3 Factors Driving A Hardening Market In The Construction Sector - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

3 factors driving a hardening market in the construction sector

s > 3 factors driving a hardening market in the construction sector

1. Social inflation leads to increasing liability claim costs

Though workplace injury has always been a major cost driver for the construction industry, social and medical inflation are leading to larger liability claims payouts, whether as a result of a third-party injuries due to vehicle accidents or other worksite incidents. According to Ironshore’s Britt Sellers: “…juries are taking sympathy with the plaintiffs across all liability lines, alleging that ‘the general contractor should have done this or could have done that to prevent an injury.’”

Because of social inflation and the rising cost of medical treatment, the trend toward “nuclear” jury verdicts – where payouts surpass $10 million – has been on the rise since 2015. And this is forcing change in the insurance market. Beauvais reports, “Back in 2016, $25 million was the nominal limit deployment that we saw on a lead umbrella, but by 2019, we saw that get pulled back to somewhere between $10 million and $15 million. Now we’re seeing the limit pulled as low as $5 million in the lead umbrella space.” For companies seeking more coverage, the market is limited – and prices are much higher.

2. Cost-saving measures lead to construction defects

Another factor influencing the hard P&C market are “value engineering claims.” Though value engineering is beneficial in the right hands, at times, some cost-saving measures can lead to failure points – and those failures come at a high cost.

In response to questions about the frequency of value engineering claims, Sellers notes, “Our claims group has identified two factors that are resulting in greater frequency and severity of design-related claims. The first is when architectural plans or project specifications lack sufficient detail in some respect. The second factor involves inadequate communication between design professionals and general contractors and subcontractors.”

Lack of communication and inadequate project specifications can lead contractors to opt for alternative methods that cut costs. But when those methods fail, the contractor is liable – and potentially expensive claims may follow.

3. Design/build contracts shift liability

Click here for the rest of the story…

Read More
Purchases Protected The Top Bonds In The Retails Sector - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Purchases protected: the top bonds in the retail sector

Purchases protected: the top bonds in the retail sector

Because of COVID-19, businesses across every industry have pivoted quickly to try to recover their losses and guard against future potential risks. Retail businesses are especially sensitive to seismic shifts in the economy as political factors, consumer trends, and technology are variables that can impact a retailer’s success.

Traditionally, consumers have preferred hands-on experiences such as test-driving vehicles at their local dealership, dining at their favorite restaurant or jumping into a fitting room at a boutique store, but the on-going pandemic has changed that. Although certain businesses have benefited from these changes to consumer behavior, others have struggled — grocers, home improvement stores and wholesaler retailers perform well, while apparel and department stores have wrestled with COVID-imposed restrictions, heavy debt burdens, and compressed margins. 

Reducing risk in retail

As a pivotal piece of the supply chain, a healthy retail sector is good business for everyone — from manufacturers and wholesalers to the end consumer. To help safeguard against risks to the retail space, surety bonds are a valuable way for businesses to build an extra layer of security for themselves. Here are a few of the more common bonds across four key retail sectors: automotive, food and beverage, general merchandise, and online. 

Automotive sector
The retail automotive sector is comprised of two types of companies: those that sell auto parts and those that sell new and used vehicles.

  • Motor vehicle dealer bonds
    These bonds guarantee that the motor vehicle dealer and/or manufacturer will comply with outlined protections for warranty promises, fraudulent practices and misrepresentation of the motor vehicles dealer.
  • Game of chance bonds
    If a dealership or auto parts company runs a promotion or sweepstakes, this type of bond guarantees that any prizes offered are awarded to the winner. It is required in some states, including Florida and New York.

Food and beverage sector
The food and beverage sector is comprised of grocers, restaurants, food packaging companies, liquor stores and fast-food companies.

  • Tax bonds
    Frequently required by local and federal law, food and beverage retail sellers must post bonds to guarantee they will collect and remit taxes for business activities. Common tax bonds include sales tax, use and consumer tax, alcohol, liquor, and tobacco.
  • Utility payment bonds
    Used as an alternative to a traditional cash deposit or Line of Credit (LOC), this bond guarantees timely bill repayment to the utility vendor.

General Merchandise
General merchandise is a catch-all term for items that include clothing, apparel, appliances, sporting goods, etc.

  • Lease bonds
    A financial guarantee that ensures payments of assessments under a rental agreement. A principal may post this type of bond in lieu of a cash deposit or traditional LOC, freeing up their capital for other uses.
  • Workers’ compensation on bonds
    Employers are required by all states to guarantee payment of statutory workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. Companies that elect to self-insure any portion of this risk must post security with the state using a cash deposit, letter of credit or a surety bond. Given their long-term nature, workers’ compensation bonds are typically reserved for very strong credits.
  • Customs bonds
    The primary purpose of a customs bond is to ensure payment of import duties and taxes, as well as complying with all regulations governing entry into the U.S. of merchandise from foreign sources.

Online retail
Otherwise known as e-commerce, online retail stores are virtual establishments that sell a variety of consumer or business-to-business products over the internet. 

  • Money transfer bonds
    Required by a business that provides money transfer services or payment instruments, money transmitter bonds guarantee that the principal will follow applicable state rules and regulations of the industry, safeguarding the end consumers well-being.
  • Collection agency bonds
    These bonds are required by some states to assure the principal will function according to state collection agency laws and in conformity with the standards issued by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. A business that extends credit card services may be required to post collection agency bonds.

The future of retail – what you need to know

Click here for the rest of the story…

Read More
10 Tips To Get The Most Out Of A Tank Of Gas - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

10 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Tank of Gas

10 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Tank of Gas

Rising gas prices and summer travel highlight the need to squeeze every mile out of a gallon of gasBy Jeff S. Bartlett

Published May 13, 2021 | Updated June 2, 2021

Summer travel season is underway, and gas prices are on the rise. Pump prices over Memorial Day weekend were the highest since 2014, and the current national average is $1.05 above this time last year, according to AAA. Now is as good a time as ever to fine-tune your driving strategies and techniques to maximize your fuel economy and ease the squeeze on your wallet.

Consumer Reports experts pulled together the following series of test-proven tips to help drivers save money.

Fuel-Economy Tips

1. Stay at half: 

Keep at least a half-tank of fuel at all times while there is a risk of shortages. If gas becomes scarce in your area, having gas in the vehicle will give you options. 

2. Check online: 

Apps and websites such as GasBuddy can show local gas prices, making it easy to find good prices in your area or if you need to travel. Generally, gas stations well off major highways and away from city centers tend to have better prices, as do warehouse stores and some major travel centers. 

3. Minimize travel: 

If you can delay errands or other activities, you will preserve the gas that you purchased and reduce overall consumption for the region, helping in some small way to reduce the gas scarcity. 

4. Obey speed limits: 

When you drive, follow the speed limits and drive smoothly. Your driving habits can play a significant role in fuel economy.

A recent CR test shows this: We measured gas mileage while driving at a steady 55, 65, and 75 mph in a Nissan Altima and Toyota RAV4. We found that reducing speed from 65 mph to 55 mph improved fuel economy by 6 mpg in the Altima and 8 mpg in the RAV4. The penalty of cruising at 75 mph, rather than 65 mph, was almost 7 mpg in the Altima and 6 mpg in the RAV4. Higher speeds exact a toll in fuel consumption. Another way to look at it: Speeding up from 55 to 75 mph is like moving from a compact car to a large SUV. Beyond fuel concerns, speeding is, of course, a safety risk.MORE ON FUEL ECONOMYHow Your Car Can Make the Air CleanerMost Fuel-Efficient CarsMost Fuel-Efficient SUVs

5. Drive evenly: 

Avoid hard acceleration and braking whenever possible. In our tests, frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced an older Toyota Camry’s mileage by 2 to 3 mpg. Once up to speed, maintain a steady pace. The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you use. Unnecessary braking wastes the fuel you used to get up to speed. Drive smoothly and anticipate the movement of traffic. Smooth acceleration, cornering, and braking also extend the life of the engine, transmission, brakes, and tires.

6. Pay attention to aerodynamics:

Click here for the rest of the story…

Read More
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Why do dogs eat grass?

Why do dogs eat grass? 6 reasons your pooch is munching on your lawn, from anxiety to worms

  • Your dog might be eating grass because it provides a source of fiber in their diet. 
  • Dogs may also eat grass when their stomach is upset since it can make them throw up.
  • Grass-eating is a habit that dogs may have inherited from wolves, so some pups just like the taste. 

Nearly 80% of dogs who have access to grass will occasionally eat it. 

Researchers still don’t know exactly why dogs eat grass, but there are many theories, like getting rid of worms or calming their anxiety. 

Note: Most of the time, grass-eating isn’t a problem, but if your dog starts overeating grass and vomiting, you should see your vet.

Here are six reasons your dog may eat grass and when you should be concerned about it.

1. They need more fiber in their diet

There’s no single answer to why dogs eat grass, but some experts believe that dogs may be craving a nutritional component like fiber.

Grass may be “providing trace elements or vitamins that are missing in your dog’s diet,” says Jeannine Berger, DVM, Senior Vice President of Rescue and Welfare at San Francisco SPCA.

There are no studies proving that dogs with low-fiber diets eat more grass. However, there is some anecdotal evidence that dogs stop eating grass when their owners feed them a high-fiber diet, says Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB, president of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies.RELATED5 ways to fix your dog’s constipation

If your dog isn’t getting enough fiber, they may show symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Blocked anal glands, which can cause your dog to scratch their backside on carpets or leak a foul odor
  • Obesity

If you see these signs along with grass-eating, talk to your vet about whether you should adjust your dog’s diet.

2. Their stomach is upset

The fiber in grass may help food move more easily through your dog’s gut. Because of this, “grass might also help if your dog is dealing with underlying gastrointestinal disease, like inflammatory bowel disease,” Berger says.

Perhaps due to instinct, some dogs have learned that eating grass may also soothe their acid reflux, Dodman says. And this makes sense, since grass contains pectin, a type of fiber that can help treat acid reflux in humans.

If dogs have a bad feeling in their stomach, they may eat grass to make themselves throw up and feel better,” Dodman says. However, vomiting might not be the main reason dogs eat grass — a small 2008 study found that only 22% of dogs who ate grass tended to vomit afterward.

If your dog is regularly eating grass to the point of vomiting, Berger says to call your vet, as this can be a sign of underlying disease like intestinal issues, cancer, or liver disease.

Besides eating grass, other signs that your dog has an upset stomach include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Licking their lips or licking the air
  • Gulping
  • Loss of appetite

If your dog has an upset stomach, you can also try feeding them mild foods like boneless, skinless chicken and rice. If it doesn’t get better after a couple days, call your vet.

3. They’re anxious

Click here for the rest of the story…

Read More
House Hunting - Be Prepared to Win a Bidding War - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

House Hunting? Be Prepared to Win a Bidding War

House Hunting? Be Prepared to Win a Bidding War

By: Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.  |  May 28, 2021

Bidding War. A home is listed for sale in Palm Beach, Florida, where single-family houses priced at $10 million or more surged 306 percent in March 2021, from just a year earlier. 

If the real estate market can be counted on for anything, it’s fluctuation. There are times when buyers have their pick of homes, and sellers must settle for sales prices that are less than what they’d hoped for.

Then there are those times when it’s a seller’s market, and it’s the buyers who have to pay top dollar — or even over asking price — to get into houses. In a really hot seller’s market, buyers can end up in a bidding war — essentially a homebuying competition where the highest offer wins.

Why Does a Bidding War Happen?

That’s exactly where the U.S. housing market is currently. Inventory is low; demand from buyers is high; and sales prices continue to surge. In fact, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) latest monthly sales report released May 21, 2021, says existing-home sales were down 2.7 percent in April — the third straight month of decline. But January to April sales are still up 20 percent, and median existing-home sales prices rose 19.1 percent year-over-year. Those are both record highs.

Total housing inventory (the number of houses for sale) in the U.S. at the end of April was up 10.5 percent from March, but still down 20.5 percent from just a year ago. These are near-record lows since the NAR began tracking the home supply in 1982.

Michael Schiff, a buyer’s specialist with Schiff Real Estate Team, with Ansley Real Estate in Atlanta, knows all too well these numbers. During a balanced market there should be about six months of inventory on the housing market. But Michael says in Atlanta, however, there is about a one-month supply.

These are the numbers that lead to bidding wars — a listing that receives multiple offers, and one where the listing agent puts a deadline on receiving the highest and best offers. But how do you win one? “There is strategy behind every single detail,” says listing specialist Leigh Schiff. She and Michael are the husband and wife team at Schiff Real Estate Team, with Ansley Real Estate.

Money Talks in a BIdding War

Just as not all listings are the same, not all bidding wars are the same either. Sometimes it might just be a threat of another offer. But other times a listing might get three, five or even 20 offers, Leigh says. Lower price point listings tend to have more offers, but she recently sold a home at $1.3 million that had seven offers and went 10 percent over asking price.

Before you make an offer, or even start house hunting, get your money together. Prequalifying for a mortgage is not enough, especially in a seller’s market. Prequalification simply means that you have spoken to a lender and provided information about your income.

“It holds no value,” Leigh says. Instead, you want to get preapproved for a mortgage, which means your lender has pulled and reviewed your credit, run your finances through an underwriting system, and has approved you for a loan, pending a contract and appraisal. In the Schiffs’ case, they go even one step further and ask for credit, income, assets and tax returns from the prior two years to be included in the process.

Some, although not all, lenders are willing to underwrite buyers for any home in their price range, says Michael. That means you won’t need to worry about including a financing contingency in your offer (meaning your offer is based on your getting a loan). This is a point in your favor because omitting contingencies makes you a more attractive buyer (more on that next).

Of course, “cash is king,” Leigh says. “Especially now that we are starting to see some issues with properties appraising.” When sales prices exceed market value, something not uncommon in bidding wars, lenders may not be able to lend you enough money to stay within an acceptable loan-to-value percentage. If you choose to pay above-market value, you’ll need to have the extra funds available to cover the difference. But if you can pay cash, you’re the optimum buyer in a seller’s eye.

It’s equally important to put down a substantial amount of earnest money, which is a “good faith deposit” that tells sellers you’re serious about buying. In a typical situation, that amount would be about 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price. If you change your mind, you lose the money and the seller keeps it. But if the deal falls through for other reasons, like information uncovered during an appraisal, you get the money back.

During a bidding war, offering a higher percentage of earnest money strengthens an offer because you’re less likely to walk away from the purchase — and your money.

Read More
Reducing safety risks for a returning and deconditioned workforce - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Reducing safety risks for a returning and deconditioned workforce

The pandemic-era trend toward layoffs and early retirement means today’s workforce has less training and experience than in March 2020. On top of that, a year at home has physically changed our bodies, resulting in what experts call a “deconditioned workforce.” Unfortunately, this less trained and deconditioned workforce poses new safety risks for companies, particularly in more risk-prone industries like manufacturing, trucking, and construction. It is important for businesses to consider the safety risks associated with this trend and what they can do to help reduce workplace injury as employees return to work. 

With an accelerated vaccine rollout and the President’s expectation of getting “closer to normal” by July 4, 2021, many companies are thinking about moving back to regular operations before the end of the year. Despite this progress, it’s clear that the pandemic has made a lasting impact on our workforce—and the safety implications of returning to work need to be carefully considered.

Early retirement makes an impact

As a result of the pandemic, many older Americans working in heavily impacted industries retired sooner than planned. According to a study by The Schwartz Center, more than 1 million workers left the workforce between August 2020 and January 2021. In the last year, the unemployment rate for older workers has been significantly higher than mid-career workers—a rare occurrence in the job market.

For companies that laid off a large percentage of their workforce during the pandemic, this means that new hires will have significantly less training and experience than their predecessors. Compounding this problem is the fact that many workers are joining new industries due to COVID-19; according to a study by McKinsey, more than 100 million workers globally, or 1 in 16 people, will need to change occupations because of the pandemic.

All of these factors equate to increased risk for companies—especially those in certain sectors. According to David Perez, chief underwriting officer of Global Risk Solutions at Liberty Mutual Insurance: “In any job with a high safety risk, like construction, trucking, or manufacturing, untrained workers present tremendous exposure for accidents to occur.” In high-risk industries where training and experience prevent workplace injury, there is now a much more significant burden on employers to help keep untrained employees safe. 

A deconditioned workforce

Even for experienced employees returning to work, there is a greater risk of workplace injury when they come back to their jobs, post-pandemic. This is the result of worker deconditioning, or the degeneration of physical fitness and flexibility from lack of use. Bottom line? After more than a year of sitting at home, many of us simply aren’t as prepared to do physical labor as we were before the pandemic.

How bad is the problem? According to HumanTech, every day that we don’t use our muscles, we lose 1-3% of our strength. Months of sedentary behavior changes our bodies—and we can’t rebuild that strength overnight. Other factors, like reduced cardiovascular fitness and reduced flexibility, also contribute to workplace injury, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industries. It will take weeks or even months for workers to regain the strength they had before the pandemic. In the meantime, companies need to be aware of the increased risk and adjust their insurance policies to reflect that change.

Reduce risk, invest in training

Click here for the rest of the story...

Read More
Older Workers Get Ready for the Hybrid Office - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Older Workers Get Ready for the Hybrid Office

Whether you’re in the hybrid office or working from home, finding balance is key

As vaccination rates increase and infection rates decline, companies are exploring what a return to the office will look like. Both companies and employees agree: The future of the office is likely to be a hybrid office model that could require many employees to split time between working from home and working in the office.

A recent joint study by WeWork and Workplace Intelligence defined the hybrid model as a combination of working at home, the company headquarters, satellite offices, co-working spaces and public “third spaces,” like a library or café. In some cases, employees may even split workdays between different locations.

The survey found that some employees are actually willing to give up benefits and perks to have more flexibility about where they work. Ninety-five percent want some level of control over how, where and when they work, and three in four would be willing to sacrifice at least one benefit or perk — including health insurance, cash bonuses and paid time off — to be able to choose their work environment. Many employers are onboard, too. The survey found that nearly all companies (96 percent) would be willing to give their team members at least some measure of flexibility.

But hybrid office workplaces come with challenges, too, says career-advice expert Lisette Sutherland, coauthor of Work Together Anywhere: A Handbook on Working Remotely — Successfully — for Individuals, Teams & Managers. When you have staggered scheduling and team members working remotely or in the office at different times, scheduling meetings and collaboration sessions can be a challenge. “I would not go into the hybrid workforce unplanned — that’s for sure,” she says. “That’s just asking for disaster.”

If you’re getting ready to navigate a hybrid office workplace, here are five ways to set yourself up for success.

1. Hybrid Office: Understand expectations

For employees, one of the first priorities should be to understand what your employer’s policies are with regard to remote work vs. in-office days, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence and author of Promote Yourself & Me 2.0. “What it comes down to is you have to understand the rules of the game in order to play,” he says. “Workers should be talking to their managers right now to see what can give them confidence and set expectations of what their schedules are going to look like going forward.”

To create your list of questions and requests, think about how your workweek is structured. Which days are typically more meeting-heavy or require access to files and other resources that would make being in the office better? And which days or times could make working from home preferable? For example, it might make sense to be in the office on the day your team has staff meetings, so you can catch up in person. On the other hand, you might want to schedule days at home for when you do work that requires high focus. Consider your personal life, too, evaluating how commuting on certain days would affect your caregiving roles or other responsibilities.

2. Communicate more effectively

When everyone was remote, videoconferencing tools such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams were communication lifelines. But with a return to the office, you might not be plugged into the constant digital back-and-forth, Sutherland says. And that’s a good thing. “It’s exhausting to do it in this way. And it’s not really sustainable in the long term.” Referencing Cal Newport’s latest book, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload, she says, “We have to improve our workflows so that we stop this ping-ponging of messages back and forth.” In other words, we have to create different communication options so that we can get quick answers when we need them but also have the space to do deep or focused work without being constantly interrupted by notifications.

Schawbel adds that we need to be smart about the communication tools we’re using and figure out how to use them most effectively. Don’t get bogged down learning features you don’t need, he says. Instead, “figure out what the objective is and what is the best means for that objective.”

3. Watch out for overwork

Click here for the rest of the story

Read More
Cinemark Week - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Cinema Week at Cinemark!

With a mission to re-engage moviegoers, the first-ever Cinema Week, a six-day nation-wide event showcasing exclusive in-theatre content, activations, giveaways and special guests, … and you are invited! 
 
The inaugural Cinema Week takes place June 22-27, with Michigan’s Celebration Cinema theatres participating in a big way. “We love movies, but we’ve all learned that movies from one’s couch are NOT the same as a big, immersive, theatrical experience shared with community and friends,” says Emily Loeks, Director of Community Affairs. “This is a week we are excited to welcome folks back into the magic of moviegoing, with both publicized deals and also some fun surprises.”

Click here for the locations and movies listings…

Read More
June 22 Michigan Opens to Full Capacity - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

June 22: Michigan Opens to Full Capacity

Gov. Whitmer Announces Michigan Opens to Full Capacity on June 22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Michigan Opens

June 17, 2021 

Contact: Press@michigan.gov ernor

Gov. Whitmer Announces State will Open to Full Capacity on June 22 

More than nine million vaccines administered as new COVID cases fall to one-year low. 

LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer today accelerated the end of all COVID-19 epidemic orders on gatherings and masking as COVID-19 cases continue to plummet following increased vaccinations. Beginning June 22, capacity in both indoor and outdoor settings will increase to 100% and the state will no longer require residents to wear a face mask. 

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” said Governor Whitmer. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving. Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule. Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.” 

Nearly five million Michiganders ages 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. According to data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, half of Michigan residents have completed their vaccination and over 60% have gotten their first shots. 

“This is great news and a day all of us have been looking forward to for more than a year,” said Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. “We have said all along that the vaccine would help us return to a sense of normalcy and today we announce that day is here.” 

Case rates, percent positivity and hospitalizations have all plummeted over the past several weeks. Currently, Michigan is experiencing 24.3 cases per million and has recorded a 1.9% positivity rate over the last seven days. 

Michigan Opens 

Click here for the full story…

Read More