Insurance Rates Will Continue to Rise in 2021

See below from Business Insurance. The newest line of insurance to join the ‘rates are increasing’ club is workers’ compensation…..

Property/casualty insurance buyers, who have endured price hikes for more than a year in many cases, will likely see rate increases extending into 2021, with some lines continuing to see double-digit rate hikes, experts say.

The size of the increases could be blunted, however, as the hardening market draws new capital and insurers looking to take advantage of the rising tide.

recent survey by brokerage Alera Group Inc., which included insurers, wholesalers and Alera’s agent and broker affiliates, showed an average forecasted rate increase across all lines of 11.6% next year, with increases ranging from a high of 17.5% for medical malpractice insurance to a low of 4.7% for workers compensation.

The survey was conducted in the third quarter, said Mark Englert, national property and casualty leader at Alera in New York. He said the increases are driven by insurers’ attempts to return lines to profitability.

“When you start to go by line of business, you can see why some lines are more aggressive in the request for rate,” Mr. Englert said.

Workers comp, for example, has been profitable for insurers since 2012, and showed an underwriting profit from 2015 to 2019. By contrast, commercial auto was unprofitable from 2015 to 2019 and generated underwriting losses from 2012 through 2019.

In addition, low interest rates have restricted insurers’ ability to make up for underwriting losses with investment income. “Investment income is challenged, so what you are seeing in the carrier community is a real need to drive strong underwriting results,” Mr. Englert said.

Insurers’ “books were not profitable,” said Renee Dube, vice president, national property and casualty practice, in Valhalla, New York, for USI Insurance Services LLC.

In its recently published outlook for the commercial property/casualty market for the fourth quarter of this year and the first half of 2021, USI forecasts that at one end of the pricing spectrum workers comp could rise up to 5%, while at the other end public company directors and officers insurance liability rates may see increases of up to 100%.

The hard market “will probably last for some time,” said J. Paul Newsome Jr., Chicago-based managing director at investment brokerage Piper Sandler Cos.

Mr. Newsome noted, however, that higher rates and premiums are attracting fresh capital, which could help slow rate increases. “Private equity has been quick to try to build new companies, and this might reduce the length of the hard market,” he said.

“Challenging conditions continue to exist across most coverage lines in the U.S., but especially in the umbrella/excess casualty and directors and officers liability market,” said Christopher Lang, global placement leader, U.S. and Canada, for Marsh LLC in New York, in a statement emailed to Business Insurance. “We expect these conditions to persist into 2021.” 

Next year should see “persistent rate increases and solid core underwriting margin expansion for most commercial, especially specialty, insurance lines and for reinsurance,” according to a Dec. 18 report from Meyer Shields, Baltimore-based managing director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

“Heightened property and casualty loss cost inflation, pressured investment yields, and rising reinsurance costs should support enduring rate increases for most commercial lines,” he said in the report.

Inspirational Christmas quotes - the Grinch

…It sure does.

From our family to yours, have a special Christmas today and we hope joy, happiness and laughter chases you down throughout the weekend.

Love from our clan(s) to yours – Merry Christmas.

Sunz Holdings Announces Significant Investment from Blackstone Tactical Opportunities

Congrats to our friends at Sunz!!

Bradenton, Fla. (Dec. 23, 2020) – SUNZ Holdings, LLC (“SUNZ”) announced today that funds managed by Blackstone Tactical Opportunities (“Blackstone”) have acquired a significant stake in the company to help fuel SUNZ’s continued expansion. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

SUNZ is a leading provider of workers compensation insurance and related services such as policy administration, claims administration and customer support. SUNZ delivers technologically advanced solutions for its customers – with a specialized focus on risk sharing programs for Professional Employer Organizations, staffing companies and large organizations.

Menes Chee, a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, said, “SUNZ is exceptionally well positioned for future growth. Blackstone is excited to partner with their first-rate management team to help the company continue to expand into new markets and verticals so it can best serve its customers.”

Steve Herrig, CEO of SUNZ, said, “This partnership should propel SUNZ to a new level by enabling us to pursue new market opportunities and expand our national footprint. We look forward to a synergistic collaboration with Blackstone and to further accelerating the expansion of our specialized programs.”

About SUNZ Holdings, LLC

SUNZ Holdings, LLC is the parent company of SUNZ Insurance, a national workers’ compensation
insurance company headquartered in Bradenton, Florida. SUNZ Insurance develops unique workers’ compensation programs that deliver innovative and tailored solutions to protect businesses and their employees. SUNZ understands its clients need for fluidity, offering workers’ compensation insurance options that do not begin and end with the printed policy. SUNZ believes that a safe work environment and healthy workforce is the foundation for a successful business. There are several affiliate companies within the SUNZ Holdings enterprise that provide related and ancillary services to the workers compensation insurance industry. These companies include Next Level Administrators, WatchPoint, Avalon Subrogation Partners, and Ascential Care Partners. For more information, visit www.sunzinsurance.com.

About Blackstone

Blackstone is one of the world’s leading investment firms. We seek to create positive economic impact and long- term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, and the communities in which we work. We do this by using extraordinary people and flexible capital to help companies solve problems. Our $584 billion in assets under management include investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, life sciences, growth equity, opportunistic, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds, all on a global basis. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com. Follow Blackstone on Twitter @Blackstone.

About Tactical Opportunities

Tactical Opportunities (Tac Opps) is Blackstone’s opportunistic investment platform. The Tac Opps team invests globally across asset classes, industries and geographies, seeking to identify and execute on attractive, differentiated investment opportunities. As part of the strategy, the team leverages the intellectual capital across Blackstone’s various businesses while continuously optimizing its approach in the face of ever-changing market conditions.

Contacts

Blackstone
Matt Anderson
+1-212-390-2472 matthew.anderson@blackstone.com ###

COVID-19 Relief Bill

Our friends at NAPEO are always keeping us up to date with pertinent information impacting PEOs and Small Businesses. They released the following yesterday related to the COVID-19 Relief Bill.

COVID-19 Relief Bill: What It Means for PEOs & Small Business

Yesterday, the House passed an omnibus spending bill that included $1.4 trillion to fund the federal government and $900 billion of additional COVID relief by a vote of 399-53. The Senate then passed the legislation by a vote of 92-6. The bill now heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.

Tax Provisions

The omnibus spending bill – which is almost 5,600 pages long – contained many tax provisions that impact PEOs. Randy Hardock and Courtney Zinter of Davis & Harman (NAPEO’s outside tax counsel) have prepared a document containing the details of these provisions and how they apply to PEOs.

Specific tax provisions of interest to PEOs include:

  • Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits
    • Extends the paid sick and family leave credits against employment taxes from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for three additional months to March 31, 2021.
    • The bill does not extend the FFCRA’s mandate to provide paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave beyond December 31, 2020.
  • Changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
    • Repeals the provision denying the ERTC to employers receiving a PPP loan. Instead, mechanisms would be created to prevent the same wages from being used for both PPP loan forgiveness and the ERTC.
    • Extends the ERTC to apply to wages paid before July 1, 2021 (instead of January 1, 2021).
    • Increases the credit percentage from 50 percent to 70 percent of applicable wages.
    • Increases the per-employee limitation on applicable wages from $10,000 total to $10,000 per calendar quarter. In combination with the increased credit percentage, this would increase the maximum credit per employee from $5,000 to $7,000 per quarter (up to $14,000 for the first two quarters in 2021).
    • The following language was added to the ERTC provisions that specifically addresses PEOs: Any forms, instructions, regulations, or guidance described in paragraph (2) shall require the customer to be responsible for the accounting of the credit and for any liability for improperly claimed credits and shall require the certified professional employer organization or other third-party payor to accurately report such tax credits based on the information provided by the customer. [Emphasis added.]
      It is not clear whether this provision applies retroactively or just to new credits taken in 2021.
    • Makes the ERTC available if the business experienced a decline of at least 20 percent in gross receipts (instead of a 50 percent decline) as compared to the same calendar quarter in the prior year.
    • Modifies the small employer definition of qualified wages to apply to employers that have 500 or fewer employees (instead of 100 of fewer employees).
  • Creates a temporary employee retention credit of 40 percent of qualified wages up to $6,000 (maximum credit of $2,400 per eligible employee) for eligible employers affected by certain qualified disasters. This credit is retroactive and does not apply to COVID-related disasters.
  • The bill also extends the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for five years.

Paycheck Protection Program and Other Small Business Assistance

In addition to the tax provisions, the COVID-19 relief portion of this legislation contains additional assistance for small businesses, which NAPEO has been lobbying Congress in support of. Specifically, it contains the following provisions designed to assist small businesses:

  • Creates a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, called a “PPP second draw” loan for smaller and harder-hit businesses, with a maximum amount of $2 million.
  • Creates a simplified application process for loans under $150,000.
  • Expands the expenses that can be covered by a PPP loan.
  • Makes 501(c)6 organizations that do not lobby eligible for PPP loans.
  • Makes the expenses covered by PPP loans tax deductible.

Details on these provisions can be found on this document provided by the Community Banker’s Association.

Unemployment Insurance

The COVID-19 relief provisions also make the following changes to unemployment insurance:

  • Unemployed individuals get an additional $300 per week from December 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a temporary federal program covering self-employed and gig workers, to March 14, 2021 and extends benefits from 39 to 50 weeks with all benefits ending April 5, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) which provides additional weeks when state unemployment runs out, to March 14, 2021 (after which no new applications) through April 5, 2021.
  • Extends provisions to March 14, 2021, including interest-free loans to the states.

No federal money was provided to shore up the short falls in state unemployment funds.

Miscellaneous Provisions

The omnibus spending bill contained so-called “tax extenders,” which are temporary provisions in the tax code that are designed to support specific economic activities. There are two provisions of interest to PEOs that have been extended for five years. They are: 

  • The employer credit under section 45S for paid family and medical leave, originally enacted as part of tax reform in 2017.
  • The expanded exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance, including student loan repayment benefits as enacted as part of the CARES Act. NAPEO has lobbied in support of this provision.

For more information visit NAPEO’s COVID-19 Resource Center or contact Thom Stohler.

NAPEO is offering a webinar on this bill and the impacts for PEOs and their clients on January 8th at 2pm EST. Not a Member of NAPEO? Find out how to join here.

Looking for a PEO or have questions on whether or not a PEO is right for you; visit our site at Libertate Insurance and get the questions you have answered.

Q4 2020 Cyber Risks & Liabilities Update

Some important trends that are threatening our businesses and ways to protect yourself.

How to Avoid Electronic Signing Service Scams

Although utilizing an electronic signing service can be a convenient way for your organization to digitally sign and exchange important documents (e.g., contracts, tax documents and legal materials) with stakeholders, doing so also carries significant cybersecurity risks.

Cybercriminals can utilize a variety of scamming techniques to trick electronic signing service users into sharing sensitive information, such as their signature, financial information and other personal data. From there, the criminals can use that information for a range of destructive purposes—including identity theft and other costly forms of fraud. These scams have become an increasingly prevalent threat in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as many organizations have transitioned to fully remote operations.

In fact, DocuSign—a popular electronic signing service provider—recently released a statement regarding several new phishing scams that cybercriminals have implemented to fool victims into thinking they are using DocuSign’s services. These scams entail the victim receiving a fraudulent email that appears to be from DocuSign, urging them to either click on a malicious link (which then downloads malware on the individual’s device) or provide their personal information (which scammers then access to commit fraud).

Whether your organization uses DocuSign or a different electronic signing service, it’s important to educate yourself and your stakeholders—including employees, investors, customers and suppliers—on how to detect and avoid falling victim to these phishing scams. That being said, consider the following cybersecurity tips:

  • Be wary of responding to emails that claim to be an electronic signature request—especially if you weren’t expecting a request or don’t recognize the name of the individual or organization sending the request. Trusted senders would let you know they are sending a signature request before doing so.
  • Never click on links from electronic signature emails that appear suspicious—especially if the URLs for those links redirect to websites that aren’t secure or recognizable.
  • Review electronic signature emails for generic wording, grammatical errors and misspellings (both in the body of the email and within the sender’s email address). These mistakes are often key indicators of a phishing scam.

Cybersecurity Trends to Prepare for in 2021

This past year saw a wide range of changes and advancements in workplace technology utilization for organizations of varying sectors and sizes. But as digital offerings continue to evolve, so do cybersecurity threats. That’s why it’s crucial to remain up-to-date on the latest technology trends and adjust your cyber risk management strategies accordingly. As your organization starts to prepare for 2021, keep the following emerging cybersecurity concerns in mind:

  • Remote work issues—While remote working is a valuable method for protecting staff from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this practice can also lead to increased cybersecurity vulnerabilities for your organization. After all, many employees may not have the same security capabilities in their work-from-home arrangements as they do in the workplace. As such, make sure your organization provides remote staff with appropriate cybersecurity training and resources, as well as implements effective workplace policies and procedures regarding cybersecurity.   
  • Cloud hijacking concerns—Especially with more employees working from home than ever before, maintaining cloud security is crucial. Cloud breaches have become more common in the past year, as cybercriminals have developed a method for hijacking cloud infrastructures via credential-stealing malware. To avoid this concern, utilize trusted anti-malware software and update this software regularly.   
  • Elevated ransomware threats—Cybercriminals continue to create new and improved ransomware attack methods each year. According to recent research from Cybersecurity Ventures, ransomware attacks are expected to cost organizations more than $20 billion in 2021, with an attack estimated to take place every 11 seconds. To help protect your organization from ransomware attacks, use a virtual private network, place security filters on your email server and educate staff on ransomware prevention.
  • Data privacy expectations—As more and more organizations start storing sensitive information on digital platforms, data privacy is a growing concern. If your organization stores sensitive information digitally, it’s vital to utilize proper security techniques to protect such data (e.g., encryption) and abide by all relevant data privacy regulations.
  • Skills shortages—Despite ongoing advancements in workplace technology, cybersecurity skills shortages have become a major issue for many organizations—with the demand for cybersecurity professionals exceeding the number of individuals that are qualified for such a role. This shortage emphasizes the importance of investing in effective cybersecurity tools across all workplace devices to help minimize your risks. 

With these trends in mind, it’s important now more than ever for your organization to secure adequate cyber insurance. Otherwise, you run the risk of your organization lacking the appropriate coverage and dealing with hefty out-of-pocket costs in the event of a cyber incident.

Smart Device Security Best Practices

As remote work continues to be a popular offering for many organizations, some employees have begun taking advantage of their own smart devices—such as smartphones or tablets—for work-related purposes.

While this practice can certainly help employees expand their remote work capabilities, utilizing smart devices within a work setting can lead to elevated cybersecurity risks. This is because your employees’ smart devices may not be initially equipped with the security measures necessary to defend against cybercriminals, thus increasing the likelihood of a cyberattack taking place.

Don’t let employees’ smart devices lead to a cybersecurity disaster within your organization. Utilize the following guidance to promote smart device security:

  • Establish a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy that includes standards employees must uphold when using their smart devices for work-related purposes.
  • Have employees create complex passwords for their smart devices. Encourage staff to enable multifactor authentication on their devices, if possible.
  • Restrict employees from connecting to public Wi-Fi networks on their smart devices. Be sure to establish a virtual private network for staff to use to ensure a safe, secure connection.

Have employees conduct routine software updates on their smart devices to prevent potential security gaps.

For additional cybersecurity guidance and coverage, contact Libertate Insurance today, we are offering Cybersecurity Programs.

Friday Round-up

Happy Friday everyone, and Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate the Festival of Lights!

Two of the MGU (Managing General Underwriter) partners we work with have announced new carrier partnerships for 2021. Be sure to check out our post on this news via the below link.

MGU Updates: New Carrier Partners for 2021

Also, as we head into the Open Enrollment season for most employer sponsored benefits programs, be sure to check out our post on 2021 Employee Benefit Trends.

Stay safe and healthy this weekend!

MGU Updates: New Carrier Partners for 2021

Two of the MGU (Managing General Underwriter) partners we work with have announced new carrier partnerships for 2021. Read the exciting news below.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance MGU Method Adds Falls Lake as New Carrier

Method, a Managing General Underwriter wholly focused on Workers’ Compensation Insurance, has announced the addition of the Falls Lake National Insurance Company to its roster of carrier options.

Falls Lake is rated A XI (Excellent) by AM Best and covers 23 states mostly concentrated in the eastern half of the United States.

“We’re excited to partner with the great team at Falls Lake to dramatically expand options for our customers east of the Mississippi.” said Greg Donsbach, President of Method.

Falls Lake shares a similar, broad risk appetite to Method’s existing carriers, Incline Casualty and Service American Indemnity Company.

“Falls Lake is pleased to partner with Method for this new product which combines Method’s industry-leading claims management protocols with Falls Lakes’ risk-driven underwriting philosophies.” said Paul Kearns, Senior Vice President of Underwriting at Falls Lake.

FUBA Adds Second A- Rated Carrier

FUBA Workers’ Comp now has underwriting authority with two insurance carriers that are rated A- (Excellent) by A.M. Best. Effective 1/1/21, Service Lloyds Insurance Company will become part of the FUBA family. Service Lloyds is a workers’ compensation specialist with almost four decades in the market. 

New business with effective dates through 12/31/20 will continue to be placed with Lancer Indemnity Company and will stay with Lancer for the first policy term. 

New business with effective dates of 1/1/21 and after will be placed with Service Lloyds. 

As your clients’ policies come up for renewal, we will transfer them from Lancer Indemnity Company to Service Lloyds. No action is needed on your part; the transfer will be automatic and seamless. The Service Lloyds policies will replace the policies from Lancer, and your clients will keep the same policy number.  

FUBA is pleased to be able to continue to offer stable and rated coverage to your small business clients.

2021 Employee Benefit Trends

Our friends at NAPEO released trends to watch out for as reported by Employee Benefit News; highlights from the full article below.

Increasing Health Insurance Premiums Employers will likely start shopping and looking for more cost manageable healthcare plans as health insurance premiums are trending 54% increases over the past 11 years as reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM also reported, “Employers expect a moderate health plan cost increase next year of 4.4 percent, on average, compared to this year, according to early results…”. The concern here is that this trend of continued increase is outpacing the consumer price index and wage growth.

Telehealth We have seen a large uptick in the push and use of telehealth with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 will continue to grow this field of medical care. Telehealth benefits have been able to provide medical coverage for acute, chronic, primary and specialty care.

Personalized Benefits Packages Companies may start offering more non-medical offerings for a more customized employee benefit packages. Packages will start with the basic health insurance and paid time off benefits and expand to include optional add-ons like pet insurance, short-term disability, access to legal services, whole or term life, hospital stay, accident insurance to mention a few.

Mental Health Employers are waking up to the mental health wellness of their employees and how it can be a direct impact o their organizations. Employers are educating themselves on reducing workplace stress. Many benefits package now include behavioral health with both onsite and virtual medical plans.

Not partnered with a PEO? Connect with us and let us know how we can help! Find out more on our website here.