The insurance industry is a fickle entity, as we all know. One day it's business as usual, the next you may be reviewing paperwork that says you've been dropped by your carrier because they're leaving the snow and ice management industry altogether.
Now more than ever, professional snow and ice managers need to be on top of the developments taking place with insurance. That's why we reached out to snow insurance guru Matt Peterson from Mills Insurance to provide some insight on what's been happening on his side of the industry.
Peterson is a passionate advocate for professional snow and ice managers, and he says the gains made by the ASCA to solidify written Industry Standards, create standards-based education and certifications, and develop a new insurance product have all gained notice in his industry. However, he says while there have been victories, the war is far from being won.
"There's an easy solution out there, but it's rife with complexities," Peterson says. "Essentially, we need everyone to perform well on all levels for us to continue to accomplish the mission we've set out to pursue and to improve on the gains we've made to date.”
Q: The new insurance program is roughly a year old. How did its debut year go?
The first year was strong, but there are many that need to get off the side lines. The program represents strength in numbers. The program is about building a long-term option, not a short-term option. Between our program and the ASCA membership push/education, and supporting professionals like Josh Ferguson with his quest for legal navigation, there has been a lot of progress. You have to forgive my revolutionary tone, I just watched a whole bunch of Netflix movies about revolutions in Latin America. Viva la program!
Q: Address any misconceptions snow contractors or the industry initially had about the new insurance program?
The largest misconception may be that some believe they are buying a program policy when, in fact, they are buying another product. The program has a fronting carrier this year called MUSIC. MUSIC has a preferred product and non-preferred product. Well, there are many who were sold the non-preferred but are very much eligible for our ASCA program. They are members, they are certified yet they don’t want or know about the discounts. The fact is, we can get lower than any other carrier. But it’s not about lower, it’s about building a long term solutions. Right? Well those who sell the non-preferred product, and low ball the insurance carrier, I call them burros. Viva la Program!
Q: I’ve heard some disappointing feedback from contractors/snow operations who were declined to be part of the program. I’m sure this can be expected, but isn’t this type of strict selection also a hallmark of this type of unique insurance program?
I’m glad you are asking me this question. The program is real. We will protect the line. The feedback you are getting is supporting my point. Some want a rubber stamp but aren’t truly working to make the necessary improvements. We are not stampers. In fact, last year 70 percent of the applicants into the preferred program were declined. When that happens, we try to offer a road map on how to improve. The ones that make the cut are a cut above the rest. There are some ASCA-C that make changes to grow with the standards, and with a good contract strategy. Change is happening! Viva la Program!
Q: What changes, additions or improvements can contractors expect to see in the insurance program in 2016?
I hope to improve on the 70 percent.
Q: The hot topic with snow fighters seems to be contracts and contract language. How can an insurance provider assist a snow professional in ensuring that their snow and ice service contract doesn’t leave the contractor (and thus the insurance provider) to liability in the event of a bogus slip-and-fall claim?
Standards, documentation, getting involved and educated, knowing what a good contract looks like- or they “call Josh” and hire a good snow lawyer who is actually dedicating his time to fight for this industry. Many of the insurance agents, snow management companies or sideline weeds are haters… just as there are some insurance agents, snow management companies and fellow change leaders that are supporters.
I’m seeing the most educated and well-prepared teams fight the most efficiently. The look of a professional snow and ice management company has changed. Officially. The snow contractor in 2015 looks very different. They are professional. They have documentation. They are plugged in and using resources. They follow – to the best of their ability – the ASCA’s Industry Standards, and they are partners in the insurance claim fight. It’s working because of them. They are negotiating with and educating their clients – the property owners and managers.
Q: Okay, taking the temperature of the insurance industry as a whole and its role in or dealings with the professional snow and ice management industry, what are you seeing?
I think it’s a battle-by-battle war. The insurance industry’s natural reaction to the snow industry’s change was to back away or tighten acceptance. They did. So, we showed the world what a good snow removal contractor was trying to do. Now, there are some that see ways to make money without an underwriting mentality. Conveniently, some in the insurance market, start to lose the memory of claims, forget about the mismanagement of those claims, and then get mucho macho with courage to offer on policies to make money. We expected this, and I think the insurance industry cares about one thing – profit and loss. Snow professionals should be careful not to believe everything they are being sold. Make no mistake, this is and will be a long-term fight. The solution must be one of compromise and fair dealings to sustain the snow industry.
Q: You’re a contractor and you receive notice that your insurance carrier is dropping your snow coverage… Oh, and its mid-October. What steps do you take first?
Always plan ahead for this eventuality. Make sure you have the names and numbers of a couple reputable and knowledgeable insurance agents who serve and understand this industry.
Mike Zawacki is Snow Magazine’s editor.