Archive for May, 2013

Warped Speed Decks Designer

Posted by 31 May, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is about how fads can cause problems, how items go out of fashion quickly and what happens when someone supplies a product that doesn’t stand the test of time.

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Decking your Clients

 

I’m often introduced to garden designers by my architect, and design & build clients, who rely on designers when undertaking large projects. A number of years after being introduced to one designer I had the urgent call saying “that issue we discussed has just come up, literally”. Our previous discussions included the provision of products including wooden decking, which was all the rage a few years ago.

When I first start discussing risks with the client they indicated that they did not require any cover for products because they kept a full list of who they purchased from. I did explain that sometimes product suppliers went bust, leaving those that bought them holding the baby. It was in a stronger financial climate and the designer felt that the supplier was “too big to go down”. They also said that if something did go wrong, they would ensure that client targeted their legal action towards the people who made the product. I explained that this would be wonderful, typically, most people complain or take action against the person who issued the invoice when a project fails or didn’t meet their expectation when it was completed. It also happens sometime after work is completed because new Products take some time to get used to or bed in.

 

No surprise there then

 

It wasn’t a surprise when I received a call from the client to say that they would now like to investigate the cover I previously recommended. When I asked what had changed it was the supplier who had disappeared from the decking landscape and therefore unable to provide back-up if something went wrong.

I said I was happy to look into it, and asked relevant questions, because it’s important that I understand the current issues before making an accurate assessment of risks. It transpired that another designer had been supplying decking from the company concerned and it had deteriorated quicker than it should have. This made the client concerned because they thought it could happen to them. They could be accused of being erroneous in their selection of the product which seems harsh at first. What would you do if you had paid someone to design something that broke or failed within an unreasonable amount of time?

 

A stitch in time saves nine

 

The unfortunate designer had recommended this decking on a number of occasions when they were under pressure to reduce their costs in order to win projects. This short term gain usually leads to a long term pain. And people who get tough on price may well be the same kind of people who will complain when they don’t get their moneys worth.

The issue that concerns me is the number of business people, especially those who need products to complete their projects, who believe they can refer a disgruntled client to the product supplier when something goes wrong. It’s odd that they expect clients to leave them in peace when it was they who recommended the product in the first place. Yes, many designers have terms and conditions which say the product supplier is responsible for the quality of a product. However those Ts & Cs are somewhat meaningless when a client issues proceedings because “the product should never have been used”. There are many grey areas that contracts fail to address. They will still have to find a way to ensure their client turns their aim towards the actual miscreant, product supplier. Which takes time that should be spent doing business.

 

Wrap Up: Insurance helps reduce the financial impact when things go wrong. It does not prevent things going wrong. Businesses can get caught in the firing line even when it is 100% clear that they are not at fault.

 

Top Tip:Request copies of insurance of anyone you work with. If they go bust, their insurer can be persuaded to deal with certain claims.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Tailor-made insurance

Posted by 18 May, 2013 (0) Comment

This article highlights why it makes sense to review the risks a business faces, check that insurance policies are fit for purpose and what can happen if this is not undertaken regularly.

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I have this cover – what is it for?

 

After successfully covering something that the incumbent broker couldn’t, without too much trouble, I was invited to visit their premises, take a look around, and undertake a review. A reasonable way to reduce the time it takes to undertake a business risk assessment is to look at current insurance documentation.

Having collected the information, there was one piece missing, and I received an email to say it would be forwarded on to me as soon as it was received from the broker. At the same time the gentleman said it includes “x cover, and I don’t know what that is”. This is not unusual in my industry. A lot of people build relationships with their brokers and then buy what they recommend. Yet it appeared that the broker had recommended this particular cover, but had failed to remind the client what, or how, it actually protected them.

Does a review mean rates will increase?

 

When the document arrived it was pretty standard. After discussing various cover with underwriters, we got some options. The next step on such a large insurance programme (we are talking about a company who export £1.7million of high quality product to America), is to sit down again and discuss the terms and conditions of the options available to us. The rates we had obtained were 25% less than they were used to so it made sense for the Finance Director to invite us back to discuss in detail.

During this meeting I asked about previous incidents. It had previously been declared that there hadn’t been any in 5 years, apart from a mobile phone being lost. Whilst I collected information about staff, including health and safety arrangements, the Director sighed “staff, our biggest expense and liability.” I enquired how they proved to be a liability if no claims had been made and he said “we don’t have to tell them about things that aren’t insured, do we?” I ventured that they may not have to, yet insurance companies were not that kind. Insurance company requirements often mean that every issue has to be disclosed, no matter how trivial or whether it related to the cover they were providing or not. So the client regaled me with the tale of the dissatisfied employee who had threatened starting a tribunal alleging stress they were suffering was related to their work, and they had settled for £15,000 on the recommendation of their Human Resources consultant.

What do you mean we are covered?

 

I asked the client if they had discussed the stress related claim with their broker. “No” he replied, “we are not covered for this.” I felt it would be cruel to tell him that one of the policies he had in place would have provided him with advice on how to reduce the cost and time spent on such issues. Another may have provided cover for a legal defence and paying compensation if it were awarded. If only it had been explained to the client before the incident happened. This is because some policies only pay out if an issue is reported to an insurer as soon as it crops up.

As I said before, this is not unusual in my industry. Whenever someone tells me that they have insurance, but are unsure of what it covers, I realise that their broker has been order-taking, rather than providing an assessment of risk or any advice. What really sticks in my craw is that the previous broker had sold them a policy which wasn’t much use to them, yet by taking one of the optional extensions they would not have had to pay this £15,000 themselves So, with their current broker they invested over £100,000 and still had to fund a £15,000 claim from their own pocket.

At the last minute, the incumbent broker did try and persuade the FD that he should stay with them, and even resorted to the underhand tactic of trying to approach the insurance company I had recommended so that they could copy the work I had undertaken, and pull the rug from under us. Luckily they were not successful because we have strong relationships with underwriters and they give us exclusive terms and conditions, that order taking brokers cannot access.

The most alarming thing about this rather typical scenario is that the broker could have prevented his client from obtaining the cover he actually desired by trying this underhand tactic. The broker would have known this was the case, but was far more concerned with keeping the business than helping the client protect his.

Wrap Up: At the beginning of the process I had explained that his incumbent broker would probably try underhand tactics and it was best he didn’t tell them that we were involved in a review because it may prejudice his position if he did. He agreed that that was the case, yet when put under pressure by the incumbent, who begged for one more chance, he nearly shot himself in the foot. It happens, regrettably, all too often – yet not to us.

Top Tip: When seeking an assessment of risk, it’s important to request assistance from someone who has a reputation for looking after their clients rather than being an excellent salesperson. The hard sell is all too evident in this industry and masks the underhand tactics that too many brokers participate in, to protect their not so hard earned income.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Smashing lady is actually a criminal

Posted by 4 May, 2013 (0) Comment

Geoff calls me to ask if I can help him with protection for a large amount of jewellery he has just bought his wife and we always help our business insurance customers when they need help with their personal asset protection. While working out the particulars Geoff asks me if I have time to hear a short, but interesting story. Geoff is an entertaining guy, and I’m always happy to hear what’s been going on in his world.  He starts regaling me with a tale from a friend of his, who had been at home when he heard a loud bang, and his wife started shouting for him. He sped downstairs and was confronted with the sight of his front garden wall – newly decorated with a BMW.

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Who Done It?

 

A lady who looked physically shaken, was standing in his front garden, saying “a guy crashed his car into mine, knocked me into your wall and then disappeared.” Over a cup of tea she explained how she had been driving down the road, when she had been shunted from behind, left the road, hit the curb, and landed on top of his wall, rather than driving through it. There was no real evidence of damage to her vehicle, so it looked plausible.

The police were called and statements were taken. The lady drove off, regrettably she didn’t know the identity of the perpetrator who had crashed into her.  She didn’t know the make of the car or the registration number, because it had happened so quickly.

She did it!

 

Some time later a neighbour stopped by to ask what was happening with the demolished wall was told the tale of the lady being shunted into the curb and over the wall. At this point his neighbour informed him that his CCTV told a completely different story.

As Geoff’s friend watched the CCTV footage, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The lady’s BMW was spotted travelling down the opposite side of the road that she’d said, and suddenly left the road as her head disappeared from view behind the windscreen. Her car then clipped the curb and demolished his wall.

Fraud, lies and videotape

 

He could not believe what a performance this lady had put on, both for himself, his wife, and also for the police. He was incandescent by the time he had reached the end of the video footage, asked for a copy, stormed down the police station, demanded that the lady be arrested for fraud. Regrettably nobody had kept her details. Fortunately the CCTV recording had the registration plate number. The police are unlikely to investigate the lady for fraud, as they feel the insurance company would deal with the claim. Yet it is an offence to damage property whilst driving and not report it to the Police – check the highway code.

Is this gentleman incandescent enough to launch a private prosecution – probably not! Has he learned his lesson that what is often perceived may not be the case – yet this is what typically happens when anything goes wrong. I told my friends about this scenario and we all agreed it’s rare for people to take responsibility when things go wrong, sometimes because of the financial penalty. Most people don’t plumb the depths this lady did yet they do think their insurance premium will go up if they make a claim – which is untrue because not all insurances have a “no claim bonus”.

Wrap up:  A lot of businesses relationships with their suppliers go sour when it’s found they don’t provide the service they said they would and use their T&C’s to avoid paying a penalty. Let’s face it, some suppliers best performance is in the tender process.

Top tip: Follow me on Twitter to be the first to hear real evidence of the Police crackdown on whiplash claims. It will happen because the Government has realised that it’s caught up in insurance company unwillingness to drive change. This happened in the1990’s when the Police were swamped with claims for car stereos. The Government forced car manufacturers to improve security.

Share this: With anyone who complains about their insurance premium increasing. If it’s car insurance they’re complaining about, we don’t do it because it’s such a mess thanks to direct insurers and their unwillingness to detect fraud. Yet we do have this nifty tool that helps everyone reduce their premium.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,