Knowledge Center

Knowledge Center Items Podcast Episode 50

Why Your Client's Home Business Needs Better Coverage

Published on

Because most traditional insurance policies don't understand how people need to work today.

The world has seen a rapid shift in those expectations over the last 12 months.

Not to mention the overwhelming amount of new businesses that have started based in the home.

All of that adds up to mean there's a giant opportunity for you to provide value for your clients and boost your agency.

Jill Bryant, Head of Small Specialty Commercial at AXIS Capital, talks about all the questions you should be asking to capitalize on the situation.

For more Change Insurance episodes, click here.

Full Episode Transcript

Joey Giangola: Jill Bryant, how are you doing today?

Jill Bryant: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

Joey Giangola: Jill, I need to know this before I really jump into it. Since we've all been dealing with some form of forced agoraphobia over the last year, what has been taken away? What home activity has been taken away that we feel maybe needs to be reclaimed as being like the sacred special occasion?

Jill Bryant: I have to tell you, the biggest adjustment I've had in my home life has really been just seeing extended family and not being able to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and pushing back weddings and all of the things you take for granted in a normal environment that we haven't had the ability to do this year. So, so excited about the potential of that happening again, hopefully in the near future.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. Just even the idea of having different people in your house is a concept that we might have to get used to again, which is strange to say out loud.

Jill Bryant: I was thinking about that. I was also thinking about how my poor pets are going to handle not having me in the house all the time. They went from having me during certain hours and being comfortable with that to having me all the time. And then all of a sudden, when life gets back to normal, how are they going to adjust?

Joey Giangola: Indeed, those are the big questions at hand. But on the other side of that, too, I think the interesting part is that there is a lot of activity that did take place, different activity that took place in the home. It did become this sort of multi-purpose area. I mean, what, in terms of businesses and things like that, did you see that really took off in terms of people using the home in a way that they never really had to before?

Jill Bryant: There's been so many changes, right? When you really think about how you've used your home in the past, it's been really for friends and family and it's been the center of your personal life, and you worked in an environment that was very structured. You drove to work, you dealt with traffic, you stopped and got coffee, and you started your day and ended your day. Right? Then you came back to your personal home.

Jill Bryant: And now it's all blended. I move from my office to my great room to my kitchen, back into my office. So where does work begin? Where does work end? Where does the personal time begin? Where does it end? We've all had to navigate that together, but it was an instant change. It didn't happen gradually over time.

Jill Bryant: So you see people around my area, they're all adding offices to their homes, because they didn't really have that separate workspace before and they had to try to figure out how to have an office or a specific workspace to deal with because they just have never had that as part of their home environment before. So many changes.

Joey Giangola: It's really amazing how much you could underestimate a door and its value to your day-to-day existence, because I tell you what, if I didn't have one, I don't know what I would do. There would just be children everywhere. It'd be chaos, and I don't know that it'd be a good scene.

Joey Giangola: But so, I mean, that's the other thing, too. So from an agent's side of things is I don't know if that conversation has really come full circle yet because so much happened. Do you think this is something that agents have been looking for in the past, or is it something that they need to really consider looking at and diving into when they're renewing that personalized account? Is this something that they really need to dive into to see exactly what has happened over the last 12 months, a year and a half it'll be probably at some point that that has happened that they need to really dive in and see what's going on with their clients?

Jill Bryant: I think that's just a terrific question. I believe the industry had started contemplating millennials and younger generation's desire to work differently, and I think we had just started as a team working together. What did that mean? And when we looked at the timeframes of that, it was a five-year conversion, maybe a 10-year conversion as people retired and millennials moved as the primary workers and generation Z followed behind them. I think we all knew we needed to work differently.

Jill Bryant: So the solution prior to COVID was how to change our workspace. I know here at Access, we went through a complete office redesign, and it was more collaborative space. It was very open. There were huddle rooms. So we had already started changing the corporate infrastructure to support the next generations of employees coming in. And then we all simultaneously were asked to work from home, and we generated the equipment, the environment. We created an enablement for everyone to do it simultaneously across the globe. And I think that has long-term ramifications. So there's going to be portions of our work that are done back in a corporate environment and portions of our work that are done, because people have really enjoyed and adapted to, faster than they thought they would, working from home environment. And I think it has enabled a different style and a quality of life that some people are really gravitating towards.

Jill Bryant: So everything starts with the customer. If our customer changes how they want to work and our customer changes how they want to live their life and work supports that, then we, as an industry, all have to think about it differently as well. And I think instead of that being a five or a 10-year conversion, it is happening rapidly.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. And even ... I don't have a purse. I kind of want to find like somebody that did this, but I would imagine that there's an insurance agency that had a small office, maybe one or two people, but they just said, "You know what? We're not going back. We're not even going to have an office anymore." And I'm sure there's been your traditional businesses that have always been based out of the home, craft businesses, design businesses, and things like that. There's probably something that I would hope the agent would think about this, but I mean, those businesses that aren't going back. What are the things that they need to be thinking about in terms of proper coverage for the business if they're letting go of the physical space versus where they might have had a policy in place that was geared for the business in its current formation? But what's that conversation look like now? What do they need to be considering?

Jill Bryant: Well, I think we, as an insurance industry, have really evolved over generations and we evolved in towers. We had the personal lines tower and we had a commercial lines tower. The distribution was different. The products were different. How we delivered it was different. So we really have isolated that commercial product and delivered it in a small business digital environment that was geared towards Main Street USA, because that's always been the need. The products are geared towards Main Street USA, the delivery mechanisms, the pricing structures, and here all of a sudden we have a change in customer and a material change in the dynamic of what our products need to do.

Jill Bryant: So if you're really looking at this from a home customer, there's gaps in the homeowner's policy because they're not designed specifically for a business, and there's gaps on the commercial business policies because they're not designed for people who work from their home. They're designed for people who work in a leased or owned business space. So I think we all, agents and carriers included, have to think about these new customers, and are we servicing these new customers in a way they expect? Are we providing the products that they actually need for their exposure? And is this price point really sensitized to this type of business or is it more of a general or generic price point based on our old ways of doing business? I think those are the main things that we as an industry and agents need to think about.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, that's something that does fascinate me. I mean, we think it's something that happens quickly in terms of adapting, but I mean, the idea of developing new insurance products to fit what is happening. That's always been something that I found interesting, and this obviously is one that fits that bill. But do you think there's another evolution that we need to be keeping our eye on in terms of coverages that agents need to be being aware of that you think people in the home with the business? What should we be pushing towards to really, like you said, make sure that we've got something that can fit those needs?

Jill Bryant: Yeah. So I think if I'm an agent, when I'm talking to one of my customers, what I really want to understand is how do they work? If they are working in their own home specifically or they are working in a coffee shop or at their customer's location, at a park, where do they work? If it is not a building that they lease or own, some of the products that we have in the industry are not the right products for them. They shouldn't necessarily be worried about improvements and betterments to the space or whether or not the building has fire coverage. It's really the home that's insured, not the business through a homeowner's policy, and the business policies aren't really designed for someone who doesn't have a physical location outside of their home. So I think they need to think about how does the customer work? Where do they work?

Jill Bryant: The second thing they need to think about pretty carefully is what kind of traffic or premise traffic is actually happening? If they're working someplace else, do you really need a product that is fully geared from a liability perspective for a lot of onsite traffic, a lot of onsite potential slip, trip, and falls or some kind of equipment would fall on a customer and hurt them? If they don't have a lot of customers in their insured location, then they might not be insured with the right product.

Jill Bryant: However, if they are only relying on a homeowner's policy and they have no business coverage, if you do have a client coming in picking up samples from your home or you do have UPS or delivery people coming to your home to drop off packages, you could encounter problem with the homeowner's policy potentially not covering the injury of somebody who's there for business purposes. So, as I said, as the industry evolved and they grew in towers, there's this gap in space, because our customers are shifting how they're working.

Joey Giangola: Well, yeah. You mentioned that word liability, and it's so often the thing that we can touch and see and feel, I guess to a lesser extent, that we worry more about than the ones that we can't. And it's more so on that, we'll say the professional side of things, that liability that maybe goes a little more dismissed. What do you see in terms of that being a neglected area, and do you find that agents are having conversations to the level that they should be when it comes to that liability exposure?

Jill Bryant: So interestingly enough, I think about that as professional liability ENO. You can use those terms interchangeably. And what it really comes down to is the type of business you're insuring. If I have a retail business that I'm running out of my home, I'm probably not quite as concerned as my professional liability, because that's really for mistakes or errors that I made that cause financial harm to my client. But if I'm in certain things that I'm giving consulting advice to, that is where you need professional liability. And interestingly enough, when I look at most buyers, they're actually buying the wrong insurance. They're buying general liability when they don't have much general liability exposure in their home. Like I said, not many people are coming to their premise for a slip and trip or fall. Their product is advice, so they don't have the traditional GL product exposure. But they're not buying the professional liability coverage, because they think it's covered under the general liability.

Jill Bryant: So if you are offering advice, you really need to think about buying professional liability. Here's the interesting twist to a home business, and this is where I think a lot of agents have the opportunity to learn about this unique kind of business model. Because for example, if I'm running a fitness center and I have my standard BOP policy, I really don't think about giving professional advice. I think about providing a safe place for my customers to come and work out.

Jill Bryant: However, in a home business, if you are a fitness instructor, you could be giving dietary and nutrition advice. You could be giving wellness services. You could be doing things that are definitely more in that counseling, coaching, and advice environment. If that's the case, general liability policy isn't really going to cover you if a customer comes back and is unhappy with the fact that they didn't lose weight and you had made some dietary suggestions to them that didn't work out.

Jill Bryant: So even though they're same classifications, fitness to fitness, it's a different type of exposure because these home businesses are much broader in scope in what they do in many cases than a defined business on Main Street America.

Joey Giangola: Oh, yeah. You just brought up an interesting point that if you ask any kid today, that's the job that they want is to be basically we'll say a YouTube star for lack of a better term. But as you described it, that's kind of what you you'd said. If you're a fitness person giving advice online, basically, that could be in the form of either direct consultation or I would imagine through recorded, created content articles, videos, and things like that.

Joey Giangola: Where is there a line, I guess? Because somebody might be doing that just for fun. Maybe they're profiting a little bit, and then somebody could come back for them, because one, I think that is lost on the consumer in a lot of cases, the person that actually is running that business, and then two, the agent is probably nowhere near aware to that activity from their client. So where is the line drawn? I know generally a big determining factor is revenue, and if there's revenue there, but from an insurance standpoint, what do insurance agents need to be asking and digging into? How do they, I guess, uncover that, in some cases?

Jill Bryant: There's many rules of thumb, and certainly it's up to the agent to have a pretty robust conversation with the customer, because that real exchange is going to give them good information. But a couple of things that I would be keyed in on, if I were an agent. Of course, is the revenue. Am I generating any income? Do I have an intention or feel that I'm working with a client in a professional capacity where they are asking me specifically for advice or taking advice from me and they know we are having a personal exchange? If I am putting my information out there, could it be perceived by someone that I am experienced and professional in this and that they should be regarding my information as an expert rather than a casual conversation among friends?

Jill Bryant: So there are gray lines here, and I think whenever you're talking to someone who, whether they think it's a hobby or they think it's a profession, I think it's really important that the conversation be had of how people could interpret what they're saying and whether or not there's a possibility that they could have followed that information, found it not to be valuable or accurate for them, and choose to file suit or bring action against the individual.

Jill Bryant: So those are some of the things that I think just need to be thoughtfully explored between the agent and the customer, just to really try to determine is it truly a hobby that you do only with friends or are you putting this information out there for anybody to gather?

Joey Giangola: All right, Jill, I've got three more questions for you. The first one, very simply, what's one thing that you hope you never forget?

Jill Bryant: One thing that I hope I never forget is the excitement and passion about hobbies and people. I never want to just become someone who just doing the same thing day to day. Right? Always want to remember the excitement and passion of doing something new.

Joey Giangola: Well, on the other side of that, then, what is one thing you still have yet to learn?

Jill Bryant: Wow, there's so many. That's a hard one. Where do I even begin? Foreign language. It's been on my bucket list for a really, really long time, and I've always wanted to become multi-lingual.

Joey Giangola: Is there a language that's at the top of the list?

Jill Bryant: Spanish. My failed attempt as a freshman in high school to learn Spanish didn't take me very far.

Joey Giangola: [Spanish], Jill, [Spanish]. All right, last question to you, Jill. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape, change, speed up insurance in any way, shape, or form, what's that thing, where is it going, and what's it doing?

Jill Bryant: I would really want us to think differently about the products that we offer. I think that we oftentimes for the sake of expediency and expense try to work with the products that we currently have as institutions and make them work in our automated environments and make it work in our technical environments because of the cost of change. Those products were developed decades ago for customers that are very different than the customers are today.

Jill Bryant: So they're asked to navigate through complex, complicated forms to try to determine what applies to them and what doesn't, navigate through language that was designed for experts in insurance, people who were paid insurance individuals, and they have not really been redesigned. They've been repackaged. They've had additions. They've had subtractions, but they've never been truly redesigned to speak to today's customers and to speak to today's customer needs.

Joey Giangola: All right, Jill. This has been fantastic. I'm going to leave it right there.

Jill Bryant:                           Thank you so much for your time.

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