Make sense of the insurance market

A hardening market can mean higher premiums and tougher underwriting decisions – so it pays to get an expert on your team.

Like any market, the business insurance market experiences different cycles that can affect pricing and how easy it is to get cover. Depending on the stage of the cycle we’re in, this can mean more risk and higher premiums for you.

That’s where we can help. As insurance experts, we can help you navigate the insurance market to find you value for money insurance that’s suitable to cover your business needs. And as part of Steadfast, Australasia’s largest network of general insurance brokers, we can help negotiate better cover.

Understanding insurance market cycles

Insurance premiums are generally governed by the insurance cycle – which moves between a ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ market, based on economic and other factors. In a soft market, insurers are chasing market share – competing with lower premiums and better underwriting terms – and making it easier and cheaper to get the cover you need.

Factors like a worsening economy, higher claims – perhaps due to a string of natural disasters and storms – and poor investments can lead the market to harden in these times, premiums tend to be higher – and underwriters less willing to take on additional risks.

Insurance cycle

How can we help you navigate the business insurance market

We take the hard work out of getting the most suitable cover – at a competitive price. As part of Steadfast, Australasia’s largest general insurance broker network, we have access to policies from national and international insurers – so we can help find the right one for you. We’re experts in helping you:

Access to local and international markets
With access to international and local insurance companies, we have access to policies from around the world – and at home. And because not all markets are at the same point in the cycle that means we can find you the right terms and policy – and potentially save you money.

Expert advice
Even in a hardening market, there are things you can do to get more value from your insurance. By putting robust risk management processes in place and being more strategic about your business risks, you can potentially lower the cost of your insurance premiums.

As insurance experts, we can advise you on what you can do to make your insurance dollar go further.

Negotiating power
Because we are part of the Steadfast network, we can negotiate with insurance providers to help get you the best possible terms.

Our regular cover reviews, effective claims management processes and negotiating power can also help to minimise future price increases – so you can afford to maintain the cover you need.

Protecting Your Commercial Assets In Business

For business owners in Australia, insurance needs to be a priority. With so many potential threats to a business, having the right insurance coverage can keep your business and your personal finances significantly safer. The challenge for Australian entrepreneurs is that there are so many different types of insurance policies available that it can often get very confusing very quickly. From the insurance that you’re required to have by law, to the coverage that will simply give you peace of mind in a wide variety of sectors, here is a brief guide to protecting the commercial assets of your business.

Legally Required Insurance

There are a variety of insurance types that business owners are required to have. Although employees are not legally considered as a commercial asset, you will certainly struggle to run a business without them. All businesses that employ even a single person must have Employers Liability Insurance in place. However, if you have business premises, that is an asset, and that means you need to have Buildings Insurance. This will protect you from damage to the building, whether it’s from wilful vandalism or accidental fire or flooding. You may also need to have:

  • Vehicle Insurance: If you use a company vehicle to deliver goods or for your employees to use, then they need to be insured.
  • Industry Specifics: Some industries are required by law to have specifically tailored policies in place. Make sure that you are aware of the specific needs of your business sector so that you aren’t caught out.

Non-required Insurance Types

There are additional types of insurance that may not be required by law but can be very useful when it comes to keeping your business safer. Depending on the sector that you trade in or the size and structure of your business, here are some asset protection insurance types that you should consider:

  • Professional Indemnity: This should be a priority for freelancers, consultants, and contractors. Although it is not a requirement, it can keep you much safer against claims made against you or your business in relation to professional negligence.
  • D&O Insurance: If your business has directors and/or officers then it’s worth getting the insurance that can protect them individually from legal liability.
  • Product Liability: If your business sells, makes, or even simply repairs a tangible product then it’s a smart move to invest in product liability cover. If a customer gets injured using a faulty product then you can be vulnerable to a substantial fine that could cost you your business.

Manufacturing businesses might also want to look at a pollution risk policy. If there is even the slightest risk that your manufacturing locations will produce any kind of waste then a pollution risk policy will be a huge help if you are forced to pay for the cleanup of any accidental pollution or any claims made against your business.

Additional Options

No matter what kind of industry your business is in, you might also want to secure your assets by adding these additional policy types to your overall coverage:

  • Intellectual Property Insurance: Protect your intangible assets, including patents, logos, or designs.
  • Business Interruption Insurance: If you are forced to close your business temporarily due to outside disruption (flooding or fire) then this can prevent the threat of closure due to a lack of revenue stream. This is sometimes referred to as Business Income Protection Insurance.
  • Glass and Sign Cover: Often not included in Buildings Insurance, this can keep your frontage much safer.

You might also look at Goods in Transit insurance if your business involves a lot of shipping, or Money Insurance if you have large amounts of currency on your premises.

Entrepreneurs and business owners should always have a very clear picture of their insurance needs. From the policies that are legally required to the ones that are simply designed to keep your business safer, having the right coverage can ease the stress of business management. Make sure that your business is more protected, and the future of your company will be much more secure.

Bushfires and business interruption

Some insurers have already started to pay claims to bushfire-affected businesses on the NSW South Coast, as their business interruption insurance policy provides for weekly payments.

Having this support has been important for affected firms to stay in business. It allows them to maintain their cash flow and pay regular outgoings such as rent and wages.

Under a business interruption policy, a business that suffers an insurable event can claim for loss of income. Policyholders in the best position have been those that have been able to quickly provide their financial information to support their claim.

Christopher Connolly, underwriting manager with underwriting agency Interruption Underwriting Agencies (IUA), explains.“The fires happened on New Year’s Eve. The first business day was Thursday 2 January.

We started to pay claims the following Friday 10 January, which was within 7 business days” he says.

Affected businesses such as restaurants, shops and other local stores have been able to claim under a prevention of access clause in their policy.

The clause is triggered because the authorities issued directives that closed the roads. This meant the annual influx of tourists the South Coast receives could not reach the businesses in the towns affected by the road closures.

Some roads remained closed at the time of writing.

This article from the Steadfast online magazine Well Covered, discusses risks of underinsurance, how to avoid mistakes and ensure homeowners have the right insurance in place, particularly in fire-prone areas.

Read the full article here

Why small businesses need product liability insurance

Product liability cover can vary, with claims depending on the individual business and the product it sells. Regardless, Product liability will ensure you are protected from the inevitable mishap.

Product liability can provide protection for property damage or personal injury claims arising out of the use of a business’s product, or the failure of a product.

Michael White, Steadfast’s broker technical manager, says claims are typically split into two types. “Personal injury claims are very common. In these cases, someone uses a product that’s defective in some way and is injured as a result.

The other type of claim relates to the use of a product that fails, causing property damage,” White explains.

There are a number of circumstances that are not covered by product liability insurance. One situation is when there is an economic loss as a result of a faulty product. Product liability insurance won’t provide cover if you sell a product and it doesn’t work, resulting in a business losing money.

An example would be the client sells a machine used to put caps on bottles. Let’s say the machine manufacturer claims the machine can cap 500 bottles an hour but in reality, it only caps 400 bottles an hour.

The claimant suffers a loss because its production is reduced. Typically, policies also won’t provide cover for the product itself. So if you sell a product and the product does not work and has to be replaced, the policy won’t respond.

This article from the Steadfast online magazine Well Covered, discusses risks of underinsurance, how to avoid mistakes and ensure homeowners have the right insurance in place, particularly in fire-prone areas.

Read the full article here

Bushfire safe: making sure your home isn’t underinsured

With bushfires burning around the country, it’s important for homeowners in fire-prone areas to take steps to ensure they have the right insurance in place.

This article from the Steadfast online magazine Well Covered, discusses risks of underinsurance, how to avoid mistakes and ensure homeowners have the right insurance in place, particularly in fire-prone areas.

Read the full article here

Income Protection for Business Owners

All business owners have a lot of challenges, but many fail to contemplate what might happen if their business is suddenly unable to trade. From illness or injury to a fire at your supplier’s warehouse, there are many ways that your profit generation could be suddenly halted. While there are many rewards to being a business owner, the threat of the unexpected should not be overlooked. One of the most effective ways of keeping yourself and your business safe is through Business Income Protection Insurance. While many people have personal income protection, income protection for business owners is a much more focused form of coverage that could keep you much more safeguarded against the unexpected.

What is Business Income Protection?

Disruption to your workflow can be caused by many uncontrollable events. Business Income Insurance policies are intended to cover your living and working costs while you are unable to trade. Whether you are forced to close your business due to long-term disruption or need to cease trading temporarily, Business Income Protection can make sure that when you are able to reopen the doors you will be in a much more secure position. When work is disrupted, business owners still have bills to pay, staff wages, and supplier costs that need to be maintained. And that can be very challenging if you are not generating any profits.

Why you need it

If there was any damage caused to your business premises, such as a fire or a flood, would your current finances keep you afloat? Any kind of damage, disaster, or business interruption can have a dramatic effect on a business. Without the reliability of ongoing profits, many business owners simply lack the resources needed to stay financially secure during unexpected breaks in trading. Business Income Insurance is intended to keep you financially stable as you tackle disruption, and can be a useful resource when you’re trying to get your business back up and running to pre-disaster levels.

Did you know?

Income Protection Insurance can cover individuals or businesses, but research in 2016 revealed that only 31% of Australians have their income protected.

Research by the Australian Centre for Business Growth suggests that 13% of Australian SMEs fail due to external factors such as natural disasters, changes to regulations, or even shifts in global trends. However, the actual number may be much higher than this.

Income Protection Insurance is not a new type of coverage. In fact, the first recorded policy that was designed to protect income was back in 1880!

What it covers

Most Business Income Protection policies will vary according to your needs. However, you can expect that your policy will cover:

  • The costs of relocation (temporary or permanent)
  • Property damage to products or premises
  • Theft of equipment that prevents you from operating
  • Fixed costs
  • Expenses caused by disruption
  • Wage payments to staff
  • Taxes
  • Loan repayments

What isn’t covered?

Generally, Business Income Protection will not cover you if your business is harmed by you intentionally, particularly in cases where damage was caused by intoxication. You will also find that most policies will only cover your costs if your business suffers a loss or inability to trade as a direct result of a specific disruption.

Businesses exist to make a profit. If a business is unable to make money due to any kind of external factors that are out of the owner’s control, having Income Protection can give you the financial safety net that you need to recover and continue trading.

Real Risks in Business: A Guide to Insurance

Starting a business is a risky business, which is why it pays to be prepared! While it is impossible to predict exactly which possible hardships may befall your company throughout its years of operation, it is possible to load up on the right business insurance that will provide you with coverage when you need it most.

Below is an explanation of some of the most common risks in business, and how best to mitigate them going forward.

Damage to business property and/or assets

This could be as a result of a flood, a storm or another natural disaster, or it could be as a result of attempted theft or vandalism. Either way, damage to your business property and/or assets is sure to prove a costly challenge to overcome. This is why so many business owners opt to take out property insurance. It is a type of insurance that is recommended whether you own or lease your business property.

Business interruption

This is a risk that is not only extremely common, but it is also something that almost every business from around the world deals with on a regular basis. Business interruption in some form or another is inevitable. Whether it is due to the fact that your office is uninhabitable following extreme weather, or because your network is down, business interruption means an interruption to productivity and cashflow, which can have far-reaching consequences, especially if the interruption lasts longer than a few hours. In this regard, it is a good idea to invest money in a business interruption insurance policy which can be carefully customised to suit each business owner’s unique requirements.

Injuries on your business premises

Every business owner who employs workers is required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance covers medical-related costs and will provide wage-loss compensation in the event that an employee is unable to work for a period of time following an accident or injury. However, it does not usually provide cover for any lawsuits that may arise following an accident or injury on your business premises. Sometimes, it will be a client who injures themselves on your property. In these instances, it becomes obvious why so many experts advise business owners to take out general liability and public liability insurance.

Employee-related incidents

You increase your business risk exponentially simply by hiring employees. As mentioned, workers’ compensation is mandatory, but there are other ways in which to reduce your risk and ensure maximum coverage relating to your employees and any issues involving them. For example, it is worthwhile looking into management liability and employment practices liability insurance. This type of insurance has been created to provide adequate protection to business owners and managers in terms of lawsuits connected to workplace discrimination of potential, current and past employees. It also protects against most third-party claims.

What am I responsible for as a business owner?

There are countless circumstances that may have a negative effect on your business, many of which are impossible to predict. The good news is that it is possible to prepare for any eventuality, thereby safeguarding your business from potential financial ruin. The best way to do this is with the right business insurance.

However, as a business owner, what specific types of business insurance are you responsible for? What insurance are you required to have by law? Furthermore, which types of insurance are worthwhile considering despite not being mandatory? Let’s find out.

Workers’ compensation

If your business has any employees, then workers’ compensation is a must. Essentially, it is a type of accident insurance paid for by employers which provides coverage should an employee be injured on the job. The insurance will pay for medical-related costs and will provide wage-loss compensation in the event that the employee is unable to work for a period of time following the accident/injury. Workers’ compensation also applies to circumstances when an employee contracts a work-related illness. Workers’ compensation is solely the employer’s responsibility – there are no deductions made from the employees’ salaries in order to pay for it.

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance, although mostly optional, is required by law for certain types of businesses in Australia. In essence, it protects your business from financial ruin should you or your employees ever be accused of negligence. It may offer cover in the following situations:

  • injury or death
  • providing negligent advice
  • property damage
  • consequential loss, which occurs in very rare cases where a negligent act causes a third party business to lose expected revenue.

Third party personal injury insurance

This type of insurance is required by law, but only if you own a motor vehicle or a business vehicle. Many business owners will be pleased to discover that third party personal injury insurance is often included in their vehicle registration fee. Ultimately, it provides cover for any costs relating to injuries that a motorist may cause to others in a motor vehicle crash anywhere in Australia. Most third party personal injury insurance will cover treatment, care and support of the injured parties, pay for claims management expenses, and settle worries regarding both past and future economic loss in relation to the injury.

In order to remain compliant, all Australian business owners must make sure that they have invested in the right insurance as per the law. Remember, however, while there are specific types of business insurance that every employer is responsible for, there are many other types that are not mandatory, but that can greatly benefit your establishment in the long run including professional indemnity insurance, cyber liability insurance and stock and asset insurance. It is worthwhile to consider all of these types of insurance if you are in search of total peace of mind that your business is properly protected and ready to face any challenge that may come its way.

The insurance implications of working from home

Australians are increasingly working from home, with the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicating at least a third of us choose to work from home at least part of the time.

study by future trends research house McCrindle shows there are lots of different reasons why people work from home. In total, 45 per cent of Australians want the flexibility to juggle other things while working, while 25 per cent of us want a better work/life balance. Additionally, 15 per cent want to work without distractions and 12 per cent want the freedom to also look after children while working.

There are also many different models when it comes to working from home. Some people run their own businesses. Others have negotiated to work from home with an employer part-time. Another group works for an employer full time from their home.

Whichever model someone falls under, there are lots of different insurance implications when people choose to work from home. Here, Michael White, who is Steadfast’s broker technical manager, explains what some of those are.

“Home and contents policies do provide some cover for people who work from home, although it’s usually limited to the assets you’re using to do the work. Usually, a computer is the main asset and this is typically covered by your home policy, with a limit of about $10,000,” he explains.

As a result, it’s important to make sure the cover limit in your insurance policy on the assets you use to conduct work from home is adequate.

Says White: “In contrast to a commercial insurance policy, which may be negotiated, this is not the case with home and contents policies, whose limits cannot be negotiated.”

For instance, if your insurer provides cover for a home computer with a value of up to $10,000, you won’t necessarily be able to negotiate for a higher cover level of, say $20,000, even if you have business assets to this value. This has implications for businesses that operate a business with a higher value of assets from their home.

Let’s says someone is running a hairdressing salon from the basement of their home. The home and contents insurance policy won’t necessarily provide cover for expensive equipment such as chairs and basins above the limits specified in the policy. If this is the case, the business owner may look into buying a business pack insurance policy, which may provide more comprehensive cover.

Also, while they include limited cover for the tools of the trade, home and contents insurance policies won’t cover personal and professional liability.

“So, if people are operating a business from home, they need to take out a separate liability cover for that business,” White explains.

In general, White stresses it’s essential to first ensure if you’re working at home, you do have a home and contents policy that will provide cover for assets such as the computer on which you conduct the business.

In addition to that you need to make sure you’ve got liability cover. This will provide protection in the event that, for instance, a courier delivers a document to your home and trips and has an accident while making the delivery.

Important note – This article is provided by Steadfast.

The information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Steadfast Group Ltd (ABN 98 073 659 677, AFSL 254928)

Telematics continues to evolve in insurance

Telematics technology has proven benefits when it comes to encouraging more responsible driving, with research indicating better driver behaviour is one of the main advantages in using this innovation.

Black box or telematics technology is a way for businesses to collect data on how their employees are using company vehicles. Using telematics, businesses can collect information such as whether drivers are speeding or driving dangerously, as well as how long they spend on the road. This is important, as research indicates driver fatigue is one of the main causes of road accidents.

According to the most recent Telematics Benchmark report, improved driver behaviour, peace of mind and regulatory benefits are some of main pluses to using telematics. The research found when drivers use telematics devices, businesses achieve peace of mind knowing where their vehicles are on the road and can also plot more efficient routes, leading to reduced costs such as lower fuel bills.

Importantly, data shows businesses that use telematics can improve the safe driving record of their vehicles. Mercurien Insurance specialises in providing insurance to businesses that use tools such as telematics to manage their fleet of vehicles. One of its clients, a not-for-profit organisation with a vehicle fleet, saw speeding events per kilometre drop from 0.14 to 0.07 across two-and-a-half years. Additionally, at fault claims fell from just over 60 to just over 20 a year thanks to telematics.

As this shows, businesses that use telematics may experience a commensurate improvement in driver safety. As a result, some insurers look favourably on businesses that employ telematics in their vehicles.

Businesses collect the data and may provide it to some insurers, who then use it to make decisions on the policy and its conditions. Insurers may approve more favourable policies, including more cost-effective premiums, based on data showing better driver safety.

Turning to the public sector, the National Transport Commission is reviewing how telematics is used across the transport industry, especially among vehicles that are required to comply with the Heavy Vehicle National Law, as well as vehicles that are required by law to use telematics, such as taxis and buses.

Michael White, Steadfast’s Broker Technical Manager, explains telematics may be used by businesses to better manage how their fleets are operated and to also provide this information to their insurer.

“In the case of heavy motor vehicles, telematics can provide information on how the vehicle is being driven, speeds, how brakes are used and whether drivers comply with road rules,” he says.

Zurich Motor Fleet Underwriting and Risk Engineering is one insurer that has a telematics-based insurance policy. Zurich Fleet Intelligence (ZFI) uses telematics data gathered from its policyholders vehicles through black box technology. Subsequently, Zurich uses this information when assessing insurance policy applications and claims.

Often, Zurich’s clients already have devices in place in vehicles so they can monitor vehicles for logistics purposes. ZFI can draw on this data to assess how individual drivers behave when they are on the road. The technology also provides information to drivers about their driving performance, online and in real time.

However, another insurer, QBE, has exited the market, closing its Insurance Box product it launched in 2014. This technology provided people with a Drive Score and helped them become better drivers, by providing feedback on driving habits and tips on how to improve driving performance. It was the first product of its kind in Australia but will no longer be offered as a standalone product.

Despite QBE streamlining its telematics offering, this technology is likely to become more popular with insurers, businesses and regulators as it becomes more sophisticated over time.

Important note – This article is provided by Steadfast.

The information provided here is general advice only and has been prepared without taking in account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Steadfast Group Ltd (ABN 98 073 659 677, AFSL 254928)