There's a certain level of "flying by the seat of your pants" that's built into a contractor's operation guidelines.

Which makes providing them insurance coverage a little more nerve-wracking than necessary.

However, the faster you can move to keep up with them, the better your chances get.

Brendan Hanley, Director Binding P&C Product Line Leadership at Markel, talks about all the things you can do to increase your speed limit and success rate.

Joey Giangola: Mr. Brendan Hanley, how you doing today, sir?

Brendan Hanley: I'm great, Joey. How are you you?

Joey Giangola: Brendan, I'm doing good. I'm doing good. I want to know this first, before we really go anywhere. Is there something that you really love that you just need to understand more, maybe possibly do yourself?

Brendan Hanley: Do myself? I think one thing that's important to me, just in general, it's probably from a business sense, but also from a personal sense, is am I always clearly listening to the needs of those around me? I think that's transferrable for what we do every day in a work setting, but also just importantly, I'm a husband and father of two children, what my family's needs are as well, right? So, am I listening and are my ears open?

Joey Giangola: Brendan, that is very deep and very thoughtful, probably more than I was anticipating. For me, it's simple, pizza. I just need to understand how to make pizza, because I like it too much, and that's kind of it. Yeah, but you have a better answer and we'll stick with that.

Joey Giangola: I want to move this over to the world of insurance and thinking about the things that you love and need to understand and want to create. Obviously, the world of contractors is one of, I would say love and hate for agents, as it's a business that is very enticing, but at the same time they run into a clientele that maybe they are not always as responsive as they might like to be. So, what has your experience been dealing with that market? And how have agents had success, I guess, overall?

Brendan Hanley: Yeah, absolutely. I think you're right. In insurance, contractors, it's not this pretty thing that fits into a nice little box that we can all understand. It's a portion of our economy that's wide and deep, it has large variations due to size, what they're doing, complexity. So, in that sense it's really difficult to understand what a typical insured's needs are, right?

Brendan Hanley: So here at Markel, we have a very long history of writing this segment of the business, and for us, obviously, in the non-admitted channel. What's been most interesting to me is just seeing that large variability of what the business is and learning to understand what the needs of that insured might be.

Brendan Hanley: It's very different from the person who, they might be the owner of their business, they might have one employee, all the way up to someone who maybe has been in business 10 years and has five employees. Those needs are different, and understanding what that dynamic looks like is probably one of the more challenging things to making sure that hopefully delivering a product that meets the needs of both those pools, if you will, of exposure insured.

Joey Giangola: You talked about those needs. What do you think you guys see in terms of that needs front that might be different than what the agent might see? Is there an expectation difference there in terms of maybe something you guys have gleaned that maybe hasn't made its way down from their perspective?

Brendan Hanley: I think that's an interesting question, and from our perspective at Markel, it's really how can we be able to provide the coverage that allows a contractor to enter a job site with coverage in hand that meets the needs of whoever they're doing work for? Maybe it's another contractor, maybe it's you or I and we're having a project done in our homes.

Brendan Hanley: I think, for us, it's how do we balance the need to speed to quote, right? They need something today, as opposed to sitting back and having the ability to ask 25 questions over 90 days to really figure something out. I think we're getting better as an industry of meeting in the middle, so to speak, and I think what we've done here at Markel is really understand that dynamic and be able to deliver a product that checks those boxes in the right fashion no matter who the insured is and what the complexity or size of their business is.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, and that's probably one of the things that comes with the struggle of fully endearing yourself to this line of business is what does it take to actually meet their expectations of promptness of responses. How much of that comes down to just being able to operate in a way that not only acceptable to them, but profitable to the agent, and like you said, being able to do things fast enough? What is fast, I guess, in terms of being able to be as responsive as possible?

Brendan Hanley: Absolutely. I think the simplest definition of being quick to respond is, an insurer goes to their retail agent and has a need, the retail agent in our case has to deal with a wholesale managing general agent to try and place that. And at the other end, you have a company like Markel, the carrier, who has a product that can quickly respond to those needs.

Brendan Hanley: The best example I always give is oftentimes an insured can be a person in their pickup truck and their office is their center console, so they need something quick that provides what they need. We've developed a product that quickly responds to that, checks a lot of the boxes they need from a coverage standpoint. We've really done this business for a long enough period of time where we understand depending on what they're doing, what they really operation needs from a coverage perspective, but also what they're doing day in, day out.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, I think there's two interesting things there. One, you talked about the coverage and maybe who that ultimate person is that might be an opportunity. From the coverage standpoint, what do you think maybe is overlooked in a policy from here or there that maybe agents aren't looking for this particular coverage, or something that stands out that really gives them an edge potentially when it comes to, maybe it's the only deal with that contractor?

Brendan Hanley: Yeah, I think oftentimes it's as simple as do you have additional insured endorsements or some type of coverage that is part of your GL policy that will adequately name those you're dealing with, whether it's a contractor or the individual you're performing the work for, as an additional insured GL policy, and therefore provide an opportunity for indemnification if a covered loss were to occur.

Brendan Hanley: I think additional insurers, everyone's like, "Oh, I understand that," but I think it's a very important one to figure out and understand, certainly from the retailer's perspective, and things that certainly we are geared to solve for.

Joey Giangola: The other thing that is fun and has all sorts of nooks and crannies, just the different types of contractors that can be under this term of an artisan contract. There's many different types. Is there an area where you find that agents are having maybe more success than others, where there's a decent enough size business, the premium's good, there's fairly routine and easy servicing? I might be asking for a particular unicorn here, but if we could nail a sweet spot, is there something that you have seen?

Brendan Hanley: Absolutely. I think when people hear the word contractor, they imagine someone who maybe is doing simple carpentry work inside their house, maybe some kind of molding or something that's decorative, or maybe it's someone that's just switching in and outdoors or windows. I mean, those are simple ones to understand, right?

Brendan Hanley: At the other end of the spectrum, and something that we know well, is general contractors. An individual who maybe is performing some of those trades or jobs themselves, but also depending on others to do a portion of that work for them. There's a lot more complexity, you're involving other parties, and it's certainly something that's a significant occupation, if you will, within the artisan contractor space that has a lot more complexity, but one also that we're geared to solve for.

Joey Giangola: Where do you think maybe agents get down on the process? Maybe they've had a bad experience. Is there something that you could say that maybe wants to bring them back to it again? Back to the fact of maybe they were focusing on the wrong area. Is there something that you could help bring them back to the fold if it is something that they have maybe shied away from over the last couple years?

Brendan Hanley: Yeah, absolutely. I'll go back to my general contractor example. I think, oftentimes, general contractor sounds like a pretty simple term, wouldn't you agree? In actuality, in terms of the business they perform, no 10 can look the same. I think for that reason it's, at times, maybe due to past experiences like you talked about it, maybe shies retailers away from it being the first thing that they look to handle and take care of that's on their desk. But at the flip side of that, I think what we really excel at, and with RPS as well, is knowing that we have an expertise to solve for that problem for that retailer, having many different options depending on what's on their desk, and certainly a product that's going to respond well, and hopefully change our minds in the future about their past experiences.

Joey Giangola: Let's maybe dive into the claims area a little bit in terms of maybe when they've had problems. What can you maybe see to get ahead of that? What are some areas that agents maybe need to pay a little closer attention to when they're maybe looking to write the account? Some things that they could maybe do a little frontline underwriting, things that you like to take a look for just to maybe give themselves a better chance getting everything through?

Brendan Hanley: No, absolutely. It sometimes just as simple as understanding the guidelines for our class of business, and does it correspond? I think partnering with folks like us makes it very simple. I think the value chain, the value proposition, is how that claim is handled. With Markel, as an example, it's in-house claims adjusters, it's in-house coverage councils, it's prompt resolution teams ready to respond quickly when an insured has a covered loss. These are absolutely things, I think maybe at times, or maybe not thought of as highly important as they should be, when a policy is sold, if you will. But they're absolutely things that are important to the insured in making sure that their needs are met when they go through a tough time and a claim occurs.

Joey Giangola: Maybe walk me through that claims process a little bit. Are there areas where you find maybe more problems? Or areas that are something that you see over and over again that agents maybe aren't paying attention to?

Brendan Hanley: I think just some things that I've seen in my work history is, and one of the common ones and themes, is probably misclassification of business. Perhaps at one period in time an insured is doing one job, one trade, if you will. And over time their business evolved, like all businesses do. It's very important to make sure that we're staying up-to-date in the complete value chain, insurer to retailer, to wholesaler, to carrier, understanding what that insured's business looks like at that date and time of renewal. So staying on top of that is extremely important so that business isn't misclassified. That makes sure that the insured has covers that best corresponds to the work that they're doing.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, that makes sense. I can imagine that that's something that, again, back to the entire conversation we've had around contractors, and that's something that can be a struggle. I mean, the easy recommendation would be just to make sure that you're having that touch base every year at renewal to make sure that they are in the same line of business. Is there any other suggestions that you've seen in terms of keeping up to date with that stuff? If a contractor's sort of in and out of something periodically, is there any way to prevent themselves or protect themselves as they move in and out of business trades, if you will?

Brendan Hanley: There's always the option of making sure that you're encompassing all the things they are doing today, maybe that they've done in the past. That's the belt and suspenders approach, if you will, of making sure you're capturing all of that. It's paying attention to loss runs. Those can be illuminated in a lot of ways. It can be also as simple as having completely filled out supplemental applications, which everyone knows what an accord form is, and the more simplistic information that it captures, and that's absolutely important. A supplemental application asks more questions. Those questions are important. It's important to all of us, helps us best understand, and at the end of the day, get the best price for coverage that you possibly can for that insured.

Joey Giangola: And you brought up supplementals, and you mentioned them a little bit before. For an agent that maybe dabbles a commercial here and there, it's not something that they do often, but they want to maybe dip their toe a little bit more, contractors is generally an easy place to start. Is there anything that you could say to reassure them or just sort of ease their mind in terms of dealing with the supplementals within an accord form? Because a lot of this stuff can be overwhelming for the folks that don't do it every day.

Brendan Hanley: It can be, and if you think about it, every carrier can have a different supplemental application. I think the good news is, by and large, as an industry, we ask mostly the same questions. There's always nuance here or there. I think the retailer should understand that just because they have a supplemental application that is implied of maybe the carrier they, at the end of the day, could possibly be working with, at least in the initial phases, that's certainly acceptable, and just making sure that you're capturing that information. And over time, I think, what that retailer will learn how to do best as well is maybe there's questions that they want to know that could be further helpful in the value chain.

Joey Giangola: Now, is there something that, maybe this is pie in the sky for you, but I'm going to give you the opportunity, Brendan, is there something that you feel, just from your perspective, that just communicating down to the agent base, because it's always, the agents want to know what carriers want, and carriers want to know what agents want to do. Is there this little mantra that you repeat to yourself, just this information that you wish was more connected between the two parties, as we're so dependent on each other?

Brendan Hanley: Absolutely. I think it's as simple as, what's your goal? And stating those goals clearly and not leaving your partner's guessing at those goals. Especially today, thinking about the whole insurance market as a whole, we're all busy, we all have ourselves pulled in many different directions. I think doing your best to provide every piece of information you can, upfront, is only going to make the whole process smoother and it will happen more quickly for the retailer when they're trying to place, renew, et cetera, piece of business.

Joey Giangola: Would you have one tip to level up their ability to approach contractors to maybe have a better chance? Maybe just something from an efficiency standpoint. Is there one tip that stands out to you of all the contractors that you've seen come through Markel, that you would maybe say, this is my one tip for you guys to really, I guess, level up, if you will?

Brendan Hanley: This will sound funny, you may agree or disagree, but today with information being available in so many different places, and certainly on the internet, Google you're insured. Oftentimes, you can learn a lot about someone's business by how they're advertising their services online. That's always immensely powerful to me in my underwriting career. I think it absolutely can be valuable to retail partners as well.

Joey Giangola: All right, Brendan, I've got three more questions for you, sir.

Brendan Hanley: Okay.

Joey Giangola: And the first one is, what's one thing you hope you never forget?

Brendan Hanley: One thing I never forget, maybe it doesn't have the direct correspond to insurance, but I never want to forget to always have a sense of humor about how we work together in the industry. Working with our wholesale partners like RPS, always having a sense of humor day-to-day, and trying to lift each other up through that is something I never want to forget.

Joey Giangola: Now, on the other side of that, Brendan, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?

Brendan Hanley: Oh, I'd love to tell you that I know everything, but obviously I think anyone that says that will would not exactly be telling you a hundred percent of the truth. I think, from where I said on the carrier side as part of the transaction in the insurance industry, I think it's better understanding what our insured's needs are in the future. That's something we all prognosticate on, whether it's retailers or a wholesaler or a carrier like Markel. I think it's always striving over time to, you won't learn it all, but you hopefully learn something new every year.

Joey Giangola: Last question to you, sir. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape, change, alter, speed up, really any part of insurance, what's that thing? Where is it going? And what's it doing?

Brendan Hanley: My magic wand in this example would be, how can we better collect and correlate information that passes up and down from who needs risk transfer to who's willing to accept that risk transfer, and how can we improve efficiency? I think we're making huge strides, and what we're doing with RPS is an example of that. It's certainly not the silver bullet, if you will, and there's more we can do in the future, so if I could wave my magic wand to solve for that more quickly, that would be great. I'm also a realist though.

Joey Giangola: Brendan, this has been fantastic, sir. I'm going to leave it right there.

Brendan Hanley: Thank you so much, Joey. I appreciate the time.