Six Top Tips to Getting the Best Professional Indemnity Terms

We all know that the professional indemnity insurance market for financial advisers has hardened due to some high-profile insurers withdrawing as a result of poorly performing accounts. With so few insurers now competing in the sector, there is less competition. In turn, this has allowed the remaining insurers to increase their rates and return to profitability following heavy underwriting losses in previous years.

Generally, these insurers are now demanding more information and exercising further caution if a firm offers advice in more high-risk areas. By following my tips below, advisers can significantly improve their chances of obtaining competitive PI and reduce their chances of seeing their premium increase.

Tip 1. Start Early

Every business is different, and a number of factors can determine the premium which a financial adviser is being quoted.

These may include:

The firm's fee income

  • Risk profile, i.e. types of products/investments they are advising on

  • Claims history

  • Experience and qualifications

  • The level of risk management procedures the firm has in place

Underwriters may also operate with different risk appetites, where they adopt other rating structures, targeting specific types of firms.

With that in mind, if an adviser is looking to review the market and give themselves the best possible chance of obtaining the most comprehensive cover at the most competitive rates, the key is to start the process early. This should be up to three or four months before the renewal date.

By starting the process early, it will also allow you and your broker more time to prepare a comprehensive and detailed application for the underwriter's judgement. You will also have more time to negotiate the terms and reduce the chances of the terms being left until the last minute.

The terms and conditions being quoted by the various insurers can vary, so giving yourself plenty of time will allow you to understand the coverage fully, so you are not basing your decision solely on price.

Tip 2. Create the right impression

Creating the right impression means completing the forms accurately and neatly. Providing additional information can also help your insurer/broker better understand your risk. For example, supporting your proposal form with copies of your terms of business, complaints register, investment proposition document, and CV can really help.

If you have had previous claims, provide an additional summary of what has happened, the amount of the claim and what the firm has done to prevent re-occurrence.

Tip 3. Demonstrate risk management procedures and policies

If you have recently updated these documents or feel your firm has in recent months done more to reduce the chances of a claim occurring, provide further evidence of this. Underwriters get inundated with applications so to improve your chances of obtaining the best PI, make sure your company's proposal form stands out.

Tip 4. Go through a broker

I would say this, wouldn't I? But generally, PI is always best sourced through a specialist who is on the FCA list of approved PI brokers. Several managing agents act as both agent for the 'insurer' and the 'insured'.

Working with an 'independent' broker will allow you to carry out a full review of the market, obtaining quotes and negotiating with the panel of insurers available to them. In the event of a claim, a broker can also provide additional claims management support, further dealing with your insurer if needs be.

The number of insurers available to an adviser is limited, so try and avoid a situation where you send a blanket proposal form to every broker which approaches you. This not only slows down the quoting process but often it means the same insurers see the same proposal form but through multiple brokers. Generally, a maximum of two brokers should be able to review the whole market for you.

Tip 5. Meet with insurers

In the majority of cases, the broker will act as the agent of the insured. They will represent the interests of their client in the marketplace. Your chosen broker will usually carry out all the negotiations on their behalf. However, in certain circumstances, many underwriters welcome the opportunity to meet with their policyholders. This will allow the adviser to ask their insurer any questions, will enable them to get to know their underwriter and improve their insurers' understanding about their business.

Tip 6. Understand exclusions

The exclusions will very much depend on the insurers' IFA wording and the terms that are agreed or quoted to the individual firm. A copy of the policy wording will detail all of the insurers' standard policy terms, conditions and exclusions.

IFA wordings do vary between insurers, so it is vital to check and understand the different options available to the firm. It is often the case that non-standard exclusions are also being applied. In recent years, additional exclusions include Arch Cru, Key Data, Matrix and unregulated collective investment schemes. Some insurers also apply insolvency exclusions, but the definitions of these wordings do differ between insurers. It is essential always to check and fully understand these definitions from the outset.

Written by Tom Simcox - Principal of Simcox Brokers

(This article was first published in the FT Advisor)

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