How Can a Policy of E&O Insurance Save Your Business?

As much as financial professionals would like to be perfect, they aren’t. They are prone to making mistakes because they are human. And those so-called errors & omissions can be expensive to resolve, at best, and fatal to a business, at worst. Fortunately, a policy of E&O insurance can save their business with proper planning and commitment.

Part of the problem is every segment of the financial world has become more complex over the years. Whether it’s life or health insurance, investments, property-casualty insurance or real estate, the amount of knowledge required to do business has exploded. The regulations that affect professionals have become mind numbingly complicated. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, slated to take effect in April 2017, includes over 1,000 pages of dense requirements. And the technologies professionals use to do business evolve so quickly it’s hard to keep up. In this environment, it’s easy to make a mistake through lack of information or time or through a sloppy mistake.

What’s more, even an innocent mistake can explode into a nasty client lawsuit and a potential financial judgment that can cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, to resolve.

Consider this: according to a top E&O insurer writing E&O insurance for life and health insurance agents, there are at least 11 major mistakes an agent can make, ranging from misrepresentation, premium errors, and failure to explain or provide coverage to policy change errors and beneficiary-related mistakes. But making a mistake is just the beginning. The same insurer found that the average insurance settlement for a disability-insurance related claim was $149,000. Experts say claim costs for large investment accounts can easily hit half-a-million dollars or more, depending on the amount of assets under management.

Being on the hook for a six-figure or higher legal judgment is not something most financial professionals can fund out of petty cash. In fact, most would have to liquidate some or all of their assets in order to pay for a significant legal judgment. How would you pay for a bill this large? Would you have to declare bankruptcy in order vacate your legal liability? How would you continue to meet your financial commitments—say, sending your children to college or funding your own retirement?  If you had to put your entire financial life on hold in order to deal with a nasty E&O dispute, then E&O insurance is made to order. Without a doubt, errors & omissions are human, but relief from liability is divine.

Don’t Get Left on the Hook for Mistakes You Didn’t Mistake

Compounding matters is that many E&O claims fall into the nuisance category. Sometimes clients take offense at their financial advisor for bogus reasons and retaliate by bringing suit. Other times, they have unrealistic expectations about how their financial products should perform or believe their advisor sold them a bill of goods when in fact, they failed to listen to their advisor’s explanations. Whatever the cause, nuisance lawsuits constitute a large portion of America’s legal docket. But this doesn’t render them meaningless; financial professionals still have to defend themselves against even the craziest of lawsuits.

Imagine being sued for something you didn’t do and then losing a court battle. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate case of adding insult to injury? A better solution: Don’t get left on the hook for mistakes you didn’t make. Research your financial liabilities and then shop for an affordable, yet comprehensive, E&O insurance policy from a provider such as EOforLess.com. This is crucial because even though you might be dealing with a nuisance claim, the costs in time, money, and aggravation are all too real. Being properly insured with E&O coverage will ensure you aren’t left holding the bag financially for something you didn’t do.

Get the Proper Insurance Policy to Fully Cover Your Company

However, locking down this protection doesn’t just happen. You need to get the proper insurance policy to fully cover your company. How? By doing your research and shopping for high-quality coverage that is affordably priced. Here are some pointers that might help you achieve a desirable outcome.

  • First, if your needs aren’t overly complex, take a look at policies issued on a group basis. This typically will yield cost advantages due to the lower costs of insuring large numbers of individuals on a common platform. But if you have an extremely large business and are looking to also insure sub-agents and brokers, then you may wish to consult with an E&O insurance broker. Should that be your situation, understand that dealing with individual brokers will typically require more effort and time due to the complexities of assessing larger risks and shopping them around to multiple insurers.
  • Second, try to take advantage of providers that offer streamlined E&O insurance underwriting, using a limited number of risk-assessment questions to determine eligibility. With such entities, you might be able to receive a lower premium if the company determines you are an attractive risk.
  • Third, check out online E&O shopping platforms, which greatly reduce the time and effort of dealing with bricks-and-mortar insurance agencies. At EOforLess.com, for example, the average buyer can select appropriate coverage, fill out an application, and pay for and bind their insurance in 5 minutes or less.
  • Fourth, once you have the proper E&O insurance policy for your business, strive to keep it in force. This will eliminate any coverage gaps that could leave you uninsured when you need full coverage the most.

In conclusion, E&O insurance is designed to help financial professionals mitigate the risk of getting sued, a risk that can be substantial because they are human and prone to making mistakes. But self-insuring this risk is no longer necessary—or recommended—because  relief from liability isn’t just readily available and affordable, it’s divine!

Insurance policies are the hallmark of a professional startup

When people launch a financial or real-estate startup, the temptation is to start doing business with as few fixed costs as possible. This might involve leasing lower-grade office space, hiring 1099 virtual assistants rather than a full-time salaried staff, or skimping on insurance and employee benefits. This makes sense for companies that have yet to generate significant revenue. But it can also generate its own problems. Here’s why.

One of the challenges of starting a new firm is making the right impression with prospects, clients, other businesses in the community, and potential employees. Acting with professionalism is the way to do that. How so? By conveying a strong brand, having well designed procedures, and implementing a safety net for your business in case something goes wrong.

Part of having a safety net is establishing a cash reserve. The other part is having a full menu of business insurance to protect you against just about any risk. This includes having . . .

  • general liability insurance,
  • property insurance,
  • workers’ compensation coverage, and
  • E&O insurance.

The latter form of insurance may be the most important of all for financial and real-estate professionals who provide professional services. Making the wrong client recommendations or failing to do something important can result in clients suffering large financial losses. E&O insurance provides funds for a legal defense, as well as cash to pay for legal judgments should the professional lose in court. Having E&O insurance is the hallmark of a well managed startup. It shows . . .

  • that you take your business seriously,
  • that you understand the risks of doing business, and
  • that you are committed to make good on legitimate claims against you.

In short, it conveys that you are a real pro committed to running your business the right way,

Avoid Mistakes in the Beginning

Just as startups want to minimize overhead at the outset, they also want to avoid making mistakes in the beginning that can cripple their firms. One way to do this is to make a serious commitment to assuring compliant business practices and ethical values. Learn all  relevant regulations that affect their business and strive to adhere to them. This is the minimum commitment a startup should make in order to do business responsibly. But it doesn’t stop there. They must also go beyond compliance requirements and commit to ethical values in every domain of their business. Values are the “rules of the road” that startups follow when there aren’t black-and-white compliance guidelines to follow.

Another way to view the distinction between compliance  and ethical values is to consider the difference between  a commodity product or service and one that’s differentiated by higher-level benefits or services. In most financial and real-estate startups, the owners will just try to meet the minimum compliance requirements, which unfortunately positions them as a commodity provider. The more sophisticated and creative entrepreneurs will try to exceed the minimum and imbue every facet of their firms with client-centered ethical values. This results in a stronger brand positioning as well as a lower risk potential from an E&O insurance perspective.

Avoiding mistakes in the beginning also involves putting the time in to learn all aspects of your business model: the features and benefits of our products, the steps in the sales process, the details of customer service, and the workings of your office technology and procedures. The time to master all of these details is before you launch the business, not after. Doing the latter is an invitation to making a mistake and getting sued.

E&O Insurance Covers the Cost Associated with Lawsuits

Of course, getting sued is exactly what an entrepreneur doesn’t want to happen in the startup phase. Having a client sue you is not only traumatic, it can distract you from doing the essential tasks your new business needs to grow. And if you lose in court, a legal judgment can amount to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. There aren’t many start-up businesses than can incur a six-digit financial hit and not go under. Fortunately, E&O insurance can come to the rescue in times like this because it covers the cost associated with lawsuits.

What does it actually provide?

  • First, your E&O insurance will recommend an attorney to defend you and pay for that person’s fees and expenses.
  • Second, your insurer will appoint a claims adjuster to handle your case so you can focus on working in your startup.
  • Third, your insurer will provide cash for legal judgments should you lose in court. As we just mentioned, having to pay for six-figure legal judgments, as well as court costs, may well put your promising startup six feet under.

In short, if you are contemplating starting up a new financial or real-estate business, strive to act professionally in every aspect. This involves:

  • Projecting a strong image.
  • Having a cash reserve.
  • Implementing well-designed procedures and policies.
  • Instituteing a financial backstop in the form of E&O insurance so that one client lawsuit doesn’t put you out of business.

Another reason to protect yourself? Launching a startup is a lot of fun. It’s wonderful creating something that never existed before. Every day will literally be a new adventure. But if you’re uninsured against the errors and omissions you might make,  you won’t be able to fully enjoy the ride, since you’ll always be second-guessing your decisions and worrying about which client relationship will go bad. Don’t let this happen to you. Insure your startup today with affordable, high-quality E&O insurance. And since time is literally money for busy entrepreneurs, consider buying your coverage  from a convenient online provider such as EOforLess.com. In most cases, you’ll be able to shop, apply for, and print your insurance binder within just a few minutes.

Do You Really Need a Full Policy of E&O Insurance for Your New Business?

 

As a financial professional, do you lead a full life—rich with family, friend, hobbies, travel, and the like?

Do you enjoy buying gifts for your small children or helping your grown ones achieve their life goals?

Do you still get a lot of enjoyment from your career, both from a financial and client-service perspective?

If you answered, “yes” to all these questions, then you have a life full of meaning and joy. But what would happen if you lost your job or if your firm went under? Or what if you lost all your savings due to a prolonged client dispute? What would your life be like then? Would it be as enjoyable and worthwhile as it is today? Probably not. Which is why you should take steps today to protect your business, career, and family against the devastating impact of a client lawsuit. How? By purchasing affordable and comprehensive E&O insurance.

This recommendation is even more important for financial professionals who are new to the industry or who have just set up their own firms. These transitions greatly increase the risks of getting sued, making the need for insurance much more acute.

What a Full Policy of Errors & Omissions Insurance Can Do for Your New Business

You’ll notice our repetition of the world “full.” That’s because when it comes to protecting your busy, enjoyable life, there’s no substitute for a high-quality, comprehensive E&O insurance policy, especially one provided by a top-rated insurer and a well regarded administration firm. What can a full policy of Errors & Omissions insurance do for your new business?

For starters, it can provide peace of mind. You can go about working in your business without constantly second-guessing yourself and worrying about whether an unhappy client will sue you.

E&O insurance also provides financial benefits in the event you do get sued. These take the form of helping you retain and pay for an attorney, covering the administrative costs that your attorney might incur while defending you, and paying for legal judgments should you lose a case in court. Plus, in the latter case, your E&O policy will pay for any court costs a judge imposes on you.

Errors & Omissions PolicyAnd there’s the value of not having to deal directly with a plaintiff and keeping tabs on your case while it wends its way through the legal system. With E&O insurance, your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to help manage the details of resolving your claim so you can focus on continuing to work in your business.

What’s more, E&O insurance policies typically cover other expenses that many financial professionals never think about:

  • The costs of retaining an expert witness to buttress your case.
  • Money needed to hire an arbitrator or mediator should you and the plaintiff decide to pursue an alternate path to dispute resolution.
  • Finally, expenses incurred during the process of settling the claim.

Put all that together and it’s easy to see that a full policy of errors & omissions insurance will greatly preserve your ability to enjoy life, both today and decades from now.

The Best Way to Limit Your Accountability for Errors & Omissions

Buying and keeping an E&O insurance policy in force is the best way to limit your accountability for errors & omissions. However, as important as that is, it’s also important to prevent the need for ever having to use your E&O policy. Appropriate risk management is the answer. To that end, here are ten tips to help you avoid client disputes from interfering with your life:

Tip #1: Be a True Professional.
There is no short path to professionalism. Do your homework and know what your clients need and which products best meet those needs. Keep expanding your knowledge base by earning industry designations and completing continuing-education coursework. And always stay up to date with your regulatory requirements.

Tip #2: Take Responsibility for Due Diligence.
Never delegate due diligence to a third party. This means don’t take another advisor’s or another company’s word at face value. Investigate all product claims and fine print yourself so you can be sure your clients will be well served. Also, make sure all products and investment programs you offer are legitimate and fully compliant with regulatory requirements.

Tip #3: Don’t Stray from Your Specialty Area.
Only recommend products you are comfortable with and have sold in the past. If you’re uncertain, get support from your marketing organization or from another advisor in your office.

Tip #4: Follow All Solicitation Rules.
Make sure your solicitation materials are clear and don’t misrepresent your offerings. And avoid designing your own marketing materials; instead, rely on company-provided materials. But if you do create your own, be sure to secure all required approvals.

Tip #5: Engage in Full Disclosure.
Provide all required disclosures and candidly answer all client questions about your track record, business approach, and third-party relationships.

Tip #6: Complete Thorough Fact-Finding
Always schedule enough time to do comprehensive fact-finding with a prospect. Dig up and record all relevant facts, especially regarding appetite for risks. Then link all recommended solutions back to the facts you uncovered.

Tip #7: Always Make Suitable Recommendations
Make sure to present only suitable solutions, giving the prospect several from which to choose. After prospects agree to purchase your product, review their reasons for buying and get their agreement in writing.

Tip #8: Educate Clients about What They Bought.
Make sure clients understand how their products work—benefits, costs, exclusions and the like. Misunderstanding features and benefits is a major cause of E&O disputes, so be sure to fully educate your clients early in the game.

Tip #9: Leave a Paper Trail.
This may well be the most important technique of all. Always document key decisions, including those to refuse coverage, in writing. You’ll need this paper trail in order to defend your actions in court.

Tip #10: Avoid and Then Resolve Client Complaints.
The best complaint is the one you never have to deal with. Try to smoke out client dissatisfaction early in the relationship before it progresses into a legal dispute. How? By paying close attention to what they say about what they bought and about your personal service. Also, observe what they don’t say – their expressions, body language, etc. In most cases, there will be weeks, if not months, of warning before a client sues you. Take action during this period to resolve any festering discontent before it becomes a formal complaint or legal action.

The point is this: everyone wants a life full of joy and satisfaction. But it’s hard to live that life when you have financial risks hovering over you. It’s even harder to enjoy yourself when you’re looking at spending your life’s savings on a legal judgment that could have easily been funded with high-quality, affordable E&O insurance. Bottom line: the best way to limit your accountability for errors & omissions is to purchase comprehensive protection through a firm such as EOforLess.com, backed by top-rated insurers and professional administrators.

Ultimate Policy of Liability Protection

Every financial professional doing business today—life/health insurance agents, property-casualty insurance agents, securities brokers, registered investment advisors, real estate agents and broker-owners—operate in an online environment. They might not actually close insurance or financial transactions online. But they use the Internet to support nearly every facet of their sales and service operation. Thus, even financial professionals who sell their wares face-to-face with prospects still are highly exposed to Internet risks. Which is why every online business needs E&O insurance in order to minimize financial losses related to electronic data breaches and cyber crimes.

Financial professionals should realize they are exposed to online risks just as classic e-commerce firms are. Even though they are not selling tangible goods from an online storefront like Amazon, they use the Internet to speed the processing and issuance of intangible financial services. Plus, they collect a great deal of information about prospects during the sales process, which resides on their agency computers and is subject to data breaches. Here are just a few of the risks to which online insurance or financial businesses are exposed:

  • The threat of individual hackers. Hackers no longer target only large corporations, they frequently attack small and medium-sized firms as well. Breaking into company data systems with weak, improperly configured data security, hackers can identify, steal, and sell your prospects’ and clients’ personal information before you even have realize a data breach has occurred. Worse, hackers can be lone wolves, both domestic and foreign, as well as members of large international crime syndicates. With the talent and resources of criminal organizations behind them, hackers often have a field day preying upon financial-services professionals, many of whom are older and less knowledgeable about computers.
  • The threat of internal employees. Although external hacking might originate from countries thousands of miles away, it also can result from the actions of malicious employees. For example, a survey by the Ponemon Institute found that nearly 60 percent of employees who had been laid off or fired or who had quit their firms admitted to stealing company financial data or confidential customer information. Many such events are the result of companies hiring candidates without effective pre-employment screening.
  • The threat of mobile devices.  Financial professionals often work at home or at client locations, using their mobile devices to communicate with their agency databases. However, if they lose their phone, tablet, or laptop or their device gets stolen, criminals can both access data residing on that device or use it to break into the main-office computer. As a result, mobile computing has become one of the leading sources of cyber breaches and related criminal activities.
  • The threat of third-party service providers. Financial professionals often work with service providers who facilitate insurance/investment/real estate transactions. These might include motor vehicle operator data firms, home inspection companies, or medical exam providers. Whatever the type of firm, hackers can intercept customer data flowing from the service provider to the agent, causing loss to the customer as well as to the financial professional.

In short, any financial professional in business today is exposed to extensive cyber risks. For example, according to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a 2014 data breach was $214 per record, which can really add up when thousands of records are involved.  And that number is even higher today. One reason these costs are so high is that data breeches trigger mandated customer disclosures and remedies (required in 46 states).

Bottom line: data breaches can cause huge financial exposures to financial professionals resulting from claims from victimized customers as well as from mandated regulatory expenses. Even practitioners in small agencies—with one or several employees—must prepare themselves to withstand the full financial impact of online cyber attacks.

The good news? Contemporary E&O insurance policies are designed to protect financial professionals against traditional losses as well as against modern cyber risks. This adds up to the ultimate policy of liability protection.

Designed to Protect Your Finances Should You Get Sued

All E&O insurance policies are designed to protect your finances should you get sued. But modern policies define “claim” broadly so that you’ll be protected against traditional as well as selected cyber-related risks. The goal: to make sure financial losses that result from errors and/or omissions in how you conduct your professional duties will not wipe you out financially.

Traditional losses include things such as failing to properly assess a client’s insurance risks or tolerance for investment risk or not responding to a service request on a timely basis, resulting in financial loss to a customer. But the range of contemporary cyber risks ups the ante greatly. This is why the latest policies often include network risk and privacy claim endorsements. This gives traditional E&O insurance policies the ability to protect financial professionals against the financial implications of not properly doing business online.

Case in point. EOforLess.com, a leading online provider of E&O insurance for financial professionals, now includes client network damage and privacy claim endorsements in its life agent professional liability policy form. The former means insureds are covered against written demands for monetary damages due to an alleged security breach or electronic infection that caused network damage to a customer’s network. This damage must have occurred during the insured’s rendering of professional services.

Similarly, under the latter endorsement, privacy claims are defined as demands for monetary damages resulting from the insured’s act or omission resulting in the customer’s privacy injury and/or identity theft. Again, the alleged damage must have occurred while the insured was engaging in his or her professional duties.

What this means is that financial professionals who purchase E&O insurance through EOforLess.com also have some protection against cyber risks, subject to the full definitions contained in the network risk and privacy claim endorsement (see policy). This is in addition to the protection they already have against traditional errors and omissions committed offline.

You Can Protect Yourself Against It

So whatever the risk financial professional face—online or offline—you can protect yourself against it with a high quality, affordable E&O insurance policy from EOforLess.com. This coverage will pay for your attorney fees, court expenses, and the costs of losing a legal battle, subject to your policy limits. In today’s rapidly changing environment, a mix of traditional and high-tech protection is exactly what financial professionals need. Are you fully protected today or are you subjecting your business to unnecessary risks?

For more information about securing E&O insurance for your business, visit EOforLess.com today for more information.