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Update on the Professional Indemnity market

Last July Arlington wrote about the effects of the hardening PI insurance market and the impact we were seeing on property and construction professionals.

Now, all professions are being impacted by the consequences of the Covid 19 lockdown: either in a financial sense with increased premiums or by insurer capacity, with lower limits of indemnity, restrictive wordings or in some cases, certain professions may not being able to obtain renewal terms at all. In this article we will look at the reasons and what businesses can do to prepare themselves.

For over a decade, most professionals have seen stable (and sometimes decreasing) PI premiums: obtaining renewal terms was a relatively easy process with firms often being promised discounts from competing brokers or insurers. However, those firms who have recently renewed their PI insurance (or who are in the process of obtaining renewal quotations) may have noticed that things are changing.

Increased premiums and higher excesses

Insurers have reviewed the business they hold and concluded that the claims that are likely to arise from many professions due to the impact and after-effects of Covid 19 mean they are no longer target business. This is particularly true of firms that are exposed to economic recessionary pressures such as the property, financial and investment sectors.  

Whilst some clients may find their 2020 PI premium increase may be negligible, others may find they are being offered similar premiums for say, £1,000,000 of cover in 2020 as they did for £2,000,000 in 2019. 

Also, where there has been a significant decrease in a practice’s gross fees, this may no longer equate to any premium reduction whatsoever for 2020. 

Policy excesses are also increasing, as insurers seek to protect themselves from future claims.

Reduced insurer capacity

Many insurers are now quoting lower limits of indemnity to ‘cap’ or restrict their underwriting exposure. They may only offer a 50% coinsurance share when quoting renewal terms, meaning that other insurers need to be approached to write the balance; this not only leads to rises in premium but delays whilst additional insurer capacity is sought. 

This has been particularly true on some Accountants (quoted company work or historic tax scheme exposure), Asset Managers, Investment Managers, IFAs etc. where there may now only be a handful of insurers UK-wide able to offer cover. Architects, Surveyors and many property professionals will see full cladding and fire safety/combustibility exclusions imposed on their policies.     

Insurers asking additional questions

Covid 19 questions are becoming the norm on PI policies with insurers checking whether a business’s day-to-day operations have been affected by Covid 19 to the detriment of their clients. For example:

  • How is quality and service being maintained?
  • How is the workload being managed by fewer ‘hands on deck’?
  • Have any staff have been furloughed?
  • Are there are any immediate plans for staff redundancies and if yes, for what roles.

Why is this relevant?

Unqualified staff may have previously been working in an office under close supervision but are now likely to be working from home without supervisory controls. This can lead to errors and in turn, PI claims.  Mistakes may happen when no one else is around to observe or notice work processes – which can be difficult if there isn’t anyone around to refer matters to or give a second opinion. Junior or administrative staff may have been furloughed, leaving directors who are not used to administrative functions being responsible for their own diary actions and correspondence.

Where there is interaction with clients via videoconferencing (for example Zoom or Team meetings), the same standard of vigilance and attention to detail should be maintained as would be expected in a face to face meeting and full notes and records kept of such client interactions.  

There are also additional risks to remote working/working from home, which can lead to Cyber security issues.

Cyber

The speed in which lockdown was imposed meant that few firms had the chance to fully test their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and had to set up remote working practices in very little time. Those firms who had tested their BCPs would never have envisaged working from home for a 4- month period.  Many firms may not have had sufficient time or resources to provide laptops or webcams for their staff with many employees having no option but to use their own PCs when working from home. Personal computers may contain non-audited software and apps which may lead to an increased risk of hacking or phishing. 

Extra security measures are also needed to ensure Cyber security and safety. Action Fraud (the UK’s national fraud and cyber reporting centre) stated there had been a 400% increase in coronavirus related fraud reports during March 2020.

PI insurers may ask businesses about any additional Cyber Security measures they have recently  implemented to counter the enhanced risk posed by remote working, and how businesses ensure data on their employees’ own PCs is secure and virus free. Employees need to be alert to phishing scams or unusual emails. Online payments should be thoroughly checked and preceded by phone calls to verify.

Uncertain times ahead 

Unfortunately there is little likelihood of seeing any improvement in the PI market for remainder of this year and probably into 2021: the PI market continues to harden, premiums are increasing, insurers are ceasing to write certain professions whilst the number of insurers is likely to shrink as firms come under increased financial scrutiny in terms of their liquidity.

What can businesses do to help themselves?

  • Insurers are taking longer to respond with renewal quotations: you should therefore return your proposal renewal forms a minimum of 4 weeks prior to your renewal date.
  • The proposal form is you ‘selling yourself’ to insurers so please take extra care in your renewal presentation and provide supplementary information that explains pertinent issues to insurers.
  • Be prepared for additional questions from insurers and be patient for terms to be released. You may not get as much time to consider quotations as you did in previous years. 
  • Be aware that there may only be one insurer’s renewal quote. Many insurers no longer have the time to quote business that is ‘non-target’ or that they know they will be uncompetitive on.  
  • Be prepared for your PI insurance to cost more: forewarn and talk with your financial director, decision makers and key clients, particularly if certain levels of PI cover need to be maintained for contractual reasons.  
  • Do not be surprised if policy extensions of 14-30 days are granted by insurers (this is in line with most professions’ regulatory requirements)   
  • If you are struggling to obtain compliant PI cover, you should speak to your professional body in good time regarding dispensation, if necessary.

If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article or are interested in Professional Indemnity or Cyber insurance cover, please contact our Bristol office:

Verena Cole       0117 387 8880   verena@arlingtoninsuranceservices.com

Anna Lloyd         0117 387 8881   anna@arlingtoninsuranceservices.com

Post Covid-19 start-up –what property owners need to consider

As property owners you will be responsible for a varied range of building types such as shopping centres, individual industrial units, industrial/business parks, office blocks, high street units etc.  The degree of direct control and responsibility you or your managing agent need to exercise will vary so it is advisable to agree between you who will be responsible for what and when.  Tenants also have a responsibility to ensure they resume their operations safely and so you should involve them in any plans.

Each premises will need to be individually risk assessed due to the differing type of property and occupation to establish specific needs.

Remember that all applicable health & safety legislation and regulations remain fully in force such as: –

  • Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order

Reopening premises

Planning

Inspections and reinstating the utilities and services may be the sole responsibility of the tenant or may involve the landlord or managing agent. This process should be carefully planned to ensure the building utilities and services are brought back into operation in a controlled and safe manner. It is important to initiate and keep regular communication with all tenants and to co-ordinate responsibilities. This is especially pertinent for multi-tenanted buildings and high-rise offices, to agree a strategy and maintain social distancing in communal areas.

Consultation

As a property owner or managing agent you should consult with tenants about the return to the premises. Keep up to date with the latest government guidance to help them plan.

Tenants must consult with staff and employee representatives and consider the risks of anyone being harmed in the workplace and carry out a suitable and adequate risk assessment.

Some may be anxious about their safety when returning to the premises, and all tenants/managing agents should talk about any concerns and try to resolve them together.

Risk Management

Considerations will vary depending on the site layout, equipment and processes involved, and should have been assessed in the planning stage.

These are some things you should consider and manage:

  • Update risk assessments and working procedures in respect of the Covid-19 amendment.
  • For multi-tenanted buildings how to maintain social distancing in communal areas under your responsibility such entrances, lifts, toilets, changing/showers facilities.
  • Confirm that your employees have had training refreshed in respect of Covid-19 for risk assessments and method statements.
  • The supply and provision of PPE where this is required for work-related activities.

Document

Keep records your assessments and update to reflect any changes. Communications with your employees and tenants about what the new changes may mean, ensuring that they fully understand and above all document and record all training and information going forward. All actions, systems and procedures must be documented – you may be required to produce evidence of compliance to a regulator.

Cleaning

Consider the layout of your premises and areas you are responsible for, prior to opening for business. For those areas you are responsible for prepare a schedule of cleaning steps covering and communicate with tenants of the building.

For multi-tenanted buildings where you have responsibility for common areas this will include the “effective management” of welfare arrangements such as reception lobbies, plant rooms, elevators, changing areas, locker rooms, shower/washrooms and toilet facilities, welfare etc.

Water systems checks

Legionella checks are very important because standing water can generate Legionella bacteria growth and the generally accepted advice is that temperature control is the traditional strategy for reducing the risk of legionella in hot and cold-water systems.

  • Cold water systems should be maintained, where possible, at a temperature below 20°C.
  • Hot water should be stored at least at 60°C and distributed so that it reaches a temperature of 50°C (55°C in healthcare premises) within one minute at the outlets.

Building Inspection

The following are some of the main checks that you may need to make on general building condition and the fire & security protection:

  • perimeter security including fences, gates, doors, windows, shutters etc.
  • internally for signs of damage or deterioration
  • Fire alarm systems, access control, CCTV systems, intruder alarms, fire doors, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting/signage and emergency exits.
  • Review the alarm keyholders to ensure adequate coverage is provided and ensure the intruder and fire alarm system Alarm Receiving Centres are informed of any changes.
  • When reinstating water supplies that have been isolated check for any leaks.
  •  Where automatic fire sprinklers systems are installed, please click here for a separate detailed guidance note.

To read more on this subject click here for detailed guidance sheet “Post-coronavirus start-up guidance – Property owners” issued by AXA Insurance. 

For the UK Gov Coronavirus (COVID‑19) guidance and support website click here.

If we can help you regarding any of the issues mentioned, or if you need any further information or advice on this subject please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Unoccupied or Temporarily Closed premises

Due to the current situation many businesses have had to temporarily leave their premises unoccupied due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Some have even become permanently vacant as the occupier has gone with no intention of returning.

As a result of this we are frequently being asked: –

“What action should we be taking as the premises is temporarily closed?”

“What if the premises were previously unoccupied before the COVID-19 situation?”

“What if the unoccupancy of the premises is now permanent and not just a temporary measure?”

Most insurance companies have issued statements outlining their position and have said that they are committed to treating customers fairly and so we would expect that where businesses are making appropriate provisions to mitigate their unoccupied risk as a result of Coronavirus, the temporary closure of the building should not prejudice any claim made.

The specific details and requirements relating to unoccupancy conditions do vary between insurance companies, so the following is intended only as a general guide and if you want to know what applies to your policy and any particular insurer then please get in touch with your usual contact at Arlington.

“What action should we be taking as the premises is temporarily closed?”

Insurers have said that full cover will be maintained for a period. Some for 45 days, others for 60 and one without a specific period.  All insurers do expect the Insured (or whoever is responsible) to take the appropriate actions and provisions (in compliance with existing government guidance and social distancing requirements) to mitigate the risk and have issued guidance as to what they expect.

In summary this consists of but is not limited to: –

Waste: Remove all external waste, pallets and empty skips ahead of closing.

Waste bins: Empty all waste bins and relocate to a secure area, ideally at least 10 metres from the building. If this is not possible and bins and skips are within 10m, these should have lockable lids.

Fire Systems: Ensure that any fire and/or sprinkler systems are fully operational

Fire Doors: Carry out a check to ensure that internal fire doors are closed

Building Utilities: Shutdown any non-essential electrical devices and building utilities

Inspections: Arrange for a weekly inspection of the building both internally and externally.

Physical Security: Carry out a check to ensure physical security measures are in place e.g. fences are in good repair, windows are locked, shutters are in place, gates are locked.

Intruder Alarm: Make sure your intruder alarm is set and that the remote signalling is in place. Ensure sufficient numbers of keyholders are available to respond to an alarm activation within 20 minutes.

Maintenance: essential maintenance should continue with any remedial measures completed. Premises that have Building Management Systems (BMS) with remote alerts should continue to be responded to.

Hot Works: No Hot Works should currently be permitted.            

“What if the premises were previously unoccupied before the COVID-19 situation?”

Where a premises was previously unoccupied, then the specific requirements and cover, that was agreed with your insurer will continue to apply, although as with the above, they recognise the challenges and require that these are complied with as closely as is permitted during this time. In the event of specific concerns or difficulties regarding compliance, then please notify us so that the issues can be considered by Insurers.

Please also notify us as soon as practicable of any circumstances where existing security provisions (e.g. manned guarding) that were stipulated by insurers are downgraded or removed due to changes in government guidance and / or the ability of clients or their suppliers to maintain support.

“What if the unoccupancy of the premises is now permanent and not just a temporary measure?”

When a premise that was previously occupied has now become permanently unoccupied, whether due the Coronavirus or not, you need to let us know this. We will then notify your insurer and arrange cover and advise them of the risk management actions that you have or intend to put in place to protect the premises.

Contacting Arlington during the Coronavirus outbreak

Following Government advice, all Arlington employees will be working from home until further notice, to avoid non essential travel and mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Please be assured that Arlington remains open for business and that we remain committed to meeting your needs.

Our office phones are diverted to mobiles and all staff have remote access to systems and so are able to work from home effectively.

Our contact numbers and emails are all available at the top of this page under Contact Us should you wish to get hold of us.

We will not be able check our post as regularly as normal, so if you are intending to send us any post or pay premiums by cheque, please contact us by telephone or email so we can discuss alternative means of communication or payment.

Thank you for your assistance and we wish everyone and their families the very best of health during this unprecedented period.

Commercial insurance premiums are increasing

What’s driving these increases?

Insurers companies have been losing money

For more than a decade there have been rate reductions but with increased cover and limits. This has been driven by the excess capacity in the insurance market and has meant that insurers have been unable to make the return on capital that they require as the industry is paying out more in losses and expenses than it is collecting in premium.

The increased cost of doing business

Insurance companies face the same variations in their running costs as any other business, including their customers. For example, exchange rate fluctuations, salary inflation and energy cost rises.

Less interest from investors

When the insurance market seems a less attractive proposition for investors, they withdraw. This means there are fewer insurance companies in business, leaving customers with less choice and allowing the insurers that are left to be selective about who they insure and how much they charge.

Poor investment returns

Insurance companies rely both on the premiums they charge and on income from their investments to stay in business. When premiums are low, insurers supplement any shortfall in income using their investments. The current economic climate has resulted in poor investment returns and insurers have been unable to rely on them to offset the low premiums: prices are therefore driven up.

Increased reinsurance costs

The reinsurance market is another factor that drives insurance pricing strategy and consequently as reinsurers significantly increase their costs then insurers react by increasing the primary premium.

Higher claims costs

Many insurers are currently operating at a loss due to higher than expected claims costs which are driving insurance prices higher and have these losses have been caused by: –

  • Natural disasters such as the recent flooding and severe weather events
  • Emerging technologies, such as modern methods of construction, smart features, artificial intelligence and robotics which have created new insurance risks whilst also increasing repair or rebuild costs following a claim
  • Higher legal costs for general liability, errors and omissions, directors and officers and employment practices liability insurance

When some of or all these factors are present then the insurance industry enters into what is commonly referred to as a “hard market” and you can then expect to see

Increased premiums

There will be premium increases on all types of insurance irrespective of whether there have been claims or not; but as you might expect the level of increase will be higher where the loss ratio is poor or where there are adverse risk features.

A reduction in capacity

During a hard market, insurers often start restricting the amount of capacity they’re willing provide and will look to remove non-core or poorly performing risks. Cover and limits may be reduced or even withdrawn completely.

More focus on risk selection and management

Insurers are asking for more information on the risk detail and loss prevention measures. They are being far more particular in their risk selection process and some risks will now only be deemed acceptable with improvements to the risk management.

It will take longer to transact business

Expect slower response times from insurers as they have an increased workload because they are re-underwriting their business and also because more insureds are looking for alternative quotes in the hope they can find better alternative premiums.

If we can help you regarding any of the issues mentioned, or if you need any further information or advice on this subject please don’t hesitate to contact us.