The North Dakota President’s Advisory Council for SECURA Insurance met on Oct. 6, 2021.
Ryan Hoffman, Dawson Insurance-Marsh/McLennan Agency; Todd Kovash, American Insurance Inc., Jessica Cottingham-Hardy, Cottingham Insurance; Ryon Boen, Western Agency Inc.
Dave Gross, President & CEO; Tim Heyroth, SVP and Chief Sales Officer; Steve Miller, VP Commercial Lines Underwriting; Larry Wright, VP and Chief Claims Officer; Tamara Bates, Regional Vice President - Sales
Click the links below to navigate to the comment/response section for each topic.
SECURA Overview | Personal Lines | Commercial Lines | Farm-Ag Lines | Specialty Lines | Risk Management | Claims | Miscellaneous
Comments from Dave Gross
SECURA is up 11.0% – we are having a great year. We expect to end the year at approximately $900 million and end 2023 exceeding $1 billion. Effective 1/1/21, Mutual Holding company was formed. All policyholders will now have mutuality rights – as policies renew. This gives us the ability look at acquisitions and investments differently. Our combined is in the mid-90s.
With 900+ associates, we had approximately 150 working remote before the pandemic and approximately 250 working remote now (we’ve had over 130 hires since start of COVID-19). The week of July 4th we started a transition for all home office associates to return to the office at least three days a week with no travel restrictions. We feel our culture and work ethic is best when we can work together in our new building. In our recent workplace strength survey, we had 98.5% positive response rate from associates.
Personnel Updates – a new CFO has been hired. Christine Cousineau started Oct. 18. Diana Buechel, VP Personal Lines, has announced her retirement and the interview process has begun.
Year-to-date companywide growth of 11.0% which is exceptional; (new/retention/rate – all three solid). Retention outperforms plan (premium in low 90s policy retention around 90). Our rate plan was 3% and we are at 3.3% and planning for less than 3% next year. We’ve had over $100 million new business this year. All lines of business are doing well in all states. All are exceeding plan except Personal Lines, which has positive growth, but not at plan.
SECURA BizLink: 75% of eligible business is received through BizLink, with an 89% satisfaction rate. BizLink continues to evolve and will continue to make improvements to the system (straight through processing as well as other enhancements). $8 million booked with 150+ classes. We are looking into agency integration pilot (API’s)/pilot (Tarmika). BizLink currently has 200 classes included.
Top initiatives: Modernization strategy to improve our IT initiatives. SL300 (Specialty Lines 300) – how to grow this segment. We are hoping to hit $100 million this year. We plan to take Specialty Lines to $300 million (current states and state expansion). We went live with Specialty Lines in PA 10/1 (our first new state since 2006). Commercial Lines will follow in PA in 2022. We are building out an additional state expansion plan – more to come; no time frame at this point, and it may be segmented by product lines offered by state.
Great story! The state is up 15.5% and is expected to end the year at approximately $32.1 million. Policy retention is at 90% and 95% premium retention with a loss ratio of 43% and a 10-year combined at 92%. Our goals for 2022 are similar to 2021. We have a continued effort to increase Commercial Lines and Specialty Lines writing for a better balance and mix of business. We are making progress with 33% of the book now being commercial. We want to increase Specialty Lines (most profitable line – 83% combined). Specialty is 5% of the North Dakota book compared to 11% companywide. We will continue to strive to build deeper relationships and provide the service you are expecting of us. All lines of business are ahead of plan. We have a strong agency plant and look for continued growth in 2022.
All four business units are in good shape and profitable. Three of four business units are growing in the double digits. All four are planned to grow next year; all profitable. By size (premium volume) – Commercial; Personal/Farm-Ag/Specialty Lines. Specialty Lines may hit $100 million by year-end.
Staffing – We are onboarding more underwriters (planning on 20) so we can get to all good opportunities, and we are expanding the Risk Management team as well. Our Associate Underwriter program will continue to feed our underwriter positions. We are in great shape heading in Q4 (endorsements may lag – lower priority).
Service Center – No firm date but centralized a service team is created. We signed a contract with Applied. It will be a dedicated team with a focus on commercial and specialty accounts under $10k. This will be an optional service we provide to our agency partners.
Reinsurance: We have a good relationship and results on our program. Quotes by Thanksgiving use 46 different companies. It is a work in progress.
Commercial Lines is 47% of overall premium. 2022 planning is in progress.
North Dakota had $3.0 million in weather losses; $50.2 million companywide. Most of the weather claims for the state came from the June 8 windstorm. Doug Purcell is a new field rep for the state that joined SECURA in April of 2021. Tony Suriano was promoted to field supervisor January 2020.
Jean Timm, Manager – Claims Customer Service, retired at the end of 2020 and Heidi Christensen has replaced her (she is also responsible for Roadside Rescuer). Tony Brecunier (VP of Workers Compensation) will be retiring at the end of 2021 and John Oehler has been selected as his replacement – we will try to schedule travel for John in the near future.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)1. Comment: Have you considered writing in South Dakota?
Response: South Dakota is a frequently requested state given its proximity to other SECURA states. State expansion is a corporate level initiative, and we have no current plans to enter South Dakota.
2. Comment: Your auto rates are terrible – especially if there is a youthful.
Response: Work is underway for North Dakota’s Jan. 1, 2022 rate change. We review our competitive position as part of our rate review work and understand once we’re out of the top 1, 2, or 3 carriers, it’s unlikely the quote will be completed in MILE-STONE Link and become a potential sale. Youthful operator pricing is also under review as part of a larger scale project to update/refresh our MILE-STONE rating plan. North Dakota has a healthy 8.2% increase in new business year over year, and is currently our 4th largest state (of 11) in new business premium in 2021.
3. Comment: Did you start writing monoline home because of your auto rates, or do you just not want auto?
Response: North Dakota is a very profitable state and hence was selected for our current monoline home pilot. We continue to lead with our package MILE-STONE home and auto bundled policy. Package business continues to be our preferred offering.
4. Comment: Agent commission can be impacted by writing two monoline instead of a single package.
Response: There are commission differences among our various products tied to package and monoline and to some extent which underwriting company used (Mutual or Supreme). Your underwriter or sales manager is a good resource for this information.
5. Comment: Your matching endorsement is the most limited of any carrier.
Response: Our coverage provides vinyl or metal siding match coverage to undamaged siding from a Peril Insured Against with various limits available. Please let us know which carriers have broader coverage and we’ll research.
6. Comment: You have no consistency year over year.
Response: We disagree. Our brand is about stability with our target market being stable households interested in writing home and auto coverage at a fair price with a wide array of built in and optional coverages through an independent agent.
7. Comment: What will inflation guard be? Most insureds may be underinsured?
Response: We adjust inflation guard factor annually in the first quarter based on data on building material and labor trends at a three-digit zip code level. North Dakota’s current inflation guard is 3.8%, and we anticipate this will rise by 1-2 points early next year.
8. Comment: Don’t worry about autonomous vehicles – we don’t feel these will be relevant for a few years. Let the manufacturers figure that out.
Response: We agree. There are many issues to determine – who has liability, state differences, impact of weather, etc. We don’t anticipate driverless being in the mainstream personal auto insurance arena for at least another decade.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)1. Comment: Your tiered approach to the Communicable Disease exclusion for GL/Auto/Umbrella is in line with what other carriers are doing. We feel this is a non-issue.
Response: Thank you. We strived to take a balanced, sensible approach to this exposure.
2. Comment: We do not think of SECURA for manufacturing business.
Response: We want to expand our appetite in this area, and we are working hard to do that. We have researched and trained our underwriters on the nuances of underwriting manufacturing risks with varying products liability exposures. However, admittedly, we still have more work to do, and we are continuously working to expand our appetite and comfort level on manufacturing risks. Give your underwriter a call on your next manufacturing risk, and hopefully we can help you out.
3. Comment: We feel you need to look at your product recall E&O if you want to write manufacturing business.
Response: In November 2020, we released an updated Product Recall coverage endorsement with the following highlights: travel costs are added as a covered Product Recall Expense; Additional Covered Expense Coverage may be added and a separate limit applies to this coverage with options available up to the Product Recall Expense Limit; Additional Covered Expenses include – Customer’s loss of profit due to recall advertising costs to regain customer approval after a recall, Costs to repurchase, replace or repair a recalled product, and expenses for inspection and testing of products to determine whether they should be subject to a recall. If our new and improved form is still out of step, please let us know.
4. Comment: We like that you underwrite instead of using straight analytics.
Response: Analytics or Predictive Models are one tool in our underwriters toolbox to help them write and retain good business for our agents. We are glad that you notice and feel this way.
5. Comment: It is disappointing when underwriters change, but the transition has gone well.
Response: We value our underwriter and agent relationships and we try to keep any changes to a minimum. However, due to our mutual growth in the state and elsewhere, our underwriters sometimes choose to advance their careers in other positions within our company. Also, our sheer growth in the state will eventually lead us to adding additional underwriters to the state. These are all good things for SECURA and our agents.
6. Comment: What are your plans for Service Center?
Response: At this time, we are targeting accounts less than $10,000 in premium and all Commercial Lines classes except trucking. The agency can pick and choose which accounts they want placed into our service center, and our services would start any time after a new business is written with us. We currently have a team dedicated to developing our Service Center, and we will share more information as we get closer to launching. The big challenge is the flow, cost/efficiencies, and figuring out how to have customers call you instead of us. We have heard this can be a challenge, both from making the insured aware to call the Service Center, and in some cases, gaining the agency CSR’s trust so that they feel comfortable forwarding their client to the Service Center. Because of this, we want to focus on two things: creating communication and marketing materials for the insured, making it clear which phone number or email they should contact, and hiring and training the best Service Center reps to ensure excellent customer service and smooth transition. Ultimately, we want the service center to feel like and extension of your agency and deliver the top-notch service that your clients’ expect.
7. Comment: We would like to see you expand your appetite on used car dealers.
Response: At this time due to the volatility of the potential weather related losses from this class, we are not considering a change in our current underwriting guidelines.
8. Comment: What you offer for cosmetic exclusion is very low. (Appearance – State Auto just came out with).
Response: Thank you for the feedback. We will review the recent filings from State Auto if available to us and compare coverage.
9. Comment: What are the details/specifics of your contractors E&O form?
Response: The following is a brief summary of some coverage highlights and competitive advantages of our Contractors E&O Form. For more specifics, please call your underwriter. Coverage Trigger: a “claim” made during the policy period and within the coverage territory, for damages resulting from a “wrongful act.” Prior acts for unknown incidents are covered if the claim is made during the policy period, and the “wrongful act” occurred after the Retro Date (if applicable). What We Cover: We cover Wrongful Acts, which result from a defect in material or in a product manufactured, sold, or installed by the insured. The endorsement also provides some limited design liability. Most competitor forms do not provide both the defective products and faulty workmanship coverage together in the same form. How We Pay: We’ll pay up to the Per Wrongful Act Limit in excess of the applicable deductible shown in the Declarations. We pay the actual cost of repairs if the repairs are made by others, or 80% of 1) insured’s normal and customary labor charges and 2) the retail cost of materials, if the insured makes the repairs.
10. Comment: We love the BizLink system, but we don’t like that the underwriter needs to approve before proposal can be printed and then reapprove any time changes are made.
Response: Thank you. We made a huge investment into BizLink because we knew our agents needed an easy to use solution for rating small business in their agencies. We love to hear your feedback, and we have just recently made a change to BizLink regarding the re-approval issue any time changes are made. We are scaling back how often referrals will display after changes are made to an already underwriter-approved quote. We will continue to work on this issue with the expectation that in the future, with some quotes, agents will be able to edit a quote and maintain the approval status without having another referral for approval stopping the quote process.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)
1. Comment: We need access to quote endorsement.
Response: This is important to us as well! Our current policy system does not make this possible, but we continue to look for ways to offer this to our agents.
2. Comment: We feel service is slow – not just with you.
Response: We are sorry to hear this and apologize for any inconvenience. However, we currently show that we have been within our service standards for the past several months. If there are individual items that are being missed, please contact your underwriter or a member of our farm management team so we can continue to provide the service you’ve come to expect.
3. Comment: Can you quote auto and endorsements also/deductible scenarios, etc.?
Response: Yes, we can! Please email your requests to your underwriter or our processing team for these quotes.
4. Comment: You are very restrictive with mobile homes on farms. You need to allow more coverage (manufactured homes also?).
Response: We are intentionally restrictive on most mobile homes. If you have a unique situation with a newer mobile or manufactured home in great condition, please contact your underwriter, as they do have the ability to provide more generous coverages in the right situation.
5. Comment: Rec vehicles are getting expensive.
Response: We haven’t taken a rate increase in several years and actually took a slight reduction to liability rates on rec vehicles, so this feedback is a bit surprising. We also offer a blanket option for rec vehicles for both physical damage and liability.
6. Comment: Commercial Ag – we moved due to coverages missing (contamination of seed treat). You only have failure to germinate.
Response: We appreciate you bringing this to our attention during the claim. We will continue to strive to keep our coverage competitive in the marketplace. Please continue to bring any items up that you feel are out of step with the market or ideas that you think would put us ahead of other carriers. We discuss these items regularly with our R&D staff.
7. Comment: We would like you to write in South Dakota.
Response: This would be a state that we would be interested in entering for Farm, but we have no immediate plans to do so in the next year or two.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)1. Comment: Would you consider writing any of the following:
- Crop sprayers/applicators - The Specialty Lines unit is not a market for this type of operation, however they may be considered in our Farm-Ag underwriting unit for small local spraying operations.
- Party busses - We have considered writing these operations, however, we do have concerns from a General Liability and Commercial Auto standpoint, and the ultimate responsibility the company assumes for all their passengers. Thus, we are going to pass on writing these risks at this time.
2. Comment: It is felt that your applications are too long.
Response: Thank you for the feedback. We are constantly looking for ways to update our questionnaires so we are only asking for the information we “need to have” versus asking questions that are “nice to have.” As a reminder, we do take competitors questionnaires as long as we can successfully underwrite an account.
3. Comment: Kyle has been fantastic and he is great to work with.
Response: Thank you for the compliment. Kyle truly does a great job, and he is always looking at ways to service you better every day.
4. Comment: We appreciate when a submission is sent to you in error that it is forwarded to the proper department/person internally instead of being sent back to the agency to determine where it should go.
Response: At SECURA, we pride ourselves on trying to make it easy for you to work with all of our business units. This is a just a small way we try and do that.
5. Comment: What do you write the most of/best hit ratio? What is your appetite?
Response: Fortunately, we have a very balanced book of business, which is largely made up of Human Service Risks, Specialty Contractors, and Sports/Recreation operations. If you look at pure premium, Human Service and Specialty Contracting are our largest segments. From a hit ratio perspective, our Sports/Recreation segment has the highest hit ratio. We definitely appreciate any opportunity you can provide us in these segments.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)1. Comment: We are not really seeing or using Risk Management that much.
Response: Risk Management is available anytime you need us. There are also resources available on secura.net under Risk Management Resources.
2. Comment: It is crucial that you make the agent aware when making a call. We feel this happens most of the time.
Response: Without fail, every time a visit with an insured is scheduled, the agent is sent an email or is called. If they can’t be reached, a message is left.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)
1. Comment: How are you treating supply chain issues?
- Auto Physical Damage: We are doing whatever we can to work with the shop to handle any parts delays. We are communicating to our insureds up front that parts delays are happening and encourage them to get into a smaller rental vehicle so we can do what we can to avoid running out of rental coverage. We are making exceptions from time to time to pay for a tow to a shop that may be available to repair the vehicle quicker than the shop the vehicle is at and we partner with the policyholder on this. We are paying for Uber and Lyft rental costs when there are rental shortages up to their daily policy limit.
- Property: Some building products are difficult to procure right now (delays) so this extends periods of restoration, which is likely to increase business income/loss of earnings payments. Claims that stay open longer are also more prone to supplements. Lumber costs were a large concern in May/June of this year, but they have returned to near normal levels, coming down almost 75% from a record high in many areas of the country. We have been fair/generous in extending deadlines for depreciation holdback payments when there have been delays. We just ask for open lines of communication so if a policyholder learns of a delay from their contractor of choice regarding materials or a labor shortage to let our rep managing the file know right away.
2. Comment: How are you handling repairs with location, cost, etc. on vehicles like Tesla?
Response: Auto Physical Damage: There are Tesla-certified shops, but often times they are further away. We work with the insured on their Tesla-certified shop of choice and call the shop to verify they can handle the repair. We do tow to get them to the closest Tesla-certified shop so most often it’s a more expensive tow as it is going a further distance. Aftermarket parts are not available for Tesla vehicles at this time, so we do end up paying for OEM parts.
(Agent comments with SECURA responses)
1. Comment: What are your state expansion plans? We would like to see you go into South Dakota and Montana.
Response: It is our desire to enter more states in the very near future. We just launched Pennsylvania with Specialty Lines, and we will be following with Commercial Lines in 2022. We are working on identifying our next state as we research the best opportunities and fit for SECURA and our agency partners.
2. Comment: AgentLink is comparable with other carrier portals. We have no complaints.
3. Comment: We are not sure that a customer portal is necessary. We would prefer the customers visit our portal (Epic portal – applied and branded to agency). It is confusing to insureds to visit a carrier site if they are insured with multiple carriers. Billing, auto ID cards, and claims reporting are the key items.
Response: Thank you for this feedback. We currently offer a portal (mySECURA) for Personal Lines policyholders to give those who may not have an agency portal an opportunity to view auto ID cards, report a claim, see billing history, and more. We are kicking off a project to refresh mySECURA to make it easier for our policyholders to use, and the key items you mentioned will be part of this.
4. Comment: Sales Managers need underwriting authority.
Response: Thank you for your comment. Our sales managers have excellent relationships with the underwriters and are encouraged to approach an account as a team. The sales managers do have the ability to make a decision in unique situations if need be.5. Comment: Your training area needs more visibility. What do you offer?
Response: Thank you for this feedback. If your email address is listed in AgentLink, you will receive a monthly calendar of events email, which contains our upcoming classes and webinars. We generally come to the Fargo area twice per year to host CE classes, so watch for those in 2022. We’ve included some additional information on what we offer below, including links to the information. If you have any additional questions, you can reach out to our Manager of Agency Training, Angela Kain, at email@example.com.
- In Person – includes CE & Non-CE – various locations – View upcoming classes
- Live Webinars – includes CE & Non-CE – View upcoming webinars
- Recorded Webinars – can watch at your leisure (no CE) – View recorded webinars
- On Demand – CE that can be taken at your leisure – View on demand CE courses
- In Person/Live Instructors at your agency (certain requirements must be met). CE & Non-CE. Please discuss with Joey Brandt if you are interested.
- Sales and Service training - Please discuss with Joey Brandt if you are interested.
6. Comment: What is your model with Farmers Union?
Response: We focus on Specialty Lines and rural areas.
7. Comment: With COVID and work from home, agents aren’t seeing the same “successes” or level of service that carriers are talking about. Distractions, unprofessional backgrounds, etc. are not acceptable in non-COVID work from home times. What are your thoughts?
Response: We are in unique times and recognize the varied personal situations each our associates may be faced with. As a company, we have worked hard to support and balance our associates’ needs while maintaining our high level of service standards. We do monitor our service standards for all divisions and work within each department to move resources to respond to the demand. If you are seeing a specific area that is slow or missing timeframes, please reach out to your sales manager and they will look into the issue. We thank you for your patience as we all navigated thru this changing environment over the last two years.