Efficient insurance isn’t always friendly

Posted by 23 June, 2014 (0) Comment

This article is about how improvements in technology should help providers improve the service to their clientèle. Read on to find out how IT has made life easier, where it has failed, and the backlash that is “in the post”.

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Treating customers fairly?

 

Recently I have been learning how to use a new IT system which will increase our efficiency and profit. The people showing us how to use the system are terribly nice and say some nice things, yet also some very surprising things. One that really did surprise me relates to the way the system allows us to meet all the compliance regulations that are bestowed upon us, by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) I was pleased to find that the system made our life easier when ticking the compliance boxes.

It was during a discussion about “treating customers fairly” (TCF) that I was so surprised. TCF involves doing what it says on the tin – making sure that the customer is at the centre of what you do. This ensures that they are well treated and their aims are met whilst your business meets its aims too. For me, this is the most valuable thing you can do in a business, because customers are always right and when they are wrong, its usually because they have not been well informed. This is a statement that most business owners don’t want to hear, yet when they are the customer they realise that it’s actually true.

What’s the surprise?

 

The comment that surprised me so much was after I complimented the trainers on showing us how to add efficiency into our compliant processes. Our training lady announced that no one usually cares about this, to which I exclaimed “pardon!” because I couldn’t believe that a sector so beaten and bowed by criticism still fails to take its customers’ rights seriously. I enquired what the lady meant by “no one usually cares” and she reiterated that all the other people she trains (all is probably an overstatement) find ways to avoid ticking the compliance box of TCF. I am not surprised that this happens, but I am surprised that it is an industry wide problem. However, it does explain one scenario that has puzzled me somewhat.

Why is it important?

 

When I first went “alone” I carried out research and found that a healthy percentage of people that had purchased insurance were not sure that it was right for them. This meant there were people who would find our service useful. This gave us immense confidence as we ploughed our furrow and provided a service that isn’t available to all. It still isn’t available to all, because we could not possible service the entire commercial insurance buying public, not by ourselves. But watch this space. We have no immediate plans to dominate the UK, yet what I have discovered over the last few years has shown us that the vast majority of people who buy insurance are not treated fairly. There is work for us to do in changing that. It is a challenge, but one I am ready for.

Wrap Up: Not all insurance policies are the same. Not insurance companies are the same. Not all businesses are the same. So ensure you get what you need, before you need it.

Top Tip: If ever you do have a problem with insurance ask your supplier how they are treating you fairly, whilst dealing with the problem.

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Will Intellectual Property lead the UK out of recession?

Posted by 12 July, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is about the true value of intellectual property, the risks and advantages when leveraging it, and the solutions available.

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Intellectual property is Marvellous

 

Every week I meet someone who has had a great idea.  Not all of them will make as much money as Coca Cola, yet some of them are simply amazing. Naturally, these conversations are private and confidential, and I am often asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), before I am party to the secret. I don’t mind doing this because it helps build trust with entrepreneurs and inventors.

I think it is vital to protect the intellectual property in any country, UK Plc. seem to have more nurtured good ideas than most. The gentleman who designs Apple products is British, although he is an employee of Apple, so he is handsomely rewarded for giving them the rights and it makes sense to leverage an idea by partnering with someone who has the means to make the most of it.

The UK authorities are aware of just how much tax revenue they make when ideas created in the UK are well protected in the UK, so they have invested in grants making it worthwhile to protect intellectual property, because they make money when we make money.

Intellectual property risks examples

 

One inventor has designed a new water bottle for athletes. Another has invented one with a filter that means that it can be filled from a puddle, yet still be drinkable. When they initially approached me they had similar concerns, someone might copy it and they wanted to enforce their patent, design and trademark rights. Perhaps another manufacturer would try to flood the market with cheap copies that would damage the brand if people were injured whilst using an inferior bottle.

Social Media searches helped another inventor determine people who were jealous of the invention and were using very similar names to promote their product. In each case they can enforce their rights because they arrange protection to close down the miscreants or, at least, stop the fake or suspiciously named goods reaching consumers.

Sometimes this is achievable by a warning shot across the bows, commonly known as a cease and desist letter; this doesn’t always work. Authorities will act upon injunctions and stop goods leaving a factory, impound them at a distributors warehouse or prevent them being loaded onto a ship if the Intellectual Property owner has the means to enforce their rights. Sometimes this is avoided by the miscreants and the legal costs of enforcement mount up.

Some inventors have told me that they believe people will think twice when they have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and that is certainly true for the vast majority of people. Large companies and corporations have taken advantage of the little guys and will stop at nothing to make a buck. Just a little research unearths companies who brought their manufacturing process back to the UK from abroad to find that aggressive companies in England started copying their top four selling items and promoting them on the internet.

Whoever let the copycat have the designs probably signed an NDA. It will take time to find out who the culprit was or if the data was stolen by hacking, employees or “external forces” have been known to do this. Without legal costs protection in place, even though they had protected their unique features and registered their designs, it costs a considerable amount of money, time and effort, to stop this happening.

The same applied to an Irish game designer, doing business in the UK, who was courted by a US publisher with a hawkish side. It cost $380,000 to get the game they “copied” removed from the shelves and they eventually gained a licence agreement for a share of the sales of his original ideas.

Intellectual property advantages

 

It is understandable that some companies do not want to register a patent because they know that there are really aggressive companies, especially in the US, who have a habit of copying ideas as soon as they are registered.  I don’t mean registered as a patent, I mean patent applied for. How they find out about such things is fraudulent, of course, and I share tweets noting those that get caught or the sectors that are at the biggest risk.  Savvy intellectual property advisors often recommend that registering be left until the last minute, yet this also carries the risk that someone else may have come up with the idea on a completely opposite of the world, and register it first, obtaining Worldwide rights, if they have the ability to do so.

When discussing these issues I let people know that there are ways of protecting such inventions without them being fully registered.  Get a registration in first, and inventors or designers can enforce their rights before they are registered. This makes patent attorneys and intellectual property lawyers very happy because it gives them a significant tool in their armoury and also enables them to generate fees when the protection process takes too long.

Large companies do not wait for small companies to enter the market before they attack them. A client is in the UK and bought a US Company and made it their branded subsidiary. The players who had the largest share of that particular US market instantly issued “malicious” proceedings against the UK Company before they had even started promoting their products.

 

Wrap Up: Intellectual Property is a real bargaining chip, if it is adequately protected.  Aggressors often try to tie new entrants up in legal process – which is a huge cost – especially in the US, to prevent them from spending their money on marketing and eroding the established leaders market share.

Top Tip: Having a non-disclosure agreement is great, yet you will need to enforce it if someone breaches confidentiality or trade secrets. This is simple yet not easy. Registering patents, marks, brands, domain names, or other unique features of a product or service, and the way it is marketed, can all form part of Intellectual Property protection.

 

 

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Landlords lord it over leases

Posted by 14 June, 2013 (0) Comment

Small print, in leases, that is rarely read, can lead to insurance problems, uninsured losses of occupants and confusion over who pays for what when thieves target leased or serviced offices.

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The price of fashion

 

Mark calls me and tells me that his office has been broken into overnight. Indeed, all six offices in his building have been turned over.  The office is in a fashionable part of London, and somehow they managed to bypass the security on the front door, unpick the locks on the first floor security door and then pull each of the glass doors to each office, off their hinges. Mark wasn’t initially concerned about the items stolen because it was only a redundant laptop, and a safe full of paperwork, rather than money.  He did feel sorry for the five other companies on his floor, because the laptops that were stolen from them were new, contained sensitive data, designs, plans, and other important information… not all of which had been backed up.

How the thieves got past both doors seemed a bit of a mystery, the CCTV was in operation and the footage would show who exactly the thieves were.  However, it transpired that the main door lock was not working properly, and the heavy security door on the first floor had not been locked by the last person to leave. No one wanted to admit it was them who had left last, and in such circumstances it’s never easy to determine who that might have been.  The CCTV could identify the culprit, albeit not the culprits that everyone initially thought the CCTV would be used to identify.

 

Landlord negligence is uninsured?

 

The broken door to the street had been reported to the landlord, so they had been negligent in not arranging for an immediate repair. This certainly would have prevented the problem,  but how did the thieves knew that this door was not working. It’s not sinister, they are purely opportunists. It’s daft that both security doors were left unlocked at the same time but it happens because we’re human and forget things. Sometimes these mysteries are never unravelled. Mark would have been gutted if it had affected his cover.

I had already visited Mark’s premises, to ensure that the security that he did have control over was accepted by his insurance company. When we first explored Mark’s prospective requirements, we had to negotiate with insurance companies because some of their humans had forgotten that a trendy office should have a glass sliding door. If you ever look at insurance company requirements you’ll find they’re quite ambiguous when an unusual feature is in existence. This often crops up with serviced offices, because landlords of these places do not spend a lot of money on the security because they assume nobody will get past the desk security.

They don’t realise that it’s not unusual for someone to “stowaway” in a premises and rifle through unattended offices overnight, before pushing an emergency exit door open and carting off their booty. Thieves love serviced offices because landlords are never going to warn proposed clients of this weakness when they are trying to sell them their office space.

 

Who is going to pay?

 

You would think that the landlord would accept responsibility, having not fixed the door. However, in my experience, they simply refer you to the clause in the lease, which confirms that they are not responsible for a loss of this type. The way leases are worded, it could be argued that they are not responsible for anything, but I am not a lawyer – I only wish I were that clever. The excess on office insurance is usually quite low – around the same amount as an hour of a solicitor’s time. It makes sense to pay a solicitor to review a lease or serviced office agreement. They will advise you on exactly what the landlord not taking responsibly for, giving you the opportunity to cover yourself for the balance

So, how do you enforce your rights against a negligent landlord? You could, in theory, stop paying your rent – to balance things out. However, you will find that an established legal process will kick in when you don’t pay your rent, because clauses in the lease normally dictate that there is no relation between the two issues. You might have to sue them, or at least threaten to. And if you are going to do that, you will need some sort of legal backing. This is widely available; indeed, a lot of people have this form of protection, yet because their cover has not been explained to them in detail they would not even know.

Wrap up: When you are in an office or any premises where you do not control the security, it makes sense to ensure that your premises are well protected. If undesirables do visit, and find that your security is stronger than everyone else’s they will, at least, leave you until last because they are usually in a hurry. It takes seconds to prize a door open and rifle through an office – thieves are usually after things they can sell for cash, don’t you just love the modern phenomenon of “pop-up” pawn shops. The fact these thieves took the safe indicates that they had a getaway vehicle, yet this is not always the case. The security to your premises is your responsibility. Don’t expect a landlord to be too concerned about it.

Top Tip: Mark discovered that the sensitive information in the safe meant that he did actually have to notify people if their privacy was likely to be breached. This is a requirement of the data protection commissioner, and applies to anyone who collects certain types of sensitive data. Fortunately, Mark and I had discussed this at the outset and the cost of doing this was not prohibitive.

 

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 : , , , , , , , , , ,

Health and Safety can make you feel ill

Posted by 16 March, 2013 (0) Comment

This month is about the perils of consultants who, errr, don’t consult, why anyone offering insurance as an “add-on” should be carefully checked, and the scale of the trail of damage they can create.

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‘Elf & safety chancers

 

My hotelier clients are truly wonderful people. Like myself, they ensure that their clients get a good night’s sleep 🙂

One of them called me the other week and asked if their insurance covered them for the new regulations. “I must have missed something… what new regulations?”

It transpired that a Health & Safety consultant had turned up out of the blue,  making out they were some sort of official and asked to look around.  After lots of tutting, he then told the hotel staff that their boss was going to be jailed if they didn’t sign a contract for three years advice.

Putting the frighteners on (best gravelly voice required)

 

The fact the hotel already had an up to date and robust Health & Safety policy hadn’t crossed the consultant’s mind. He just wanted to scare people into signing up. It’s why Health & Safety has such a bad name. It’s used to frighten people into parting with their hard earned money instead of protecting people as they go about their day to day life.

Even worse than “the frighteners”, is the fact he included insurance in his offering. This would have been, in part, a duplication of cover that was already in place. What’s wrong with dual insurance, I hear you ask?  Well, it causes delays at the very least, because each insurance company will suggest that the other is responsible for settlement , a case of “after you, Claude”.

So who pays – not the con man

 

In the worst case scenario, it can lead to claims being declined because insurance companies get a bee in their bonnet when they assume that claimants are trying to claim twice. It’s seldom true – people resent the hassle of insurance, never mind paying for it twice. It can lead to policies being cancelled because of something called non – disclosure.

And it doesn’t end there. If someone’s policy is cancelled by an insurance provider then they must inform future insurance providers of the cancelled policy, at the time that they are seeking alternative insurance solutions. Insurance companies can void the claims of those who have an an incidence of non-disclosed cancellation.

If the current insurer decides to increase their policy premiums because they suffered losses elsewhere in their portfolio, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with them forever.

Wrap up: Health & Safety is important, yet should be treated as a way to prevent issues, rather than be used as a stick to beat people with.

Top tip: Check your Health & safety, employment tribunal and other business protection practices do not include duplicated insurance.

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 : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Insurer’s blind eye leaves business owners vulnerable

Posted by 12 October, 2012 (0) Comment

This article looks at why it’s vital for companies to protect their reputation. Employee accusations can really hurt, especially if word spreads that you’ve acted immorally, just because someone is being vindictive.

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Who protects the boss?

 

It’s a real nightmare for business owners when employees get upset. Business is Business yet allegations of discrimination or mistreatment can be quite frightening. This is especially so if word were to get out that a business acted questionably or immorally, simply because someone is disgruntled or being vindictive.

Rumours can easily reach clients, and frequently do, so we often help business people who want to nip these issues in the bud. They reduce the chances of unexpected legal costs, by asking us to help them reduce the impact, if malicious rumours are being spread about them. This is a sensible approach, that proves extremely cost effective, should it ever happen.

Does it always work?

 

Usually it does… yet recently I found an insurance company who wasn’t providing the cover I expected. I was discussing the merits of a policy with the company that issued it. When I congratulated them on having more generous cover than their competitors they seemed surprised.

They went on to look into the policy, and informed me that their generosity was a typo and the cover they mentioned didn’t apply. This was a real shame because I had already mentioned it to my client. Of course I had to withdraw my recommendation.

What about those that have already invested in this protection?

 

I pushed a bit further and decided to enquire “what are you going to tell those that have already purchased this cover?” Nothing, they told me. “not even at renewal?”. Nope, they said.

So there are now businesses up and down the UK whose insurer knows their contract might be inadequate yet their insurer doesn’t care. Regrettably, this is quite often the case. I’ve reported to the FSA and I’ll let you know how I get on if they ever answer my letter.

Wrap up: Insurance companies have very little idea about customer service because they don’t deal direct with business people.

Top tip: At least annually, you should aim to review the risks to your business assets and business income, and think about what could cause damage to your reputation too.

Who to share this with: Managing Directors, Business Owners & Human Resources specialists.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Liability Insurance,Personal Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When complainants get tough, the tough respond cordially

Posted by 14 August, 2012 (0) Comment

Business owners dread a call from an unhappy client. This post is about what happens when a meeting causes panic. Read on to find out who is on the receiving end, why it happens, and how to avoid setting dangerous precedents.

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I’ve just had my business arse kicked! Am I covered?

 

Computer keyboard - Press the "any" keyMike phones me at 4pm on a Monday. It’s immediately clear that he’s flustered. It transpires he has just  left a meeting with a client for whom he has been providing IT services for nearly a year. “I feel like I’ve had a good kicking. We’ve been accused of making mistakes and fraud. I really need to know – am I covered for this, especially if they take action?”

This is not an everyday occurrence in my world, but it happens with enough frequency that we are used to it. We plan for it by making ourselves available every day because we want to help when it’s most needed. Mike was “covered” and I let him know immediately. He wanted a good night’s sleep, and the finer points can be ironed out when full details are known.

So what are the chances of keeping everyone happy all of the time?

 

I remember when Mike and I first sat down 3 years ago. His business was, and still is, growing rapidly, and clients expectations change all the time too. The main concern at the time was this type of issue, because IT changes as quick as customer expectations. The unfounded allegation of fraud was the result of a “competitor” getting involved.

It is a real blow when a client becomes unhappy. Yet this particular complainant had been egged on by another company, who probably wanted to usurp Mike. The competition went as far as producing a damming report, with a host of allegations that the client could wave in front of Mike, which the client did, with relish.

Apart from shock and horror, are there other issues?

 

Time. It takes time to answer any complaint. Time should be taken to avoid making the matter worse. What is vital is to take a massive deep breath, work out what has actually happened and make sure communications are clear.

This has since been achieved, and the angry party have calmed down, after they received a considered response. Even so, complainants make unrealistic demands when they’re angry and meetings without agendas set a dangerous precedent.

Wrap up: When a business is growing, learn to expect the unexpected, and plan for it. Keep in mind clients expectations change all the time too, and giving in to unrealistic demands of angry clients is not the most sensible response. Take time out to consider the situation from all angles and ensure all outgoing communications are cordial.

Top tip: In all cases, insurance companies must be kept fully informed of all progress and have lot’s of experience in what works and what doesn’t. It makes sense to lean on them rather than trying to avoid the issue or worry about unlikely premium increases.

Share this with: business owners, service providers, IT people, contractors, and anyone else who gets involved in providing a service to the demanding.

Names have been changed to protect the truly innocent.

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