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January 2009 Newsletter


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One of my weekend projects involves driving out to an apple orchard in southern Albemarle County to pick up a couple of apple trees to replace two that didn’t make it from last year. I’ll be planting a Baldwin and a Winesap. It turns out that December through March, when the trees are dormant, is the best time to plant apple trees. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best time to try to dig through the frozen ground.

Another weekend project will be even more fun. The circus is coming to town and my wife and I are taking our grandchildren, Ida and Harry, to John Paul Jones Arena to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. We’ve got floor seats, right up front. Maybe close enough to see the saliva on the tigers’ teeth?

Meanwhile, big doings down the road and Noah McMurray and his family move into their new home. They’ve finally finished construction and this is move-in weekend. They’re located just down the road from me, in beautiful Free Union, so they’ll still be neighbors. To be fair, in our rural area, we figure we can refer to anybody within about five miles as a neighbor.

So, I usually keep a list on my desk where I jot down ideas for future newsletters. Sometimes the ideas will come from something in the news. Maybe I’ll get something that seems interesting from one of the companies that we represent. Somebody could ask a question that intrigues me. So, I was looking at an item on my list in preparation for writing an article. But, I couldn’t bring myself to write it. The topic? A new program to insure thrift shops, food banks and soup kitchens. It’s a good insurance product, providing needed coverage at a reasonable premium and there’s no reason not to sell it. But, somehow, I didn’t feel particularly good about earning a living that seems so connected with the misery of others. It’s hard to know what’s right in the face of growing economic dislocation. Maybe I could start by volunteering at our local homeless shelter?

You all have my very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2009.


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One of the benefits to personal lines customers who are insured with Chubb’s Masterpiece Homeowners program is the ability to schedule coverage for valuable articles. It’s not at all unusual for owners of the high-value homes that are Chubb’s specialty to also have extensive collections of art, jewelry, silverware, furs or wine. Insurance agents are comforted to know that there’s an insurer that won’t get nervous when they get a request to add a $100,000 diamond necklace that your client received as a Christmas gift to a schedule.

Wait, there’s more…

Landers Underwriting producers have full access to Chubb’s Masterpiece product and we’ve even got an easy-to-complete application available for easy download at landersunderwriting.com. Go get it.


Photo by Harry Alverson - Creative Commons

Winter is important to a gardener. It’s when we pull those dried up beanstalk remnants and toss them in the compost pile. We heap mowed-over leaves on our strawberry beds. We sit with seed catalogues on snowy nights deciding what new varieties to order. We plot out our plantings on graph paper. And, when February comes around and forsythia starts to bloom, we’ll start our tomato seeds in the basement under grow lights.

Sure, it’s lots of fun to pick those sweet strawberries in May. And what’s better than harvesting juicy home-grown tomatoes in late July? But none of those summer rewards would come to us without the quiet work and planning that winter gives us the opportunity to engage in.

What’s that got to do with insurance? Well, we’ve got our own cycles. Though our industry cycles aren’t always as predictable as the seasons, we can be sure that they’re as constant. While a hard market with its increased premiums can bring great financial rewards, we can’t be equipped to reap that harvest if we haven’t properly prepared during the winter of the soft market. Current industry conditions permit us to re-assess our business plans. We consult with our suppliers. We engage with our customers to learn more about their businesses and their needs. We focus on research and education for ourselves and our staffs. And, if we do all of these things correctly and diligently, we’ll find ourselves well prepared to respond when the opportunities of the next hard market present themselves.

I suppose that at Landers Underwriting we’re now in the process of metaphorically plotting our garden and starting our seeds. While we look forward to the coming harvest, we take great pleasure in the quiet pleasures of winter, as well.


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A couple of decades ago, when Ronald Reagan was President, when the World Series was interrupted by the Lorna Prieta earthquake and when we couldn’t get enough of the Fine Young Cannibals (“she drives me crazy, and I can’t help myself…”) we were writing a heck of a lot of Commercial Umbrella business with Chubb. Primary umbrellas. Excess layers. Lots of times it was last minute placements. Agents had their primary all done and found that their umbrella pricing just wasn’t going to get the job done and came to us for competitive terms. Sometimes they’d be looking for the breadth of coverage that Chubb provided. Sometimes the primary carriers just didn’t have sufficient capacity available.

Anyway, I’m thinking that there’s no reason that 2009 shouldn’t be the year for a renaissance of Chubb’s Commercial Umbrella business. Granted, they’re no longer a market for contractors, nor will they write fast food restaurants, but that leaves plenty of other opportunities for us. Think about real estate risks – strip shopping centers, office buildings, condos. Bring us your auto dealers, metal workers, broadcasters, printers and publishers, sawmills and other woodworking risks, retail stores, manufacturers and wholesale distributors. The world is our oyster.

Plenty of financially solid capacity. Worldwide coverage. No self-insured retention. Duty to defend. In fact, if you’d like to see specific, detailed comparisons of Chubb Commercial Excess and Umbrella insurance vs. similar coverage offered by one or more than 50 other insurers, just let us know.

Minimum premiums are $1,000 per million with a $1,500. minimum policy premium. Fully completed ACORD application are all that is needed. Let’s get back in the game.


Photo by Bekathwia - Creative Commons

It’s one our most frequently asked questions. The good news is that the answer is probably right in front of you. When Landers Underwriting offers a quotation, you’ll always get it writing. On that quote, about 2/3 of the way down the page, there will be a rectangular box. Inside that box, at the top, in bold, it says “You need to provide us with the following to bind”. What follows is exactly what we need to bind. Each item is listed, preceded by a small box. Some folks find it helpful to check the boxes to indicate that they’ve met each condition. The absence of a check-mark in the boxes doesn’t mean we don’t need what follows. If it’s listed, we need it. No kidding.

Typically, we might require items like an application with your client’s signature, or a state-required form listing declining admitted companies, or a mandated form electing or rejecting terrorism coverage. If you’re a new producer, we’ll probably want a signed producer agreement and premium payment.

When we see a fax or email message come in asking us to bind coverage and it doesn’t include all of the required details, we only have to come back and tell the producer why we can’t bind the risk. If it’s all there, we can get coverage bound promptly, get the policy issued and move on.


photo by Filip Maljkovic - Creative Commons

It’s our contention that Employment Practices Liability remains the most undersold business insurance product. Well, maybe Disability Income beats it out, so let’s say it’s the most unsold property & casualty product. Although no responsible employer would consider going without General Liability or Property coverage, it is more likely that an employer will have an employment-related claim, than a General Liability or Property claim. Consider:

Our experience is that producers who are consistent and persistent in recommending Employment Practices Liability to all of their commercial clients are successful in selling the product. You’ve really got to remind your customers about the coverage every year and, if they don’t buy it the first time, they will buy it the second, third or fourth time. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of timing. A client may have just read about a claim in the newspaper. Their friend may have told them about a frivolous claim that they’ve experienced. The topic may have been discussed at one of their own industry conventions. If an insurance agent proposes EPL coverage often enough, when the time is ripe, the customer will purchase it.

We have access to several markets offering Employment Practices Liability to firms ranging from those with a handful of workers to those with thousands of employees. We can provide experienced guidance to producers who want to secure coverage for their clients.

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