Let’s take a second and compare the way we shop for an insurance company to how we might search for a significant other on a dating site.
Almost everyone is looking for certain baseline characteristics; we want our “other half” to be polite, easy on the eyes, and to have some level of intelligence and ambition. I could launch my search and find a hundred people who satisfy each of those standards but it’s possible that none of them will be a good fit for me. Why? Obviously, finding a compatible counterpart is more complicated than that.
Let’s say I want to be with somebody who enjoys being active, shows some interest in sports, and wants to travel the world someday. If those things aren’t important to my partner, then it doesn’t matter how polite and pretty she is. Obviously, my compatibility with my partner depends on more than a few generic factors.
In a similar fashion, our search for the right insurance provider should consider more than the most common concerns. Yes, we all want to know that our insurance company will provide excellent customer service, affordable rates, and overall reliability. But we can’t overlook other intricacies. If we don’t bother to consider whether our unique needs will be met, there’s a good chance that we’ll end up disappointed when we ask for something our insurance company isn’t prepared or qualified to provide.
Find an insurance company that is as unique as you are.
People often assume that insurance companies all do the same thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Different insurance companies specialize in handling certain things, such as:
- High net worth insureds
- Low income insureds
- Insureds with custom vehicles
- Insureds with distinct banking and investment needs
- Insureds with farming structure or equipment needs
- Insureds seeking coverage for singular events
- Insureds with poor loss history
- Insureds with atypical assets to insure
This is a small representation of the diverse characteristics and needs that insureds might have. Even the best insurance companies know better than to attempt to be a jack of all trades and serve every possible type of insured. That is why the more specialized your insurance needs, the more you need to do your research to locate the insurance providers who specialize in serving others in your unique position.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the ways you might differ from a typical insured, let’s talk about why it’s important to find the right insurance company to serve you. To do this, let’s use a high net worth individual as an example.
Accuracy of Appraisals and Estimates
Suppose you own a home valued at approximately $800,000. Let’s assume that your home has the following features:
- Custom cabinetry
- Specialty hardwood flooring
- High-end artwork and decorations
- Luxury carpeting
- High-end furniture
Now, let’s say your home and all those carefully curated features and flourishes are destroyed in an unfortunate kitchen fire.
Presumably, you’ll file an insurance claim and hope to be compensated in an amount no less than the dollar value of your property losses. How will your insurance carrier determine the correct dollar amount?
Most insurance companies use a software solution called Xactimate for property claims estimates. With Xactimate insurers and loss adjusters can estimate repair costs or the dollar value of a loss by simply plugging in the property that was damaged and the extent of the damage.
In my experience, the more valuable the property that was damaged or destroyed, the less accurate Xactimate is at estimating its value. For that reason, an individual with a higher net worth is more likely to experience a less efficient claims experience than the average consumer who belongs to a more typical income cohort.
On top of that, mainstream insurance companies tend to have fewer quality connections with fine art restoration companies, contractors for high-end custom structures, or premium contents pricing vendors. Those deficiencies can drastically affect your claims experience.
In my opinion, putting a mainstream insurance company in charge of your high-dollar claim involving specialty items would be like asking a random Walmart employee which custom marble countertops you should purchase and how to install them. Walmart’s discount prices on certain retail items are great for the masses, but when it comes to special projects and materials they probably aren’t your best resource for advice.
The same goes for your insurer. Certain insurance providers design their business model around meeting the insurance needs of the majority, but they simply aren’t equipped to provide the level of service that certain demographics require.
Risk Management Needs
By dealing with a mainstream insurer, a high net worth individual may also be at risk for financial loss long before the claims process commences. That is because not all mainstream insurance carriers are qualified to satisfy the insured’s risk management needs.
Many affluent insureds spend too much money on the wrong insurance by obtaining insurance through the wrong company. Industry experts contend that “affluent policyholders who are with non-specialty carriers are possibly underinsured for their personal property and liability exposures and they may be overpaying for this inadequate coverage.” Those same experts acknowledge that companies like All State, State Farm, and American Family Insurance are great companies, but that comes with a caveat – “their risk models are more to insure $500,000 homes — and a lot of them.” In other words, those companies are only great for you if they fit your unique needs.
Let me put it another way. Insurance companies use mathematical formulas to determine how much they can charge you for insurance while remaining profitable. If their formula says you aren’t a good fit then the rates they will offer you probably won’t be as beneficial to you. As you might guess, insurance providers (like most companies) prefer to error on the side of charging too much rather than not enough. This makes you, the square peg being shoved in a round hole, paying too much for something you should be getting elsewhere.
It’s also important to understand that insurance companies devote the lion’s share of their resources to serving the majority of their customer base, not those in the minority with unique needs. Therefore, to get best use of their resources you should aim to be part of the majority that your insurance provider serves.
Finding an Insurance Provider that Serves Your Unique Needs
How does a high net worth individual find an insurance carrier that will best serve his or her needs?
1. Meet with independent agents
By finding an independent agent who is connected with a range of specialty insurance providers, you can compare rates and services ratings to find the company that is well-equipped to serve you and your unique traits.
2. Do some good old-fashioned Googling
Search for statistics on how and where people who share your characteristics (e.g., high net worth, custom vehicle owner, etc.) are insured.
What About Other Specialty Needs?
So far, I’ve focused on the insurance needs of affluent individuals since we probably all aspire to be in that position someday. But just as there are wealthy folks with squeaky clean résumés, there are also those who have poor loss histories, below average wealth, and bad credit or no credit at all. These people need insurance too, especially if they want to eventually improve their position. Individuals with these less-favorable characteristics may be categorized as “high risk.”
High risk insureds are serviced by non-standard insurance companies. If you think you might fall into the high-risk category, I recommend you speak with an insurance agent to find the best non-standard insurance company you can work with.
You should also learn what you need to do to change your status and become a standard insured. Becoming a standard insured will give you access to more reasonable rates and better liability coverages. A good insurance agent will tell you how your profile has improved at each renewal period and suggest what your next action item should be.
Although I’ve only covered a couple specific examples of atypical insureds, the same general rules apply no matter your specialty insurance needs.
You should mention anything you think may separate you from the pack when meeting with an independent insurance agent. That will help them find an insurance carrier that best suits your needs.
When hunting for insurance, remember how unique you are. Just as we all have special needs that make our significant other right for us, we have unique demands that we should consider when we enter the insurance arena.
By recognizing that it is impossible for any single insurance carrier to specialize in helping everyone, we can take steps to find the right fit. The laws of capitalism tell us that if there is a need in the marketplace that can be profited upon, then somebody will fulfill that need. So, don’t worry. The right company is out there.
This is the final article in a three-part series where we discuss the steps consumers should take when shopping for insurance.