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Professional liability market tips and tactics to make headway

If veteran underwriter Tony Abrudeanu has learned one thing from his time in the professional liability market, first on the carrier side and now on the wholesale side as a professional and products liability broker in the Dallas, Texas, office of Burns & Wilcox, it’s that with change comes opportunity.

And according to Abrudeanu, opportunity knocks loudly today for retail brokers and agents in the professional liability market as businesses of all types, from traditional to tech-oriented, seek coverage to protect from risks, some familiar and others entirely new.

In the professional liability market, success comes to brokers and agents who understand the changing nature of risk as well as the new generation of products designed to address those risks, he says. “Five or ten years ago, we didn’t have some of the professional exposures we have today, and we didn’t have as many product options as we do now.

“Nowadays,” he continues, “we have the ability to package professional liability with other products like general liability. We also have admitted professional liability coverage, which is a really nice option to have. And Cyber Liability [coverage] is a new product that is raising a lot of eyebrows with business clients.” (See the Product Highlight on page 30 for more about Cyber Liability coverage options available as part of Atain’s new Tech E&O product).

The Art of Uncovering, Addressing Needs

The essence of professional liability coverage hasn’t changed much over the years. “Really it’s for anybody who provides a service to others for a fee,” explains Abrudeanu. What has changed, he says, are the classes of businesses that need professional liability coverage, and the types of exposures that coverage must address. Beyond traditional classes such as architects, engineers, attorneys/legal, physicians and allied medical practices, real estate, home inspectors, accountants and the like, companies that do business across the many established and emerging niches of the tech sector face risks that today’s new breed of professional liability products is designed to address.

As a retail broker or agent, how to maintain in the professional liability market? The veteran Abrudeanu’s advice:

  • Have a firm grasp of the risks your clients/prospects face and the products available to protect them, including an understanding of when and how to package professional liability coverage with general liability as well as some of today’s newer products such as Cyber Liability and Tech E&O. “You definitely need to know your markets and what they can provide, because they each have their sweet spots,” says Abrudeanu. “But you also have to understand the classes you’re working with and where claims are likely to come in for each particular class.”
  • Gaining that understanding requires intelligent information-gathering on the part of the retail broker or agent, particularly in cases where the exposure exists in an emerging and perhaps unfamiliar business niche. “Go in and try to gather as much information as you can about what exactly they’re facing in terms of risks,” he suggests. Show clients/prospects what makes your professional liability offerings unique — exclusions, the ability to package multiple products backed by a quality independent wholesaler such as Burns & Wilcox, and access to exclusive options with numerous carriers. “It shows them what sets you apart and allows you to come across as an expert,” explains Abrudeanu.
  • Stay alert to opportunities in emerging business niches. In addition to business entities that need tech E&O and cyber liability coverage, another business segment worth watching, according to Abrudeanu, is medical manufacturer reps who spend time in the hospital operating room, advising doctors on how to use their products. “It’s a segment we’re getting more inquiries about,” he says.
  • Lean on your wholesale broker. “Don’t be afraid to ask us to guide you,” advises Abrudeanu. “It’s a great way to build a relationship with us. Allow us to become your professional liability department and have these experts navigate forms and coverages.”
  • Keep the lines of communication open with all your markets. Having a good rapport with them can make a major difference in placing tough cases quickly.

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