Professional Liability

Private Label Coverage

Discerning insurance buyers and their brokers increasingly seek specialist wordings from a professional liability community that is desperate to differentiate.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 8 min read

In an increasingly interconnected business environment, it is no wonder many companies are taking a closer look at the changing nature of their liabilities — and seeking tailored coverages to ensure none of their unique exposures slip through the cracks.

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Growing demand from clients and brokers in a tough environment is forcing underwriters to innovate in order to win business and squeeze extra margin from their books. The result is a proliferation of specialist professional liability policies that runs the full gamut of industry sectors, from health care to construction.

The move towards specialization has developed to the extent that now it is possible for various stakeholders within the supply chain of the same industry to each enjoy their own tailored coverages. There are no doubt more niche products to come.

“The trend is being driven by both a willingness from underwriters to look for margin where they can, and also demand from insureds,” said James McPartland, class underwriter, professional indemnity, at ArgoGlobal.

“We now live in a much faster-paced world than even 10 to 15 years ago. The way businesses interact and bring products to market is very different now, and companies can significantly change from month to month.”

Uniquely positioned with their fingers on the pulse of their clients’ evolving risk profiles, brokers play a huge role in identifying coverage needs and driving the development of bespoke wordings.

James McPartland, class underwriter, professional indemnity, Argo Global

James McPartland, class underwriter, professional indemnity, ArgoGlobal

“Agent feedback is crucial; they are the catalysts of change,” said Greg Leffard, president of professional liability at the Hanover Insurance Group.

“As businesses change, exposures change, and so should our coverage.”

He added that brokers see the development of new products as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors just as carriers do.

“It is easy to compete on price, but agents want more than that. They want private label coverages, available only to them.”

“It starts as one client with a specific need, then before long three have asked the same question in a different way and we know there is a trend and we have to find a solution,” said Elisabeth Case, commercial E&O product leader for Marsh, who added that newcomers to the PL space are often the underwriters willing to concede the most ground in the design of new products.

“We have carriers we know are willing to go the extra mile, both in the U.S. and London. It really does come down to individuals at certain organizations trying to keep their companies at the forefront, or trying to build a book. There are new entrants in the PL and cyber liability space coming into the marketplace all the time, so they often have to offer something unique to get their foot in the door.”

According to Cynthia Evanko Olinger, senior vice president of construction at JLT Specialty USA, modifications to standard PL coverage can often be obtained from underwriters “for little or no premium.”

Whereas a decade ago a $2.5 million PL line for accounts “meant you were a player,” now it is common for insurers to put down $5 million or $10 million. — Brian Braden, vice president, professional risk, Crum & Forster

“We argue, for example, that the technology services are part of the core business that the underwriter is insuring, and our request to affirm coverages for these services should have no premium impact,” she said.

Brian Braden, vice president, professional risk, at mid-market underwriter Crum & Forster, noted, however, that the most flexibility is often likely to be given on larger risks due to the negotiating power of big brokers who control a lot of premium dollars.

“Those changes are usually advantageous to the client and a little adverse to the carrier. Sometimes we follow those changes on an excess basis, but if we’re writing primary we won’t,” he said.

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He added that underwriters are offering bigger lines. Whereas a decade ago a $2.5 million PL line for accounts “meant you were a player,” now it is common for insurers to put down $5 million or $10 million, he said.

“Plus there are many more players, which drives the price down.”

Hanover’s miscellaneous PL group writes over 100 different classes of business, each with its own unique exposure.

“This creates challenges to ensure we provide appropriate protection for all the various sectors, as well as competitive coverage in the marketplace at a reasonable price,” said Leffard, while McPartland noted that the cost of doing business is increasing and pricing new bespoke coverages can be “haphazard” due to the lack of historical data.

As McPartland pointed out, not all clients are interested in a new bespoke PL product, as such products are often purchased out of regulatory or contractual obligation.

“When you strip a PL policy back, 99 percent of all claims would be covered under the negligence clause. Add-ons enhance the product to make it more attractive, but the fundamental driver of purchase is price, and people are prepared to move business around a lot quicker nowadays,” he said.

McPartland added that while brokers could until recently rely on existing clients to remain loyal at renewal, clients are now more interested in what the broker can do for them going forward than what they’ve done for them in the past.

“We are having to work harder to retain our business. The book churns quicker and as a result our modeling becomes more volatile and pricing gets more difficult.”

Niche Demand

Nevertheless, said Leffard, many professionals are becoming more knowledgeable on the benefits of insurance and the true cost of a claim.

“Mature businesses are willing to pay more for a solid form compared to a basic form that just meets contractual business requirements,” he said.

Faye Chapam, medical malpractice underwriter, Argo Group International Holdings

Faye Chapman, medical malpractice underwriter, ArgoGlobal

“Established marketing firms, advertising and public relations agencies, technology firms and home inspectors are also good examples of sophisticated, educated insureds. They are more likely to understand their professional liability exposures and ask for the right coverages.”

The health care sector is ripe for specialist PL covers. According to Faye Chapman, medical malpractice underwriter at ArgoGlobal, quasi-medical practitioners including beauticians and masseurs are seeking PL cover due to the increasingly invasive nature of treatments (such as injectables and laser treatments), which goes beyond the scope of some general liability underwriters’ appetites.

Practitioners offering one-on-one patient treatment may also require abuse of patient cover, she said, though there is some debate within the insurance industry over whether abuse would fall in a liability or medical malpractice policy.

Meanwhile, medical devices including implants present another potential liability exposure as practitioners could find themselves facing a claim if they recommend the use of a substandard or dangerous product.

Chapman noted that insurers are offering extended reporting periods, effectively transforming covers from claims-made to occurrence basis policies, across a number of specialist health sector products.

More broadly, fundamental business themes demand that old coverages be revisited across almost every sector — most notably concerning the proliferation of cyber risk and the evolving use of technology.

“Professionals such as lawyers, accountants and even engineers and architects who are holding personally identifiable information are beginning to realize that negligence could be deemed to be the main trigger for a breach of privacy,” said McPartland, noting that cyber liabilities are increasingly being written into PL, professional indemnity (PI) and errors & omissions (E&O) policies.

Braden said cyber liability risk has “changed the landscape” on a number of products. “Our tech product, for example, used to just be E&O coverage for tech professionals, but over the last four or five years if you don’t offer full first-party coverages including credit monitoring, notification costs, extortion and business interruption, you are dead in the water.”

“It’s an exciting market,” said David Smith, professional indemnity underwriting manager (UK & Ireland) for Lloyd’s underwriter Hiscox, which writes 20 profession-specific PI products.

“In the past it was traditionally professions such as surveyors and architects that bought PI cover, but in recent years we’ve seen the evolution of people being asked to buy PI for their contracts with third parties and interest from a host of new professions — and we see that trend continuing.”

Smith noted that many of Hiscox’s PI products now cover insureds against claims arising from their own websites, such as the unlicensed use of images, in addition to third-party damage.

Elisabeth Case, commercial E&O product leader, Marsh

Elisabeth Case, commercial E&O product leader, Marsh

“Ultimately, what clients will start to want more is an all-in-one E&O and cyber liability policy with potentially some physical loss/damage related to a cyber event if the systems they rely heavily on to deliver their products or services are interconnected to others,” said Case.

Similarly, advances in electronic technology are changing the way many professions operate, and are creating new exposures that need to be written into specialist PL products.

Car parts, for example, increasingly include tech components, which is making auto suppliers seek cover against component malfunctions that could lead to manufacturer recalls, noted Case.

“We are getting lots of requests from various types of manufacturers who have both a manufacturing and design element, who are sometimes confused about what type of cover they should buy.

“People mistakenly think they need an architects and engineers policy if their engineers are designing products, but in fact they need manufacturers’ E&O,” she said.

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The tech industry itself is a complex area when it comes to PL. “Tech clients are very specialized and there are sub-sectors of the tech world that need even further differentiating,” said Case, noting that FinTech companies are often unable to find E&O solutions that cover their entire exposures, so Marsh is creating bespoke coverages by aggregating multiple policies in order to obtain adequate coverage.

McPartland predicted the next area for specialist PL cover could be 3D printing.

“This printing will speed up repair processes but it is also an opportunity for people to make mistakes,” he said. “If someone prints the wrong valve for an oil rig, for example, it could result in a significant oil spill. It’s an area to watch over the next 18-24 months.” &112016_02_riskfocus_sidebar

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Liability

Fresh Worries for Boards of Directors

New cyber security regulations increase exposure for directors and officers at financial institutions.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 6 min read

Boards of directors could face a fresh wave of directors and officers (D&O) claims following the introduction of tough new cybersecurity rules for financial institutions by The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

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Prompted by recent high profile cyber attacks on JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Target, and others, the state regulations are the first of their kind and went into effect on March 1.

The new rules require banks, insurers and other financial institutions to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program and adopt a written policy that must be reviewed by the board and approved by a senior officer annually.

The regulation also requires the more than 3,000 financial services firms operating in the state to appoint a chief information security officer to oversee the program, to report possible breaches within 72 hours, and to ensure that third-party vendors meet the new standards.

Companies will have until September 1 to comply with most of the new requirements, and beginning February 15, 2018, they will have to submit an annual certification of compliance.

The responsibility for cybersecurity will now fall squarely on the board and senior management actively overseeing the entity’s overall program. Some experts fear that the D&O insurance market is far from prepared to absorb this risk.

“The new rules could raise compliance risks for financial institutions and, in turn, premiums and loss potential for D&O insurance underwriters,” warned Fitch Ratings in a statement. “If management and directors of financial institutions that experience future cyber incidents are subsequently found to be noncompliant with the New York regulations, then they will be more exposed to litigation that would be covered under professional liability policies.”

D&O Challenge

Judy Selby, managing director in BDO Consulting’s technology advisory services practice, said that while many directors and officers rely on a CISO to deal with cybersecurity, under the new rules the buck stops with the board.

“The common refrain I hear from directors and officers is ‘we have a great IT guy or CIO,’ and while it’s important to have them in place, as the board, they are ultimately responsible for cybersecurity oversight,” she said.

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting at Argo Pro, said that unknown cyber threats, untested policy language and developing case laws would all make it more difficult for the D&O market to respond accurately to any such new claims.

“Insurers will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure,” he said.

Going forward, said Larry Hamilton, partner at Mayer Brown, D&O underwriters also need to scrutinize a company’s compliance with the regulations.

“To the extent that this risk was not adequately taken into account in the first place in the underwriting of in-force D&O policies, there could be unanticipated additional exposure for the D&O insurers,” he said.

Michelle Lopilato, Hub International’s director of cyber and technology solutions, added that some carriers may offer more coverage, while others may pull back.

“How the markets react will evolve as we see how involved the department becomes in investigating and fining financial institutions for noncompliance and its result on the balance sheet and dividends,” she said.

Christopher Keegan, senior managing director at Beecher Carlson, said that by setting a benchmark, the new rules would make it easier for claimants to make a case that the company had been negligent.

“If stock prices drop, then this makes it easier for class action lawyers to make their cases in D&O situations,” he said. “As a result, D&O carriers may see an uptick in cases against their insureds and an easier path for plaintiffs to show that the company did not meet its duty of care.”

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One area that regulators and plaintiffs might seize upon is the certification compliance requirement, according to Rob Yellen, executive vice president, D&O and fiduciary liability product leader, FINEX at Willis Towers Watson.

“A mere inaccuracy in a certification could result in criminal enforcement, in which case it would then become a boardroom issue,” he said.

A big grey area, however, said Shiraz Saeed, national practice leader for cyber risk at Starr Companies, is determining if a violation is a cyber or management liability issue in the first place.

“The complication arises when a company only has D&O coverage, but it doesn’t have a cyber policy and then they have to try and push all the claims down the D&O route, irrespective of their nature,” he said.

“Insurers, on their part, will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure.” — William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

Jim McCue, managing director at Aon’s financial services group, said many small and mid-size businesses may struggle to comply with the new rules in time.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of work in terms of preparedness and the implementation of a highly detailed cyber security program, risk assessment and response plan, all by September 2017,” he said.

The new regulation also has the potential to impact third parties including accounting, law, IT and even maintenance and repair firms who have access to a company’s information systems and personal data, said Keegan.

“That can include everyone from IT vendors to the people who maintain the building’s air conditioning,” he said.

New Models

Others have followed New York’s lead, with similar regulations being considered across federal, state and non-governmental regulators.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Cyber-security Taskforce has proposed an insurance data security model law that establishes exclusive standards for data security and investigation, and notification of a breach of data security for insurance providers.

Once enacted, each state would be free to adopt the new law, however, “our main concern is if regulators in different states start to adopt different standards from each other,” said Alex Hageli, director, personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“It would only serve to make compliance harder, increase the cost of burden on companies, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really help anybody.”

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Richard Morris, partner at law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said companies need to review their current cybersecurity program with their chief technology officer or IT provider.

“Companies should assess whether their current technology budget is adequate and consider what investments will be required in 2017 to keep up with regulatory and market expectations,” he said. “They should also review and assess the adequacy of insurance policies with respect to coverages, deductibles and other limitations.”

Adam Hamm, former NAIC chair and MD of Protiviti’s risk and compliance practice, added: “With New York’s new cyber regulation, this is a sea change from where we were a couple of years ago and it’s soon going to become the new norm for regulating cyber security.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]