Building strong relationships with brokers and underwriters is critical to obtaining the best coverage.
1. DON’T think all brokers and underwriters are alike.
This is especially true now, when we’re in a hard market for aviation insurance, which means coverage is being reduced and premiums are on the rise. And because most state regulators in the United States require aviation operators to go through brokers to obtain insurance rather than work directly with underwriters, it’s all the more critical to find a broker who specializes in aviation and has access to a broad pool of insurers. Remember, the broker works for the operator, not the underwriter, and a good broker should connect you with the optimal insurance companies and policies for your business.
2. DON’T view your relationships with your insurer and broker as just numbers on a page.
A broker’s job entails much more than filling out paperwork and quoting you a price come policy renewal time. He or she can play a key role in introducing you to underwriters and helping you foster a personal, one-on-one relationship with them. Underwriters depend heavily on such relationships in assessing whether to insure a company. Sure, insurers want to know how many aircraft you operate and their monetary value, but even more important are the qualities that distinguish your organization from your competitors and make you a better insurance risk than others. “There’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction, sitting in someone’s office, visiting a base, walking around, and hearing about the company directly from the client,” says Colin Bruno, senior VP and senior underwriting manager at Global Aerospace. Once they’re working with a client, insurers want to maintain the relationship for the long term. The better the underwriter understands your business, the more likely that will happen.
3. DO train continually—and share your training program with your broker and insurer.
“We love to hear from clients about training,” says David Watkins, regional head of general aviation for North America at Allianz. “We especially look for training that goes above and beyond FAA minimums.” Indeed, the type of training your operation undertakes is something most every insurer wants to know, because it demonstrates your attitude toward safety. “Showing you’re doing everything you can to continually improve and make yourself the best operation possible is vital,” says Kevin Kovarik, senior VP and rotary-wing business line manager at USAIG. “As the market hardens, each underwriter’s knowledge of your training program is more and more important.” Good brokers and underwriters will be able to suggest affordable training options for your operation, whether simulator or in-aircraft based. Insurers encourage scenario-based training as well that is based on your operational missions, such as flying in mountainous terrain, the wire environment, IIMC, or while using night-vision goggles. Whatever your training methods, industry experts suggest bringing in a third party to evaluate your company’s program for an objective, outside perspective that can quantify and measure your training results.
4. DO look to the future.
Insurers want to be assured your operation will be in business tomorrow, so show them how you’re maintaining continuity and planning for the future. Do you have a company growth plan? A pool of pilots to pull from as veterans retire and others move on? What’s your ability to support the older aircraft in your fleet, not only in maintenance costs but in make and model time among your pilots and maintenance techs? Underwriters want to be confident of their operators’ stability and growth plans, and they want your business to last. In this hard market, which experts say will continue at least until October, insurers don’t want to assume as much risk as they did during the previous, soft market. Long-term viability greatly enhances an operator’s attractiveness to an underwriter.
5. DON’T assume operation size dictates insurance terms.
What’s more important to an underwriter than your fleet size? Your operation’s exposure to risk, for one. A tour or offshore operator with high passenger density, for example, generally poses more risk than an electronic news-gathering or utility operator in which passenger density—and, therefore, liability exposure—is fairly limited. Your company’s safety culture is another area in which in-person visits give you an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s value—in this instance, through the many visible ways your business supports safety throughout the company. “When you’re on-site at a shop that’s committed to a strong safety culture, it sells itself,” says Joel Heining, a sales executive with brokerage firm AssuredPartners Aerospace. “You can feel it in the presence and the awareness of the people when you walk in the room. You can have all the flashy accolades up on the walls, but it’s really the employees’ attitudes and activities that make the culture genuinely apparent.”
Thanks to the panelists on the Sep. 24, 2020, HAI@Work webinar, “Maintaining Insurability in a Challenging Market”: Kevin Kovarik, senior VP and rotary-wing business line manager, USAIG; Colin Bruno, senior VP and senior underwriting manager, Global Aerospace; Joel Heining, sales executive, AssuredPartners Aerospace; and David Watkins, regional head of general aviation for North America, Allianz. Listen to the recorded webinar to learn more about today’s aviation insurance marketplace.