We all put up with rising insurance premium because the subject matter of insurance is valuable or in the case of Life insurance, invaluable. It therefore makes sense to ensure that we get value for money and pay only for insurance cover that would serve the purpose when we need it.
The process starts with knowing how to select the right insurance representative. Except you are confident about the insurance product you are buying it is usually a good idea to go through an experienced insurance representative. This could be through an insurance broker or an insurance agent and to ensure you are making an informed decision on the representative to entrust you insurance arrangement with, the following are key questions to ask.
What primary services does the representative provide?
A service level agreement is beneficial in these cases, you want to know upfront the value the representative will add to your insurances. From visiting you to help understand your business and risks to informing you about market conditions.
Are you going to receive information on risk management measures that will positively influence the Insurers and thus reduce your insurance costs?
Will the service include claim management and is the representative prepared to take on old/existing cases?
Does the representative have a Professional Indemnity policy in place?
This is mandatory especially where the professional gives advice and with the potentially huge liability they can incur through acts or omission in carrying out their duties it is crucial that you ask to see evidence of the level of cover in place.
Is the representative able to access insurance products from the whole market or just a selection of Insurers?
It is commonplace in some countries for an insurance agent to be tied to one or just a few insurance companies. Insurance brokers often have more leeway. A truthful response to this question should give you an idea of how competitive the quotes the representative is able to obtain.
Are you able to contact the representative’s existing clients for reference?
You will most probably get names of clients that are most likely to rate them favourably. Randomly and where possible make discrete enquiries from the list provided. These references combined with other information obtained should give a fair insight into the level of service and competency of the firm or individual.
What proof of the representative’s credentials are you able to sight?
This would involve questions on their current membership of any association and whether they are regulated by the industry recognized authority.
You need to know what the certification the management team of the firm hold and also those of key staff who will be dealing with your case (as well as their experience with insurances for businesses akin to yours)
Does the representative have vested interest in any insurance company?
Sometimes enquiring about an insurance representative from its competitor can yield useful information. It is very unlikely that a competitor with heap praise on one another but if more than one competitor independently express adverse views about your agent or broker then there is reason to probe further.
For instance if you are informed that the representative is ‘on the payroll’ of an insurance company, this should definitely be a cause for worry. Like in any business, insurance companies vying for patronage from insurance representatives holding considerable insurance business sometimes use various means to outwit the competition.
It could be in the form of holiday coupons to outright illegal payments on top of the usual commission payment, if a broker has been compromised in any form, the level of professionalism is likely to diminish.
How is the representative remunerated for the service?
Most get paid an insurance commission which vary by class of business. It is not a secret payment as some regulatory authorities stipulate that the client must be informed of the payment.
It is therefore important that you establish whether you will be required to pay for any added services such as management of old claims.
How does the firm rate the insurance companies they decide to place risks with?
There are a few rating agencies that provide information about the top insurance companies. These ratings are not necessarily the only criterion to base the decision on whether to place a risk with an insurance company besides these international rating agencies are not entirely familiar with markets in the developing countries.
Amongst other things when deciding on which insurance company to place a risk with, the representative sometimes takes account of its goodwill with a given insurance company. That representative is able to leverage on this relationship in borderline cases to get a claim settled.
As well as relying on previous experiences with an insurance company, a good representative will conduct an independent appraisal of the financial records of the insurance company by reviewing its published accounts. You should get a satisfactory response to this question.