher, a partner with Lacher & Associates Insurance Agency, social networking is about establishing brand awareness, being seen as a thought leader and staying relevant in the marketplace.
In every issue Mission Statement Primary Agent delivers ideas to help Insurance Agents & Brokers’ members negotiate their unique position as guardians of trust between insurance consumers and companies while facing the challenges of maintaining a small business. Primary Agent also supports IA&B’s mission to preserve and advocate the American Agency System.
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Chair of the Board’s Message Member FAQ State News Preventing Errors & Omissions Coverage Corner
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Glance at Events IA&B Partners Advertisers Index Classified Ads Last & Least
Subscriptions: Non-member price: $2.25 per copy or $15 per year. All communications for publications, including news, features, advertising copy, cuts, etc., must reach the editor by 1st of month two months prior to publication. Advertising rates furnished upon request. Address inquiries to: Primary Agent Editor PO Box 2023 Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-0763 Phone (800) 998-9644 or (717) 795-9100 Fax (717) 795-8347 Periodical postage paid at Mechanicsburg, Pa. and additional entry post office. Postmaster: Send address changes to above address. Primary Agent (ISSN 1543-3110), Permit # 638-620, Issue # 2011-2) is published monthly by IA&B Service Group Inc., a subsidiary of IA&B.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. No material may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent of the publisher. The information in this publication is general in nature and is not intended to serve as legal, accounting, financial, insurance, investment advisory or other professional advice as to any reader’s particular situation. Users are encouraged to consult with competent legal, financial, insurance, investment advisory and or other professional advisors concerning specific matters before making any decisions and we disclaim any responsibility for any decisions or actions by readers. Statements of fact and opinion in Primary Agent are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of the officers or the members of the IA&B. Participation in IA&B events, activities and/or publications is available on a non-discriminatory basis and does not reflect IA&B endorsement of the products and/or services.
After winning the Ward’s 50 for the 6th straight time we understand how
Consistency Takes Effort
Donegal Insurance Group is committed to delivering a better value to an ever-expanding network of independent agents. Making the Ward’s 50 Benchmark Group for property-casualty insurance companies for the sixth consecutive year shows how we combine safety, consistency, and strong performance to provide peace of mind. But in the end, it’s our long-term stability that makes us a valuable part of the independent agency system.
Call today and find out how you can put Donegal’s stability to work for you.
Call Rick Kelley,
Senior Vice President
Board of Directors Officers David Rosenkilde, CIC Chair of the Board Reisterstown, Md. Robert B. Hall, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, ARM, ARM-P Vice Chair of the Board West Chester, Pa.
David B. Rosenkilde Sr., CIC
Chair of the Board’s M
Kathleen M. Glattly, ChFC, CLU, CPCU Immediate Past Chair of the Board Factoryville, Pa.
Members Joyce M. Bailey, CIC, CRM, CPIW Newark, Del. Norman F. Basso, CPCU York, Pa. Vincent D. “Chip” Boylan Jr., CPCU Rockville, Md. Henry “Butch” Bradley, Jr. Crofton, Md. Timothy P. Burris Thompsontown, Pa. John T. “Chip” Colwell Jr., CIC Corry, Pa.
Tired of hearing about the social Web? Wishing the whole craze would go away? You’re not alone — especially within the independent agency system, where demands are increasing on already-stretched-too-thin staff. Web 2.0 is a whole new world. It requires a learning curve and a fresh mindset and, yes, more time. But on the flipside, social networking is not that different than the networking most of us in the industry always have done well. Plus it’s free to use, which makes competing with direct writers (and their hefty advertising budgets) much more appealing.
G. Greg Gunn, CIC Lemoyne, Pa.
This month I encourage due diligence. Read through the pages of this magazine, peruse the resources on www.iabgroup.com and consider if there is an opportunity on the social Web for your agency. Perhaps even create an account or two just to see what it’s all about. Then make an educated decision on whether it’s for you and your agency.
Diana M. Hornung-Momot, ACSR Wilmington, Del.
Happy Internet surfing!
N. Lee Dotson, CIC, AAI Wilmington, Del. John L. Frankenfield Telford, Pa.
Jocelyn R. Howard-Sinopoli, CIC, CISR Butler, Pa. Robert S. Klinger, LUTCF Germantown, Md. Michael F. McGroarty Sr. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Until next time, Dave
Ann Gallen Moll, CIC Reading, Pa. Scott C. Rogers, CPIA York, Pa. Susan A. Sallada, CIC** Ft. Washington, Pa. David B. Wasson Sr., CIC State College, Pa. James M. Watkins* Dover, Del. King W. “Kip” White, LUTCF Fallston, Md. * IIABA National Director ** PIA National Director
Member FAQ QUESTION: A contractor client is thinking about converting a couple of employees to independent contractors. Could I get in trouble if I proceed with the WC policy? ANSWER: Yes. More than ever! It is never a good idea to attempt to cut costs by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. In addition, recent laws passed in our three states have both: w defined new criteria to recognize an employee classified as an independent contractor, and w strengthened the penalties for misclassification. Delaware’s Workplace Fraud Act of 2009 establishes definitions of an employer-employee relationship, defines an independent contractor and an exempt person, and spells out civil penalties for intentional infractions. The law applies to the construction and landscaping services industry. Additionally, a person who “knowingly conspires with, aids and abets, assists, advises, or facilitates” an employer to misclassify employees is subject to a civil penalty of up to $20,000. There is no safe harbor provision for insurance producers. Maryland’s Workplace Fraud Act of 2009 distinguishes between intentional and unintentional misclassification, but provides civil penalties for both. The Maryland law also focuses on construction and landscaping services.
There also, a person who “assists, advises, or otherwise facilitates” an employer to misclassify employees is subject to a civil penalty of up to $20,000. Again, there is no exemption for insurance producers. Pennsylvania’s Construction Workplace Misclassification Act of 2010 spells out criteria to determine if an individual truly is an independent contractor and the civil and criminal penalties for intentional violations. Not surprisingly, the construction industry is again the focus of this law. Those who face penalties include not only employers, but also their officers and agents, and those who knowingly contract with another employer violating this law. There too, no safe harbor provision exists for producers. (Knowing) less is more… This is an interesting situation where it is better for your clients to know more, and for you to know less! If your clients start confiding in you on improper classification of employees as independent contractors, not only do they risk increased penalties, but so do you. Remember that none of the three state laws have any safe harbor provisions for producers who know of the misclassification and go along with it.
In addition, your clients could also be charged a hefty audit premium, when their carrier revisits their criteria in light of the new law. Bottom line, you can give a heads-up to your affected clients that these laws are now in place, but do not get involved in the classification process or you could end up on the wrong end of the violation. To read more on this topic and review specific definitions and criteria, log onto www.iabgroup.com, go to Coverages, then Workers’ Compensation and select the Delaware Workplace Fraud Act, Maryland Workplace Fraud Act or Pennsylvania Construction Workplace Misclassification Law.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? E-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use “Primary Agent FAQ” in the subject line of your message. You can also fax your question to (717) 795-8347. We look forward to answering your questions!
State News Primary Agent | February 2011
Jumpstart 2011’s legislative efforts
Have your say on Capitol Hill
Workers’ compensation rates. Health care reform. Captive market. Taxes. The issues on state legislators’ plates – and on DAIAB’s priority list – are many this year.
DAIAB members once again will storm Washington, D.C. this spring. Their goal? Voice independent agents’ opinions to a host of freshman legislators and a core group of incumbent legislators.
Of course the reality of our political system (like it or not) is that money talks. AgentPAC – DAIAB’s state-based political action committee – is producers’ outlet to educate and influence key decision makers in Dover.
AgentPAC snapshot: In 2010, 13 members donated $4,400. AgentPAC has a long history of shaping laws and regulations that impact agents, and this year will be no different with the continued support of DAIAB members. The political action committee’s 2011 fundraising goal is $5,000 – an increase over the $4,400 raised last year. Online donations and quarterly contributions now are accepted. Learn more about AgentPAC or contribute: www.iabgroup.com/de/pol_act_ctr
The 2011 Big “I” National Legislative Conference will be held April 13-14 at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel. DAIAB makes it easy for members to attend. The association will pay the way for several agents’ conference registration, April 13 lodging and April 13 dinner. (Attendees are responsible for their own transportation, April 14 lunch and additional hotel accommodations if they decide to extend their stay.) Space is limited, but registration remains open until Feb. 9. Learn more or register: www.iabgroup.com/events/nlc Review last year’s conference: www.iabgroup.com/nlc_2010
Reminder: NFIP floats lower premiums Policyholders may qualify for – and receive (if they haven’t already) notification of — FEMA’s extension of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). To qualify for the lower-cost PRP, the building must have been newly designated in a Special Flood Hazard Area due to a map revision on or after Oct. 1, 2008. The extension lasts for two years following the effective date of the map change. Agents’ to-do list: w Understand the changes in anticipation of clients’ questions; w Ensure the PRP extension is granted if it is to a client’s benefit; and w Revisit flood insurance quotes for anyone who was affected by a map change and rejected coverage. Learn more: www.iabgroup.com/de/features/ NFIP_floats.html
Read, follow or join the discussion The time to dismiss social networking as a passing fad has come and gone. The fact is, the longer you put off joining the conversation, the more you’re missing. DAIAB is facilitating professional and informative exchanges on the social Web. Discuss trends and network with colleagues by joining DAIAB’s LinkedIn group. Read timely updates on your association’s activities and breaking industry news by following DAIAB on Twitter. New to Web 2.0? There’s no better way to learn how social networking works – and how it can work for your agency – than seeing how it’s done. Jump onboard: www.iabgroup.com/ soc_media
Members to wear hearts on their sleeves Approximately one dozen DAIAB members from across the state soon will pour their hearts out to one another, association staff and board members. Welcome to the association’s Member Agent Panel (MAP) – a venue to talk industry trends and issues, share struggles and accomplishments, and drive DAIAB forward. This spring DAIAB begins the 2011/2012 MAP cycle. Participants will meet in Dover each spring and fall to weigh in and provide direction on the association’s activities. Many member benefits, from privacy resources and HR tools to producer agreements and conferences, stem from MAP feedback. MAP meetings are more than a labor of love though. Attendees repeatedly share that they take heart from sharing concerns, learning how others handle them and brainstorming solutions. Look for MAP updates in upcoming issues of Agent Headlines and Primary Agent. Learn more: www.iabgroup.com/get_involved
Preventing Primary Agent | February 2011
ERRORS AND OMISSIONS
THE PITFALLS OF REDUCING COVERAGE
PAUL E. WALTERS Paul E. Walters is claims manager for Utica Mutual Insurance Company. Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group Inc. is the exclusive agent for the Utica E&O program in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. For questions regarding this article or your Errors & Omissions coverage, contact IA&B at (800) 998-9644 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
There are a lot of valid reasons why an agent may request reduced coverage for a client. But that doesn’t stop an E&O claim from being made. After an economic loss, the client’s memory may be different from the agent’s, and he or she just may not recall requesting that reduced coverage. Two stories emerge, leaving a jury to flip a coin. Let’s first go back to those reasons a client might request lower coverage amounts. A change in exposure may warrant less coverage. Concerns over premium costs may warrant a change in coverage – and in the current economy, that can happen often. A change may be made to a law so certain types of claims to which a client had previously been exposed are no longer legally viable. Or the imposition of award caps for certain types of personal injury actions by state legislatures may greatly lower a client’s exposure.
The reasons are all valid; however, communication with the client is the key. And good documentation of such conversations is a must. Take, for example, a claim by an owner of a large, sixbuilding apartment complex. Business was slow, and the client approached the insured and asked that two of the buildings be removed from coverage on the Commercial Property policy to save premium. Those buildings were removed from the policy. The policy was subsequently written by another carrier, and only four buildings were listed. (In that particular state, there is no duty for a client to read and examine a policy.) After policy inception, the client – without telling the agency – decided to rent the two vacant buildings out to victims of Hurricane Katrina, at government-subsidized rates. A fire occurred, and the
two buildings were destroyed. While the agent’s file contained a copy of the request to the previous carrier to remove the buildings, there was nothing in the agent’s file documenting the discussions with the client. The client stated that he had not wanted the buildings removed. Nothing was sent to the client by the agency memorializing the request to remove the buildings. The damage to the two buildings was approximately $1,000,000. Faced with a word vs. word scenario with no documentation to back up the agent, the case was eventually settled for $500,000. In another example, a restaurant asked its agent to reduce the contents’ coverage mid-term from $275,000 to $150,000. The carrier lowered the limits as requested and issued a refund which the client cashed. The policy renewed. And yes, a claim came. A large one. Following
MUTUAL BENEFIT GROUP
a total loss to the building, the carrier paid the $150,000 limit for contents. The client claimed he did not read the new policy and said he thought the refund check was due to a car being removed from a personal auto policy. He claimed he never asked for a reduction in coverage. Again, there was no correspondence from the agency to the client documenting the request for a reduction in coverage. Following a trial in the matter, the jury chose to believe the client and awarded $125,000 plus interest and attorney fees. During hard economic times, clients will look for ways to save premium. Agents will look to hold onto current clients by keeping premiums down. Carriers will push agents to market their products in the best economic light to avoid competition. And regardless of the circumstances, agencies will be vulnerable when there is no clear documentation reflecting that a client has been told of the reduction and is well aware of the risks involved in the event of a loss.
Huntingdon, Pennsylvania www.mutualbenefitgroup.com
Mettle you can count on. Since 2004, we’ve ranked anked e carriers among the top three following every IA&B B Company Company Satisfaction Survey. You’ve nd we’ve we’ve tested our mettle, and proven you can count nt on us to listen, to care, to continually ntinually improve ease of doing ng business, to provide a stable market, to be consistent. Start with h MBG, MBG, and you’ll finish with a winner. inner.
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Coverage Primary Agent | February 2011
INSURERSâ€™ RIGHT TO WITHHOLD DEPRECIATION UNTIL REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT
JERRY MILTON, CIC Jerry M. Milton teaches and consults on industry issues. The legal profession recognizes him as an expert on insurance coverages. He is also the education consultant for IA&B, working with CISR, CIC and continuing education programs.
The replacement cost provisions of the Commercial Property and Homeownersâ€™ policies agree to pay the cost to repair or replace, without deduction for depreciation, subject to the least of the limit of liability, the cost to replace with like kind and quality or the amount actually spent. The provisions further stipulate that the insurer will pay no more than
the actual cash value of the damage until repair or replacement is complete. Once the repair or replacement is complete, the loss will be settled on a replacement cost basis subject to the above limitations. On Oct. 28, 1993 Jeffrey David Burton and Terri L. Burton suffered a substantial loss to their home and
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personal property as a result of a fire. Their insurer, Republic Insurance Company estimated the cost to repair the home at $114,924.70, and after deducting $14,051.02 for depreciation and the deductible, paid the Burtons $100,219, which represented the actual cash value of the loss. After the Burtons completed the repairs, Republic paid an
additional $11,709.37. Since the Burtons did not repair certain items contained in the estimate and also performed additional construction, Republic retained $2,341 of the original estimated amount of repair.
w The requirement to rebuild damaged property with like construction and replace damaged property with property of like kind, even though not expressly provided in the policy, does not constitute a breach of contract.
In addition, the Burtons submitted a personal property claim which detailed an extensive inventory of damaged property. Republic paid $49,785.25, which was the actual cash value of the loss. After the Burtons provided supplemental information, Republic paid an additional $4,504.11.
w Mrs. Burton’s failure to identify certain items that had been purchased was a consequence of her poor record keeping and in derogation of her duties as an insured. w The requirement to repair or replace the damaged property completely before receiving the full extent of the replacement cost benefit is not unconscionable.
On Oct. 26, 1994 the Burtons filed a suit against Republic Insurance Company asserting that they were entitled to the $2,341 balance on the damage to their home, and that Republic improperly withheld $979.82 for personal property they could not prove they replaced with like kind and quality.
w The policy set forth the settlement procedures adequately, and we cannot find that Republic failed to disclose these procedures.
On April 12, 1999 the trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Republic, dismissing two counts of the Burtons’ complaint. The remaining breach of contract claim proceeded to trial and on June 7, 2002 the trial court found that Republic Insurance Company was not liable for any additional benefits.
We do win occasionally. Y’all take care!
The Burtons then appealed this decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The issues before the court were whether the terms of Republic’s insurance policy concerning replacement costs were ambiguous and whether Republic’s practice of requiring claimants to replace the damaged property with property of like kind constituted a breach of contract.
NEW at Insurance Innovators
RECALL INSURANCE PROTECTION
In affirming the trial court’s decision on behalf of Republic Insurance Company on March 16, 2004 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued several interesting comments concerning the replacement cost provisions of property policies. Included among these comments were:
TARGET GROUPS: · Manufacturers · Importers / Exporters · Distributors / Retailers EVENT TRIGGERS: · Accidental Contamination / Malicious Tampering · Food Borne Illness & Product Defect
w We conclude that the policy clearly, explicitly and unambiguously conditions full replacement benefits upon the actual repair or replacement of the damaged property.
MAIN COVERAGES: · Limits available to $25,000,000 · Recall Costs (including third party recall costs) · Defense Costs · 24/7 Crisis Response—Consultant Costs · Loss of Gross Profit · Rehabilitation Expenses / Replacement Costs · Governmental Recall / Adverse Publicity
w We cannot conclude that an isolated phrase (actual cash value) is ambiguous simply because Republic failed to define it specifically in the policy. Rather we examine the policy in its entirety. w The policy plainly sets forth the procedure for recovering replacement costs.
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FOR APPLICATION AND QUICK INDICATION: Contact Barbara Randall, ext. 134 email@example.com 215-885-7300, 800-523-6422
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Social networking 101
While Twitter or Facebook or any other specific platform may not stand the test of time, social networking, as a concept, will. Like it or not, Web-based connections and the explosion of consumer-generated media are here to stayâ€Ś.
Primary Agent | February 2011
The state of the Web is changing quickly. w “Social network or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online.” The Nielsen Company, June 2010 w “Social networking use among Internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled – from 22 to 42 percent — over the past year.” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, August 2010 This shift has revolutionized consumers’ expectations. According to the latest Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, “recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by customers online” are now the most trusted advertising sources. It’s all about relationship building. The good news: By nature, most producers are networkers, people persons, schmoozers. And so, with a little time and given the chance, producers excel at online social networking, too.
“Social networking is not new – only the tools are,” says Rick Morgan, industry expert on technology and marketing. More good news: Independent insurance agents rarely excelled at spending extraordinary amounts on advertising campaigns. Instead their value always stemmed from their customer service, personal relationships and knowledge. Web-based social networking levels the playing field. It allows independent agents to showcase these strengths, not their advertising budget. So what more are you waiting for?
Heed experts’ advice IA&B’s 2010 Executive Management Conference covered social networking extensively. Insurance technology expert and presenter, Steve Anderson, offered attendees this sage advice: Start somewhere, and give it 15 minutes per day. Other conference takeaways w Social networking allows for transparency. And as people get to know you, they’ll want to do business with you. w Don’t wear yourself out. Repurpose your content on Facebook, your blog and elsewhere.
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Join IA&B online The longer you put off joining the conversation, the more you’re missing. IA&B is facilitating professional and informative exchanges on the social Web. Discuss trends and network with colleagues by joining IA&B’s LinkedIn group. Read timely updates on your association’s activities and breaking industry news by following IA&B on Twitter. www.iabgroup.com/soc_media
w Every producer should have a LinkedIn profile. Follow clients, particularly commercial ones, to track their business and build on relationships. Connect with acquaintances and then branch out to expand your network. w Not ready to tweet (post updates on Twitter)? At least create an account to start following others and listening. w Never have a client conversation on a socialnetworking platform. Always take it offline. w Develop a strategy before choosing tools. For example, to grow commercial lines accounts, an agency might focus on LinkedIn. While a personal lines agency might choose Facebook.
Make it happen Ready to take the 15-minutesper-day challenge? The following walks you through the logistics of setting up and monitoring a Twitter account and a blog. The passage is an excerpt from Duke Williams’ “The changing insurance consumer: technologies to help you compete.” It is reprinted with permission from the June 2009 issue of The Anderson Agency Report (TAAR), taareport.com. Read more by visiting iabgroup.com and selecting Technology and then Other Resources. Create a Twitter account To create a Twitter account, go to Twitter.com and sign up. Just like reading blogs, Twitter can help you create relationships. Start by following someone on Twitter. My Twitter name is williduke. Steve Anderson’s is stevet. [IA&B's are IAB_PA, IAB_MD and IAB_DE.]
Web-based social networking levels the playing field. It allows independent agents to showcase their strengths, not their advertising budget.
To find folks to follow, click on the link at the right-hand side of your Twitter page that says ["Who to Follow."] Then [review Twitter's suggestions, find people with common interests or look for acquaintances.] Click on anyone who appears. This will take you to their profile. The profile generally includes a brief description of the person and a link to a website. Follow the link and see if the person looks interesting. If so, follow that person by clicking on the “Follow” button under his/her picture. This brings up a point about your profile. Upload a picture. Also, if you have a website, enter the link so people can learn more about you. Other places to find folks to follow include www.wefollow.com and http://search.twitter.com. What should you say on Twitter? You can say anything. But I recommend you start by doing what is called re-tweeting other people’s tweets. When you find something interesting that someone else has tweeted, copy it and paste it as your own post. But start with “RT” (for re-tweet) followed by the @ sign and then — with no spaces — the Twitter name of the person whose tweet you are re-tweeting. People always appreciate being re-tweeted. They will come check you out. Continued on page 16
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Continued from page 14 You can also reply to interesting tweets by starting your reply with the “@” sign followed by (no spaces in between) the person’s Twitter name to whom you are replying. This does two things: It lets everyone know you are replying and to whom, and it shows up as a reply in the original person’s account. You will need to click on the links near the top of your Twitter page regularly to see if you have anyone sending you replies. You should also check “Direct Messages” regularly.
Social media primer Connecting on LinkedIn. “Friending” on Facebook. Following on Twitter. Curious what the buzz – and the jargon that goes along with it – is all about? Here’s a brief synopsis. LinkedIn (linkedin.com): The aim of this site is to connect professionals. Users create a resume-like profile and then reach out to past and present colleagues to create an online directory of contacts. They can also reach out to their connections’ connections to create new contacts. Chamber of Commerce dinners are so yesterday. Now people rub elbows electronically and network online. Facebook (facebook.com): This site also encourages users to create profiles (called “walls”) and connect with acquaintances (called “friends”). The focus is more social than professional, and users send messages, play games and post pictures, links and status updates. They join groups and become fans of (called “like”) people, products and companies. Forget the class reunion. People reunite with old friends and share photos online. Twitter (twitter.com): This site allows users to post text-based messages (called “tweets”), with a maximum of 140 characters, in answer to the question “What are you doing?” Users post status updates and links, and they track (called “follow”) other users’ posts. While the default is for public posts everyone can read, users also send private notes (called “direct messages”) to other users. Gotta know something pronto? Twitter is where it’s at. From news to babble, information is shared at lightning speed.
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Links in tweets You will notice that many tweets have a link in them. This lets the person posting the tweet give you a way to go to a page and find more information on the subject. This is a great way to use Twitter. A problem can be that the link may be too long — remember, Twitter only allows 140 spaces. There are several services that shorten links. I use www.idek.net. In addition to giving you a shorter link, this service also keeps click-through statistics. This helps you know if other folks are finding your tweets interesting. You can also post pictures on TwitPic (www.twitpic.com). TwitPic then creates a link to the page with the picture.
Primary Agent | February 2011
Other Twitter tools When you start following too many people, you will want to manage them in separate groups. I use TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com). Once you download it onto your desktop, you can follow and post without having to go online to the Twitter site. If you want to include a location and map in your tweets, you can use services such as www.brightkite.com. Twitter mobile About 40 percent of people using Twitter use it primarily from their cell phones. Just like using TweetDeck on your desktop, there are third-party apps for your cell phone. I use Twitterrific on my iTouch and iPhone (www.twitterrific.com). Create a blog You can create a blog as a part of a Google account. In fact, you can create as many as you wish. Why should you create a blog, especially if you already have a website? A blog is regularly updated. It is a conversation. I have always thought that the most important thing about any website is not why a person visits, but why they should return. Since your blog content will constantly change, this gives people a reason to return. By contrast, a website is usually static.
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What will you say in your blog? There are three types of content for any blog. The first is telling folks things like what you had for breakfast, etc. This is not the best use for your blog.
The second is to provide authoritative information on a subject in which you have some expertise. You are an insurance professional. You can certainly provide this type of information. But donâ€™t make it a direct selling
type of post. Make it something you would tell a friend or family member. The third type of content is to provide a way for others to discover new things. You can, and should, also do this. In fact, I think this should be at least two-thirds of your content. Will you find enough to say? When you read a blog that is interesting enough for you to comment on, create a short post about that subject based on your comments. As a courtesy, always include a link back to the original
blog post you are commenting on. The original blogger will most likely see you have done this and appreciate it. When you discover something interesting in Twitter posts you are reading – especially from people whose links you follow – use it for the basis of a short post. Remember to provide a link to the place you found the interesting information in the first place. Be regular in your posting. It doesn’t have to be daily, but you should not go a week without a post.
You can also cover the hot topics of the day — news, weather events, etc. — from your perspective. Just remember, once you post it, it will have a long life of its own. Even if you delete it, it has been indexed on search engines and still exists.
Glance at Events F E B R U A R Y
C A L E N D A R
William T. Hold Seminar
William T. Hold Seminar
CISR-Personal Auto Course
CISR-Personal Auto Course
E&O Best Practices Seminar
P&C Licensing Study Course
CISR-Personal Auto Course
CISR-Personal Auto Course
CISR-Personal Auto Course
Lehigh Valley, Pa.
William T. Hold Seminar
CIC-Commercial Property Institute
Cranberry Twp., Pa.
E&O Best Practices Seminar
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FEATURED PARTNER: Swiss Re Corporate Solutions
HEAD OF U.S. AGENTS E&O: Sabrena Sally, Senior Vice President
Insurance Agents & Brokers proudly recognizes Swiss Re as one of its Platinum Partners. IA&B Platinum Partners
COMPANY LOCATION Overland Park, Kansas
dedicate the highest level of sponsorship to
A.M. BEST RATING A (Excellent)
or more than 30 years, agents across America have trusted Swiss Re to protect their reputations and assets. Swiss Re is proud to be the endorsed E&O carrier of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. More than 12,000 agencies and brokers place their trust in us. In return, they can tap into the longevity, financial strength and enduring market knowledge of Swiss Re. Swiss Re's deep industry expertise, disciplined underwriting and client servicing are all critical components of a strong, stable and reliable partner for our clients. We offer errors and omissions coverage for insurance agents and brokers. Regardless of agency size or operations, we have a full array of E&O solutions for today’s agencies. All products come with the experienced and professional claims
handling and underwriting that policyholders have come to expect and value over the years. In collaboration with the IIABA Professional Liability Program, Swiss Re can provide limits of up to $20 million, with deductibles starting at $2,500. Coverage extensions are available for sales of real estate, mutual funds and some types of investment products. Our policy form is widely respected in the marketplace. You will find that its definition of ‘insured’ is tailored to your business realities. So, too, are the features it puts at your fingertips — a range of extended reporting period options, additional coverage available for catastrophe extra expenses, and insurance consulting and expert witness activities. Consider also that its coverage is supported by a claims team experienced in
handling agents professional liability claims, in conjunction with an extensive panel of outside counsel. Our umbrella policy offers higher limits of liability for premises, auto and E&O exposures, all in one. Swiss Re protects policyholders with specialized needs in niche markets in the U.S. and Canada. Products include property and casualty insurance, professional liability insurance, excess medical expense and risk management services.
Insurance products underwritten by Westport Insurance Corporation, Overland Park, Kansas, a member of the Swiss Re Group.
Connie Phillips Insurance
t Connie Phillips Insurance in Frederick, Md., online marketing is about utilizing a social networking sales strategy. Owner Connie Phillips began with Facebook and LinkedIn, soon added Twitter and recently began blogging and posting videos on YouTube. “We experimented with different things in the past, such as shared leads from the Internet,” says Phillips, “but everyone was jumping on the same lead. We wanted more interaction with potential clients.”
It wasn’t until Phillips bought into the complete social networking package — a revised website for rounding out accounts and soliciting referrals, an e-newsletter, Google paid advertisements and activity social networking websites and blogs — that her agency experienced a boost. That transition required hard work, and still does. A major hurdle was collecting clients’ e-mail addresses and then updating them via their preferred method of communication, whether regular mail, e-mail or even text messages. Continued on page 22
Additional words of wisdom from Phillips Facebook: Set up your agency’s business Facebook fan page on its own, rather than as an offshoot of an employee’s account. Tag employees’ Facebook pages under the business fan page. Paid searches: Know what you’re getting into with online paid search options, such as Google advertising. Narrow the scope to ensure you get the leads you want. Visitor experience: Emphasize the total visitor experience when a customer or potential customer goes online. It’s more than simply driving traffic and accumulating leads.
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Listed below are those companies that strongly support the independent agency system and Insurance Agents & Brokers. Thank you for your continued sponsorship.
WHAT IS IA&B PARTNERS? The IA&B Partners program gives company and allied businesses the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment of support to independent agents and receive maximum market exposure. As an IA&B Partner, you will also realize the benefits of IA&B membership to help you succeed in the insurance industry.
DO YOU SEE YOUR NAME? To become an IA&B Partner, choose the sponsorship
ACUITY Berkley Mid-Atlantic Group Erie Insurance Group Harleysville Insurance Highmark Casualty Insurance Co Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group Inc Millers Mutual Group Millville Mutual Insurance Co Mutual Benefit Group Ohio Casualty Penn National Insurance Selective Swiss Re The Main Street America Group Travelers Utica National Insurance Group
Aegis Security Insurance Co
Insurance Placement Facility of PA
Allied Insurance MMG Insurance Progressive
package that matches your
commitment of support.
Access Insurance Company American Mining Insurance Co Cumberland Insurance Group Donegal Insurance Group Frederick Mutual Insurance Co Harford Mutual Insurance Co Juniata Mutual Insurance Co PSBA Insurance Trust The Motorists Insurance Group Westfield Insurance Zenith Insurance
Contact the Member Sales Center at (800) 998-9644, (717) 795-9100 or visit us online at www.iabgroup.com to get started.
Agency Insurance Company Auto-Owners Insurance Company Briar Creek Mutual Insurance Company Builders Insurance Group Chubb Group of Insurance Companies Encompass Insurance First General Services Foremost Insurance Group Goodville Mutual Casualty Company Grange Insurance Companies Guard Insurance Group Hanover Fire & Casualty Insurance Company Insurance Alliance of Central PA Inc
Keystone Insurers Group Inc Lebanon Mutual Insurance Company Mercer Insurance Group Merchants Insurance Group Mercury Casualty Penn Millers Insurance Company Penn PRIME Municipal Insurance Reamstown Mutual Insurance Company Rockwood Casualty Insurance State Auto Mutual Insurance Company TAPCO Underwriters Inc The Brethren Mutual Insurance Company The Mutual Service Office Inc Tuscarora Wayne Insurance Company Primary Agent February 2011
The agency uses a team approach to maintaining its social networking presences. Two staff members handle LinkedIn, Facebook and the main insurance blog. Another is charged with the employee benefits blog, and a fourth handles the trucker blog. Each person sets aside about an hour per week to blog and approve comments. In addition to enhancing customer relations, their blogging improves their website’s search engine optimization, or ease of being found on the Internet. “The shift has encouraged us to be more personable,” explains
Phillips. “[At the holidays], we posted a seasonal staff photo on Facebook and created a video. Social networking offers the opportunity for reaching out to share stories with clients and the local community.” For example, Phillips found that most of her Facebook fans, who are in their 20s, use the platform for prospecting and asking questions. The agency landed several clients as a result of its presence on the site. For Connie Phillips Insurance, it’s about the complete process. The key to their success is to follow up on these leads with a phone call to build rapport, introduce them to
the agency and learn about the potential clients’ needs. “You really do need to be committed to the entire process,” shares Phillips. “Everyone must be on board and ready to accept the additional training and time commitment.”
Visit Connie Phillips Insurance on the social Web: http://www.facebook.com/ ConniePhillipsInsurance?ref=ts http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ connie-phillips/12/78a/93 http://twitter.com/cpiinc
PROTECTING INDEPENDENT AGENCIES WITH QUALITY E&O COVERAGE That’s how we deliver distinction. With access to the strongest E&O carriers in the market and a specialized Agents Umbrella program, IA&B can deliver protection that will meet your unique needs. Protect your business with the people that know E&O. Insurance Agents & Brokers. Driving members to distinction. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT IABGROUP.COM OR CALL THE IA&B SALES CENTER AT (800) 998-9644.
Driving members to distinction
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Platinum Profile Insurance Agents & Brokers proudly recognizes Utica National Insurance Group as one of its Platinum Partners. IA&B Platinum Partners dedicate the highest level of sponsorship to our organization. FEATURED PARTNER: Utica National Insurance Group CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: J. Douglas Robinson, CPCU Chairman of the Board/CEO COMPANY LOCATION: Home Office, New Hartford, N.Y., with seven regional offices throughout the U.S. A.M. BEST RATING: “A-” (Excellent) WEB SITE: www.uticanational.com
he Utica National Insurance Group offers a broad range of commercial and personal lines property-casualty coverages, including nationally recognized special programs for the graphic communications trades, schools, volunteer fire departments, religious institutions, child care centers and more — as well as programs for general and small commercial business.
Utica National sells through a network of more than 1,400 agents and brokers whose input is essential to the company’s success, noted Larry Hart, Marketing Manager in the Group’s Richmond office which serves the states of Maryland and Delaware.
“Our agents and their clients give us direction regularly on emerging exposures and coverage issues — in general, they help us keep our products contemporary and our service and delivery sharp.” Utica also writes one of the nation’s foremost programs for insurance agents’ Errors & Omissions coverage — providing crucial professional liability protection and further underscoring the value of the company’s business partnership with its agent/brokerpolicyholders. The program offers direct access to E&O underwriting specialists who provide the information agencies need about E&O coverage for specific exposures. Moreover, the company’s claims specialists are devoted exclusively to providing responsive, expert claims service to its customers.
J. Douglas Robinson Chairman and CEO Utica National Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group Inc. is the exclusive agent for the Utica E&O program in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. For questions regarding this article or your Errors & Omissions coverage, contact IA&B at (800) 998-9644 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lacher & Associates Insurance Agency
or Mark Lacher, a partner with Lacher & Associates Insurance Agency, social networking is about establishing brand awareness, being seen as a thought leader and staying relevant in the marketplace. The Souderton, Pa.-based agency specializes in property, casualty and life, as well as employee benefits. Additionally, the secondgeneration firm provides risk management, benefits, as well as business consulting services to mid-market businesses. “We compete a lot against large consulting houses and other large regional firms for mid-market business on the benefits and P/C side,” shares Lacher. “Social networking is a free way for us to compete.” The agency began its foray into social networking nearly two years ago. The dabbling began with LinkedIn and quickly expanded to Twitter
and Facebook. On a personal level, Lacher migrated most of his activities from LinkedIn to Twitter, where he found that he can most easily disseminate information and share his expertise. When the agency’s social networking initiative first began, there was some concern on the leadership team about effective management. But those fears have long subsided. A parttime marketing manager,
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Andrea Hackman, now oversees the agency’s social networking presence, spending approximately three hours per week maintaining online accounts. “We allowed her freedom, especially on Facebook and our corporate Twitter account,” says Lacher. “Having her manage these accounts maintains consistency and control of messaging.” While other staff members don’t have administrative
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rights to the agency’s accounts, they may access the sites during work hours. A social media policy monitors their usage.
initiative,” explains Lacher. “It’s a journey, not an event. It’s another format to engage clients and prospective clients.”
One step Lacher admits senior management missed was getting buy-in from the entire staff. Leadership and the marketing coordinator hit the ground running and then needed to backtrack and explain the plan and goals at an all-employee meeting.
The agency has received positive anecdotal feedback and client interaction over social networking platforms. But, for Lacher & Associates, it’s more about creating energy and being a thought leader in areas of HR, risk management, benefits, etc.
Lacher & Associates management is pleased with the results. “We look at this like any other marketing or branding
And it’s about new business as well. The agency held a social media workshop and already received several requests from clients for Lacher’s staff to advise them on social networking risk and strategy.
“This is another area of risk and opportunity for any company,” says Lacher. “Agents may dismiss it as a trend, but it’s critical for them to understand the implications and know how to advise clients.”
Visit Lacher & Associates on Web 2.0: http://twitter.com/LacherInsurance http://facebook.com/LacherInsurance http://www.linkedin.com/in/marklacher
HELPING AGENCIES AVOID COSTLY E&O CLAIMS That’s how we deliver distinction.
IA&B HAS OVER 50 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE TRAINING AGENCY STAFF By attending IA&B training programs, your staff will have the skills to provide proper coverage and avoid costly E&O claims. No one knows E&O like IA&B. Don’t trust your employee training to anyone else. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT IABGROUP.COM OR CALL THE IA&B MEMBER SERVICE CENTER AT (800) 998-9644.
Driving members to distinction
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Pittsburgh I Day 2011
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Ad Index ACUITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Whisky and monsters: a risky combo
Brokers Surplus Agency . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27, IBC Commonwealth Ins Co . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Donegal Insurance Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 EMC Insurance Cos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .IFC Frederick Mutual Ins Co . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Guard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 IA&B Partners Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21 IA&B Series Ad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22, 26
In 1971, Cutty Sark, the famous producer of Scotch whisky, decided to offer a million-pound award to anyone who managed to capture the Loch Ness Monster. After making the offer public (and also maybe sobering up from the decision), Cutty Sark took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s [of London] to protect them in case the (im)possible happened.
Insurance Club of Pittsburgh . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Insurance Innovators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Interstate Insurance Mngmnt. . . . . . . . . . . . .OBC
Source: Anne Le Tran, “The Weirdest Things Ever Insured,” Insurance Networking News
Mutual Benefit Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Penn National Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Preferred Property Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Tri-State General Ins Ag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 [ 28 ]
----------------------------------------------------------------———————------The Last & Least column is dedicated to the industry’s oddities — from creative claims and kooky coverages, to (tasteful) jokes and strange stories. Submit yours to email@example.com, subject line: Last & Least. The editor will happily protect sources’ anonymity upon request.
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