Information Update: A Guide to Arranging Commercial Insurance

A Guide to Arranging Commercial Insurance

Shopping around for commercial insurance can be a time consuming and stressful process. It doesn’t take long before you have sales people on the phone requesting huge amounts of information, trying to get you to move or renew your cover, with some even deliberately delaying the final offer until the last minute, adding unwanted stress to the situation. However, if you follow these steps you can make the process a lot smoother.

1: Pick a shortlist of up to three brokers, including your current broker

There is little point in asking a large number of companies to quote for your business. There are a limited number of insurance markets available for many commercial insurances in the UK so a carefully selected panel of brokers will provide just as much coverage as a larger number of prospective brokers. Try to select your shortlist based on referrals or recommendations and ask them about their expertise, scale and knowledge of your sector. Consider their locality (if relevant) and ask them for relevant testimonials from clients similar to you in size, culture and/or sector.

There are a number of market reviews brokers can undertake, such as conceptual audits (where a broker may not initially approach any insurer) or nominated reviews, where each broker selects a small number of insurers each. One thing to make sure of is that any new brokers you engage are clear as to who your existing insurers are and do not approach them (unless they have your permission), as this can confuse the dialogue your incumbent broker is having. Although it is true that competition will help keep rates keen, you are far more likely to get the best out of a potential broker when quoting if you make it clear to them that they are one of a shortlist of three, rather than one of half a dozen.

You should also ask brokers about their Risk Management proposition as Insurers value the effort clients make in managing their own risk and this is reflected in the pricing and terms available.

2: Ignore price focused advertising

When it comes to selecting those companies which will make up your shortlist, try to ignore those whose advertising focuses purely on price. It is impossible for a broker to guarantee the cheapest rate on the market, so any broker who makes this claim is simply banking on the fact that you can’t check if they were, in fact, the cheapest. Like most things in life you get what you pay for - the cheapest option is unlikely to be the best.

The shopping around process is about finding a company who can provide you with the tailored solution that best meets the needs of your business for the fairest possible price. Select a shortlist of companies who have demonstrated they really understand your business, articulate a service offering relevant to your needs and can demonstrate a successful track record.

3: Give yourself enough time

Ensure you have selected your shortlist by at least four months prior to your renewal date. Inform each company (including your existing broker) that a) they are one of a shortlist of three and b) set a clear deadline of when you want to receive terms back to make your ultimate choice and make it clear. Also, make it clear to the brokers involved that quotes not received prior to this date will not be considered.

To secure the very best terms, insurers may want to carry out a precover survey to better understand your business, which is also a great opportunity for you to meet a representative from the company who is ultimately responsible for paying any claims. Lead time is circa four months, so it can pay to start the process earlier than you might think.

4: Request a copy of your claims experience

In running a business, you may be painfully aware of the significance of your claims experience in the shopping around process. Without it, competing brokers will not be able to get a genuine quotation from any insurance market. Any broker who provides terms to a business client without having received a copy of the claims information is likely to be quoting ‘indication only rates’ - i.e. it could be a genuine offer, but it will not be confirmed and will be subject to asking your broker to provide you with the up to date claims listing. A good broker will also provide valuable analysis, insight and trends/patterns, assisting the picture that is portrayed to the market.

Request a 5 year claims experience and tell your current broker they will lose your business if they are unable to provide this by an agreed date - this will make it clear to them you are not prepared to be ‘held to ransom’ by their releasing terms at the last possible moment.

5: Consider what your needs truly are

It goes without saying that every business wants to reduce their insurance spend. It is essential to consider what factors other than price are important to you. Think about the current processes for claims reporting and monitoring - do you get enough information on the status of your claims from your current broker or insurers? If not, the process of going to market gives you the opportunity to ask about the facilities offered by the competing companies. Each broker, and each insurer, will have their own systems and processes for the reporting of and accessing of claims information - don’t accept a quotation which doesn’t deliver the level of service you need.

6: Get help with valuing your assets

Do you know the current value of your insured assets? Many businesses in the UK are underinsured. For example, your building may be the company’s biggest asset, yet 80% of commercial properties in England and Wales are actually underinsured*, i.e. the level of insurance cover is insufficient to meet rebuilding costs in the event of serious damage.

Under the Insurance Act, you have responsibility for fairly presenting your risk and providing the correct values, (it is the duty of your broker to point out any shortfalls). If you don’t have access to a valuation service, your brokers should be able to introduce you to their RICS approved company, either directly or via an insurer.

7: Ask for advice on emerging & evolving risks

In today’s fast paced ever changing world new threats to your business frequently emerge. Your insurance broker should proactively advise you on the growing risk of cyber & data attacks, crime, terrorism, credit insurance, environmental issues, as well as options relating to healthcare & employee benefits.

8: Keeping up with change

Ask your broker how they keep clients up-to-speed with legislative, technological, economic, environmental, political, and socio-cultural changes that could impact your business or requirements.

9: Discuss risk management with your shortlisted brokers

Each broker on your shortlist will present the information you have provided about your business to the insurance market. Generally speaking, insurance underwriters will put a keener price on an improving risk than one which is proven to cost the same each year, as proved via the confirmed claims experience.

Talk the shortlisted brokers through any new training initiatives, security, risk management or health and safety that you have invested in and ask how they can help further. Some insurers are willing to fund investment by the way of risk management bursaries and many good brokers will have their own risk management services they can talk you through.

10: Choose your provider based on service

The winning company should be the one who demonstrates an understanding of your business and its needs best. If the best service proposition is being offered by a company who is slightly out on the price, talk to them before ruling them out on a cost basis. If they understand that you are looking for a long-term business relationship they may be able to re-approach the insurer in question to shave a little off the rate. This is always worth trying before you settle for the second choice.

11: Take care not to overly market your insurances - formally evaluate your position every 3 years

Unless you have a specific issue, you shouldn’t change provider on an annual basis. Insurance underwriting is all about stability and long-term relationships with customers. Insurers will often put more attractive terms forward for a company who has a minimum three-year review process, rather than one who switches provider every year.

How Towergate Insurance Brokers can help your business

At Towergate we don’t just offer traditional insurance broking, we believe that prevention is better than cure. That is why we have our own risk management consultancy focussing on pre-loss mitigation and business continuity. Should the unexpected happen, we have a team of qualified experts to get your business back on its feet as soon as possible.

We are passionate about tackling the unprecedented levels of underinsurance in the UK. We have developed our own business interruption calculator and have partnered with Chartered Loss Adjusters to provide valuation services.

We work with all the major UK insurers, including Lloyds of London. Our national stature, (we have over sixty offices across the UK and Northern Ireland), and strong industry relationships, allow us to achieve a compelling Client proposition.

Remember our three top tips

  1. Don’t accept a quotation which doesn’t deliver the level of service you need.
  2. Speak to your brokers about valuation services, risk management and evolving risks.
  3. The winning company should be the one who understands your business best.

Business insurance from Towergate

At Towergate we don’t just offer traditional insurance broking: we believe that prevention is better than cure. That is why we have our own risk management consultancy focusing on pre-loss mitigation and business continuity, and have developed our own business interruption calculator.

We engage actively with insurers and our clients to obtain protection for businesses of all sizes. Our wide range of covers help protect your organisation should the worst happen.

See our range of specialist business insurance or contact your local office.

We are passionate about tackling the unprecedented levels of underinsurance in the UK: watch our video on how to avoid this for your business.

For more information or for a full review of your insurance needs, please see our insurance specialisms, contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser or email

Mark Brannon Cert CII, commercial, sales, broking and client director

About the author

Mark Brannon Cert CII is a respected industry leader with over 17 years’ industry experience in a variety of roles within the business insurance sector. He works across a wide spectrum of insurance product and policy development, delivery and optimisation for clients, including claims, insurer relationships, marketing and communications, and risk management.

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The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser.