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What Every Advisor Needs to Know about Errors and Omissions Insurance

People new to business often confuse a product’s features with its benefits. For example, if you were to ask a new life insurance agent what the benefits of errors and omissions insurance are, he (or she) might say E&O insurance generates cash to help resolve client lawsuits. But paying for attorney fees, expert witness charges, arbitration or mediation expenses, and settlements or court judgments relates to the mechanics or features of the policy, not to its benefits. To fully understand the true benefits of errors and omissions insurance, you have to consider the five key reasons to own this invaluable form of insurance.

  1. Less financial uncertainty. As we’ve discussed in the past, buying E&O insurance allows you to replace a large, unpredictable risk (e.g.: the chance of getting sued) with a smaller, known expense (a periodic E&O insurance premium). Most financial advisors find that paying for E&O insurance is more tolerable than having a large unknown risk hovering over them.
  2. Easy access to legal advice. In the unfortunate event a client sues you, you must find an attorney to represent you. But how will you know if the person has sufficient expertise with professional liability cases? And how will you assess his or her track record of winning cases such as yours? Plus, since finding a competent attorney is time-consuming, it may distract you from your normal job duties, reducing your revenue in the short term. However, when you have E&O insurance, your insurer will quickly provide you with a vetted attorney who will immediately launch your defense.
  3. Less stress. Until you’ve been sued, you’ll have no idea how upsetting it can be. For one thing, it raises the possibility you’ll be found liable for a large financial settlement or judgment. If you lack liquid assets to cover that expense, you might be looking at selling off assets or even declaring bankruptcy. For another, it raises questions about your competence. As opposing counsel attacks your competence and credibility, it’s hard not to take those claims seriously and to question your abilities. Having E&O coverage means you’ll have a financial backstop in the event you lose your case. This is a huge stress reducer. What’s more, your attorney will work hard to mitigate the attacks made on your professionalism. This will help to preserve your self-confidence and positive attitude once the case is resolved, hopefully in your favor.
  4. Asset preservation. We mentioned the threat of bankruptcy. Well, preserving your assets is likely the most important E&O insurance benefit of all. The prospect of losing everything and/or of having to go deeply into debt to satisfy a court judgment is a horrifying one for most financial advisors. Fortunately, having E&O insurance will prevent these outcomes, assuring your financial viability and providing you with peace of mind.
  5. Client trust-building. Clients want to know that their financial advisors are true professionals. What does this entail? That you maintain a high standard in terms of how you discharge your duties and that you take responsibility for your mistakes. By doing these two things, you will instill trust among your prospects and clients. Purchasing E&O insurance is the best way to take responsibility for your actions because it means you have a mechanism in place to make your clients financially whole in case you cause them financial harm.

Now, should you mention that you have E&O insurance? Perhaps not explicitly. But you can tell clients you are a responsible business owner who maintains comprehensive insurance coverage to protect your business and its clients against financial loss. Knowing this will not only provide a great deal of comfort to them, it will also help you sleep at night.

So if you’re tempted to not buy E&O insurance (or to lapse your existing policy), consider the profound benefits of having errors and omissions insurance protection: less financial uncertainty, ready attorney access, less stress, greater asset preservation, and enhanced client trust. Wouldn’t you rather have those benefits than not? To review your errors and omissions coverage options, visit EOforLess.com today.

As a financial professional, you understand why it’s important to maintain a clean compliance record. Without one, it’s hard to grow your business from among today’s skeptical prospects. But do you also know why it’s equally crucial for all of your intermediary firms to be as committed to compliance as you are? Unless your broker-dealer, registered investment advisor (RIA), and insurance field marketing organization (FMO) are as squeaky-clean as you, you may face regulatory trouble down the road.

Here’s the problem. When your intermediary firm has a checkered compliance history, they automatically become the focus of regulator attention. And when regulators become suspicious of your broker-dealer, RIA, or FMO, they tend to also become suspicious of you. This has real consequences for your ability to do business, says Jon Henschen, in a recent ThinkAdvisor.com article.

  • First, intermediaries who don’t comply with regulations or that hire agents or advisors with the same disregard spark extra regulatory sweeps and audits. These will distract their management teams and make it harder for advisors with clean backgrounds to get their business on the books and their compensation processed.
  • Second, the more regulatory scrutiny a firm receives, the more money it will spend on legal and compliance services. These costs will ultimately come out of advisor compensation—out of your wallet or pocketbook.
  • Third, when regulators find evidence of wrongdoing, they often will push for the removal of the responsible parties. If they have long tenure, their leaving will weaken the company’s institutional memory and bench strength. This may not bode well for its ability to compete in the future.
  • Fourth and finally, every time a broker-dealer, RIA, or FMO gets into regulatory hot water, it will generate negative publicity that lives forever on the Internet. As the firm’s reputation weakens, so will yours because you are tied to the firm. It’s hard enough to generate new clients without giving prospects an additional reason to question your integrity.

Solution? Do thorough research on any intermediary firm before joining it. If you’re considering a broker-dealer, conduct a thorough BrokerCheck review to uncover the scope of disclosure events among its registered representatives. Simply go to Brokercheck.finra.org, click on the individual tab, then type in the broker-dealer’s name where indicated. The result will be pages showing all the firm’s registered reps and indicating those with disclosure events. If you see “yes” in the disclosures field, click on “more details” to learn about the person’s infractions.

Now, this process can be unwieldy because there’s no way to retrieve a summary report showing the percentage of reps at a firm with disciplinary issues. Best you can do is scan the individual reports and then click on the “Yes” to see how and why an individual representative got into trouble. However, if you scan the broker-dealer’s registered representative summaries long enough, you’ll be able to see if the firm has dubious ethics.

According to Jim Eccleston of Eccleston Law, as you’re doing this, watch for disclosures that indicate:

  • Serious negligence or financial abuse of clients, including churning, borrowing from a client, forging documents, or selling unapproved products from an outside organization (selling away).
  • A pattern of paying fines for violating industry rules.
  • Personal bankruptcy or other credit-related problems that suggest the representative is financially stressed or has exercised poor financial judgment.
  • Repeated firings from prior broker-dealers and/or working for many different firms in various states over a short period of time.

It’s also important to evaluate a broker dealer’s own compliance record, not just those of its representatives. To do that, return to the main BrokerCheck page, click on the “Firm” tab, and then enter the firm name or CRD# where indicated. Hitting “search” will return the firm’s disclosure history (if any), where you’ll get a sense of its own adherence to industry regulations and business ethics.

You can do the same individual and firm-level analysis for investment advisor representatives and their RIA firms by visiting the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website. For insurance FMOs, your sleuthing will be much trickier because there is no single government agency or database to check. Since FMOs often operate in multiple state jurisdictions, it can be tough to get a handle on how many of their agents have run afoul of the law . . . or whether the firm itself has. Best advice: let Google be your friend.

Hopefully, researching FINRA, SEC, and state insurance compliance records will reveal whether signing with an intermediary firm is risky. If so, doing business anyway might result in you paying more for your E&O insurance. On that basis alone, it’s wise not only to do your due diligence before joining a broker-dealer, RIA, or insurance FMO, but also to take what you find seriously. No point paying more than necessary for your E&O insurance.


For information on affordable E&O insurance for low-risk insurance agents, investment advisors, and real estate broker/owners, please visit EOforLess.com. For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center.