A Guide to Business Insurance for UK Marine Trades

Introduction

Insurance solutions for businesses operating in the Marine Leisure Sector have been slow to evolve compared to other sectors. Until relatively recently, a boatyard owner could find him/herself having to source a suite of insurance products to cover buildings, contents, financial risks, vessels, pontoons and indemnity against a range of legal liabilities. Whilst the first Marine Traders “Combined” policy that provided cover for all these risks appeared in the late 1990s, the market did not rush to embrace the new paradigm. Some significant providers of insurance in this Sector did not release a “Combined” solution until as late as 2007 and others still only offer stand-alone covers.

Advantages of Combined Insurance Policies

There are numerous advantages to business owners of having a single insurance policy that combines cover in respect of the majority of their needs. First and foremost it streamlines administrative processes by reducing documentation considerably, thus saving business owners time and money. It also ensures the owner has a single renewal date to deal with. Probably the main benefit to businesses is the potential premium savings that can be made through this type of system: the more cover that can be placed on a single policy gives the provider more scope to reduce the overall insurance premium.

Marine Trades Insurance Providers

Combined Insurance policies for marine-related businesses are now available from a number of specialist providers. Whilst the majority of these providers will deal direct with the public, some will deal only through insurance brokers. An insurance provider that sells direct to the public will only offer their own product. Dealing directly with insurers not only restricts you in terms of available insurance options, it also means you have to invest valuable time in shopping around providers for competitive quotations. An independent specialist Marine Trades Insurance broker can potentially save you and your business time and money by conducting a full broking exercise across the market on your behalf.

Specialist brokers can also assist in arranging bespoke cover as opposed to a standard “off-the-peg” solution. This can give your business vital benefits where standard policy exclusions are amended or removed, widening the overall scope of protection. You may also benefit in the event of a claim:

  • Where a business buys direct from an insurer, in the event of a claim the owner is left to negotiate a settlement from the insurer. This can put the business at a disadvantage where there is a dispute over liability or settlement. Using an independent specialist broker to arrange cover provides the business owner with an experienced advocate in the event of suffering a claim. The broker is bound to act in the best interests of the client at all times and a specialist broker can often assist in instances where claims have initially been repudiated.

Structure of Marine Combined Insurance Policies

Before outlining the structure of a policy it is necessary to stress the importance of ensuring that the correct limits of indemnity form the basis of your insurance cover. It is tempting for businesses seeking to reduce their costs to deliberately underinsure their businesses. This can potentially prove catastrophic in the event of a loss, as an insurer will almost certainly invoke the principle of “Average” when underinsurance is discovered.

  • The Principle of Average: In the event of underinsurance any claim settlement will be based on the ratio of the sum insured to actual value. For example, where a business has insured stock worth £100,000 for only £50,000, the business has underinsured by 50%. In the event of a loss of £25,000, the insurer will apply average and only pay a settlement of £12,500.

The example above underlines the importance for businesses to establish the correct basis of cover with their provider and then negotiate a competitive premium. An independent specialist broker with access to a number of alternative markets will help you obtain the right solution at the best available premium.

Marine Trades Combined Insurance policies generally follow the same model, with the odd exception as to where a particular item may appear. For example, some policies will include pontoons in the Material Damage Section whilst others may bracket them in the Marine Section. Outlined below is a typical policy structure:

  • Material Damage: This Section will cover all property other than vessels at your business premises. It is split into various sub-sections that vary from provider to provider, but the splitting of property into these sub-sections enables you to benefit from lower premium rates on the lower risk items to be covered. Typically, a Material Damage Section will be divided as follows:

  • Buildings (with or without subsidence cover)
  • Marine Installations (pontoons, slipways, wet/dry docks etc)
  • Computers and Associated Equipment (at the business’ premises)
  • Machinery and Equipment (at the business’ premises)
  • General Stock (at the business’ premises)
  • Valuable & Attractive Stock (at the business’ premises)
  • All Other Contents (at the business’ premises)
  • Glass: Some insurers will include Glass within the cover for Buildings. However, most Marine Trade insurers will not cover Glass unless specifically requested and will also levy an additional premium. Cover will be provided for external and internal glass with additional extensions available for items such as glass signage and sanitary ware.

  • All Risks Cover: Must be obtained for businesses wishing to insure items they remove from the business’ premises such as:
  • Tools & Machinery
  • Laptop Computers, Mobile ‘Phones etc
  • Trailers (thease can also be covered under the Marine Section)
  • Frozen Food: Covers loss or damage to fuel resulting from change in temperature in fridges or freezers resulting from breakdown or interruption to power supply.

  • Goods in Transit: Protects against loss of goods whilst in transit or whilst temporarily stored in the course of transit. Business owners need to beware of the variation in scope of cover from policy to policy and of the plethora of exclusions that each insurer applies to cover.

  • The premium for Goods in Transit insurance is based on a combination of the total sum insured per vehicle, the number of vehicles used and the estimated total annual carryings of the business.

  • This Section can also be extended to insure postal sendings and carriage by third parties.

  • Goods in Transit cover for vessels is excluded on many policies unless specifically mentioned. However, it is possible to include insurance for vessels whilst in transit by endorsing the Marine Section of the policy. Organising a policy in this way can save a business money if vessels are the only items to be insured whilst in transit.

  • Exhibitions: Covers exhibits, stands and other materials at exhibitions.

  • Whilst insurers include this Section within their policies, a business could reduce costs by having the Marine Section of their policy endorsed to cover vessels at exhibitions rather than pay their insurers an additional premium for the same benefit.

  • Business Interruption: Covers the loss of Gross Profit and/or the Additional Cost of Working in the event of the trading activities of a business being interrupted by an insured peril, such as fire or flood. Extensions can be purchased to cover losses arising from perils such as:

  • Breach of Canal
  • Damage in the vicinity of Premises or to Contract or Exhibition Sites
  • Denial of Access to the vicinity of Premises
  • Damage to Moulds, Patterns, Jigs, Dies, Tools, Plans, Designs, etc
  • Loss or Damage to Property stored in locations other than own premises
  • Loss or Damage to Property in Transit
  • Damage to Premises of Suppliers or Customers
  • Loss of Utilities
  • Disease & Illness

  • Just as it is essential to insure property on the correct basis to avoid insurers applying “Average” in the event of a claim, it is vital to ensure the correct level of Gross Profit is used to determine Business Interruption cover.

  • The definition of Gross Profit in insurance terminology differs from that of accountancy. A business should always check with its provider as to the exact terms of their Business Interruption policy but the procedure below provides a general system that should fit most insurers’ methodology:

  • Obtain the income statement for the last full operating month and locate the net profit amount.
  • Employers Liability Tracing Office

  • Review each individual expense line item on the income statement to identify costs of operation that are not directly related to production, also referred to as “standing charges.” For example, office rent is due whether the business is in operation or not, and the price does not fluctuate based on production, whereas some worker salaries (such as casual, seasonal labour) would cease when trading is interrupted.
  • Employers Liability Tracing Office

  • Add each standing expense identified in Step 2 to the net profit obtained in Step 1 to obtain gross profit, or the company’s loss from lack of operations.

  • Money: Provides insurance for cash, cheques etc whilst on premises, in transit or in bank night safes. Some policies will also provide extensions for money in directors’ homes and at exhibition or contract sites. Policies will usually provide a Personal Accident extension that offers nominal sums in the event of Death or Disability arising from assault during attempted robbery or theft.

  • Defective Title of Vessels: Reimburses the purchase price of a vessel bought or sold by a business in the event of the true owner of the vessel reclaiming it (or its value). It will also provide indemnity where a business has a valid claim brought against it as a result of being unable to provide good title for the vessel.

  • Employers Liability: It is a statutory requirement for all businesses to carry Employers Liability Insurance where they employ people be it on a paid or voluntary basis. It indemnifies the business in respect of its liabilities arising from death, injury or illness to its employees

  • Premium is based on the total annual wages of the business. Each occupation within a business’ workforce will attract its own premium rating based on the perceived hazards associated with that particular occupation. A rigger, for example, will attract a higher premium rating than an employee engaged in light yard work.

  • You should ensure you accurately declare your annual wageroll to insurers. Deliberately under-declaring could be construed as failing to disclose a material fact and may result in a claim being repudiated.

  • Labour only sub-contractors should be treated as Employees as far as insurance is concerned. Generally they work under the direction of the Insured and do not provide their own materials or tools (with the exception of small hand tools). Cover would therefore be arranged for such individuals by the hiring business under the Employers Liability Section of their policy.

  • There is a requirement that businesses must confirm their Employers Reference Number (ERN) or as it is commonly known Employers PAYE Reference to the insurer covering the Employers Liability which is recorded centrally with the Employers Liability Tracing Office (ELTO). This is to ensure that the correct insurer can be identified where claims are submitted by an individual, which can be years after their employment has ceased. It is not unusual, for example, for certain diseases or conditions such as respiratory disease, industrial deafness or repetitive strain injury to take many years to manifest.

  • The ERN is the unique reference which attaches to a business and does not change which means that it will identify the correct employer and then the insurer for any given time period from 2011 onwards.

  • Public Liability: Indemnifies your legal liabilities to third parties arising from your business activities that result in death or injury to any person or loss of or damage to property. The insurance only attaches to those activities disclosed to your insurer and noted on your schedule so it is essential that a full description of all your business activities is provided.

  • Premium is based on the estimated annual turnover of the business. Each activity will attract its own premium rating based on the perceived hazards associated with that particular activity. Paint Spraying, for example, will attract a higher premium rating than Chandlery Sales.
  • You should ensure you accurately declare your annual turnover. Deliberately under-declaring could be construed as failing to disclose a material fact and may result in a claim being repudiated.

  • Exclusions and Extensions to Public Liability Insurance vary from insurer to insurer. For example, some policies will automatically provide Yachtyard Liability Insurance as a standard extension to their Public Liability cover. Others will charge an additional premium for Yachtyard Liability.

  • Liability in respect of hiring-in of cranes is normally excluded on most Marine Trade policies unless specifically requested. The additional premium for this cover is based on your estimated annual hiring-in costs. Standard cover is usually £100,000 which may not be adequate to replace the crane you hire. Find out what your exposures are and get your cover topped-up if necessary.

  • Yachtyard Liability: Protects your liabilities in respect of moving vessels on water for reasons such as testing, demonstration and deliveries. Like most policy sections, scope of cover will vary from insurer to insurer. For example, policies will restrict your permitted range, but distance you are permitted will vary greatly.

  • Not all insurers provide this cover under the “Yachtyard Liability” heading. Some insurers will provide “General Liability” that will automatically encompass the Yachtyard Liability element of other policies.

  • Products Liability: Insures your legal liabilities in respect of the products you manufacture and/or supply.

  • Whether you are manufacturing or distributing (wholesale or retail), you need to make sure the products you supply are safe. Failing to meet your responsibilities can have serious consequences. You could face legal action with possible fines or even imprisonment. You could also be sued by anyone who has been injured or has suffered damage to personal property as a result of using your product.

  • Products Efficacy Insurance: Designed to cover the failure of an item to perform its intended function Efficacy Insurance is often excluded from the Public & Products Liability Sections of Marine Trade policies. If your business is involved in the manufacture, supply or installation of performance critical products you need to check with your insurance provider to ensure you and your business have the right scope of Liability Insurance.

  • Marine Risks: Non-Marine Commercial policies have virtually no insurance provision for vessels. They are specifically excluded, with the odd exception such as rowing boats. The Marine Section of a specialist Trader’s policy is divide into 3 distinct parts:

  • 1. Vessels: This part of the Marine Section will cover all vessels not undergoing construction and includes Stock Vessels, Work Boats, your Private Craft and Charter Vessels. It can also be extended to cover other types of Marine Stock such as engines and parts.

  • Sums Insured for vessels are usually determined on an “Agreed Value” basis. This can be the price you paid for the vessel plus the cost of any improvements, or it can be a depreciated or written-down value.

  • The cruising range of your vessels will be clearly defined in this Section of your policy. You should check to ensure that you and your hirers are actually insured to sail or cruise to your intended destinations. For example, an insurer may assume that, if you are based on the Thames, you are only on the non-tidal stretch and will endorse your policy for”Inland Waterways” use only.

  • The are several extensions that can be purchased for this part of your policy such as:

  • Social use of vessels by Directors, Employees, Family Members.
  • Racing Risks (Sails, Masts, Spars & Rigging).
  • Water Skiing, Towing of Toys.
  • Angling and/or Diving Parties.
  • Personal Possessions

  • Exclusions in respect of vessels will vary from policy to policy. You should ask your provider to go over any exclusions with you in detail in case you require a special endorsement or extension.

  • 2. Builders Risks: Whilst scope and definitions may differ from one insurer to another, Builders Risks insurance will usually cover your vessel at the yard or dock where it is being constructed, including the yard or premises of a subcontractor. It may also cover the vessel whilst in transit between your yard and your subcontractor’s yard. Extensions can also be obtained to cover:

  • Movement of the vessel on water around the dock where it is being built.
  • Sea Trials
  • Delivery voyages under own power
  • If the vessel in build is being towed on the water a special extension is usually required to insure this activity.

  • The premium for this Section is based on a combination of the maximum completion value of an in-build vessel and the maximum value of vessels in-build at any one time.

  • 3. Marine Third Party Liability: This insurance is an extension of the Vessels Section and covers your legal liabilities in respect of your interest in or use of your vessels by your skipper and crew. The usual limit of indemnity provided is £3,000,000 but higher levels of cover can be purchased where required.

Policy Conditions, Exclusions and Warranties

As detailed above, policy conditions and exclusions will vary from insurer to insurer. Even if you are purchasing your policy by telephone you should always ask your provider to go through them with you in addition to any warranties that will have been imposed. There are significant differences between each of these:

  • Conditions: Policy conditions basically set out a code of conduct you’re your business and also outline duties and obligations required for cover to be in effect. If policy conditions are not met, the insurer can deny a claim specific to that condition.

  • Eg. A theft from a business premises is discovered and not reported to the insurer for a month. If there is a policy condition that all losses must be reported within 7 days, the insurer could refuse to pay the claim.

  • Exclusions: An exclusion actually removes cover from the insurance policy.

  • Eg. Boats are excluded from the Goods in Transit Section of a Marine Trades Policy unless an endorsement is put into effect.

  • Warranties: A policy warranty is an instruction by the insurer that must be carried out by the insured. For example, the business may be warranted to work on vessels worth no more than £500,000. In such a case, if the business worked on a more valuable vessel then it would be in breach of warranty.

  • The breach of a warranty by a business would enable an insurer to void the whole policy. In the above example, if the business owner suffered a theft of outboard engines, the insurer could void the policy on the grounds that the business had breached a warranty – even though that warranty was totally unrelated to the theft.

  • As you can see, warranties can potentially have a huge impact on your business. You should ensure your insurance provider goes through each warranty with you and explains what it means. Insurers can impose a warranty for just about anything – some common examples are below (the list is by no means comprehensive):

  • Compliance with Flammable Liquids & LPG Regulations.
  • No paint or GRP Spraying.
  • Automatic fire alarms to be tested weekly.
  • Fire extinguishers to be professionally inspected annually.
  • Fireproof doors to remain closed during working hours.
  • All stock to be kept at least 15cm off floor
  • Waste & dirty cloths to be kept in metal bins.
  • Waste bins to be kept outside premises out of working hours.
  • Intruder alarm to be set whenever premises is unoccupied.
  • Electrical circuits to be inspected within 30 days of policy inception.
  • Cash registers to be left empty & open when premises closed.
  • Vehicles to be fitted with immobilisers and alarms.
  • Premises to be inspected daily.
  • No artificial heating to be used on premises.
  • Machinery only to be running when premises is occupied.
  • No flammable liquids to be kept on premises.
  • Moorings to be lifted & inspected at least annually.
  • Terms of trade to incorporate BMF Terms of Business.
  • No work carried out on commercial vessels
  • Trailers to be secured with a wheelclamp whilst unattended.
  • Vessel not be let out for hire or reward.
  • Vessel will not tow or be towed

  • British Marine Federation (BMF) Terms of Business

  • Most Marine Trade policies warrant that you operate under BMF Terms of Business. You do not have to be a member of the BMF to use their terms. The essential point from an insurance aspect is that you ensure all your customers insure their own boats. This is a crucial factor that defines the mechanics of how your Public Liability insurance works and how it differs from non-Marine commercial insurance policies.

  • If you have a customer’s boat, outboard etc in your custody or control and it is lost or damaged due to your negligence, your legal liabilities in respect of the property are covered under the Public Liability Section of your Marine Trade policy.

  • This cover would not be provided on a non-Marine policy as legal liability in respect of goods in custody or control is specifically excluded. To insure these items you would have to procure specific insurance which, as leisurecraft and associated equipment are very expensive, would be financially prohibitive for a business to purchase.

Other Insurances for your Marine Trades Insurance Programme

Directors & Officers Liability Insurance (Management Protection)

Modern legislation now means company directors can now be sued as individuals in respect of their decisions and actions as directors or managers of businesses. The duties of company directors are established in law and include the following areas of responsibility:

  • Duty of Care: Directors are required to act with ‘the care an ordinary man would take in the same circumstances on his own behalf’ and with the skill expected from someone with his ‘particular knowledge and experience’. Where duties are delegated the Director is responsible for ensuring that the person to whom the duties are delegated is sufficiently experienced, reliable and honest.

  • Fiduciary Duty: Directors must act honestly, in good faith and in the best interest of the company and must ensure they do not have any conflict of interest.

  • Statutory Duty: Company directors are legally bound by legislation such as the Companies Act 1985, Insolvency Act 1986, Financial Services Act 1986, Environmental Protection Act 1990, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

How Can Claims Arise?

Whilst public bodies such as the Health & Safety Executive can prosecute directors if they are perceived to have failed to comply with their statutory duties, claims could also arise from numerous third parties such as employees, creditors, customers or suppliers.

With the number of employees injured at work increasing by over 100,000 in 2010 and lawyers able to act on a “No-Win, No-Fee” basis, directors appear to be more exposed than ever.

What Are The Financial Implications of a Claim? Directors will be personally liable for meeting the cost of legal expenses as well as any damages awards, fines or penalties. This means assets such as their cars, houses, stocks and money could be lost. Companies are prohibited from indemnifying their directors in the event of their insolvency.

How Can Directors & Officers Liability Insurance Help?

Whilst a D&O policy will not cover any fines against directors it will cover the cost of defending a prosecution until the point when guilt is established. This could potentially save tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds of an individual’s assets in legal expenses. A D&O policy can also cover awards for damages and legal expenses made against directors in civil cases.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

If you give advice, conduct surveys or inspections for a fee, your legal liabilities in respect of these activities are excluded on your Marine Trade policy. A stand-alone Professional Indemnity policy will fill the gap in your insurance cover.

Tractor & “Special Types” Insurance

Tractors and other special type vehicles which are road-registered are excluded from standard public liability policies, as are many unregistered vehicles, if travelling on, or crossing, public highways. This may also apply to areas where the public have access such as ports, harbours and boatyards. Types of vehicles that fit into this class are: Tractors, Cranes, Fork Lifts, Cherrypickers, Boat Lifts and other self-propelled mobile plant.

Third Party insurance is compulsory and a failure to have this basic cover is considered one of the most serious offences. A substantial fine and disqualification are amongst the recommended penalties.

Driving uninsured (or allowing your employees to do so) is an absolute offence which means there is no discretionary defence available, ie the vehicle is either insured or it is not. If, for any reason it is not insured, the offence is committed.

Without insurance your business and your personal assets are at risk from potentially huge compensation claims being made against you

Comprehensive Road Risks insurance in for tractors and “Special Types” is available at very competitive rates from your specialist broker.

Summary

Modern businesses need modern insurance programmes. Cutting cover to cut costs is not the solution. Your 9-point step to getting the right cover for your business at the best available premium is:

1. Choose an independent specialist broker.

2. Ask them what they can offer you in terms of support in the event of a claim.

3. Ask them to visit you to look over your business.

4. Ensure you fully disclose all relevant information about your business

5. Accurately assess the value of your premises & property and the levels of your turnover, payroll and gross profit.

6. Request 3 quotations.

7. Ensure you have all conditions, exclusions, warranties explained to you verbally – a written summary is not sufficient.

8. If you think some of the exclusions or warranties are unreasonable then ask your broker to negotiate their removal.

9. Finally, negotiate the best premium you can get from your appointed broker.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute specific advice or recommendation to any individual or business. Individuals and businesses should seek the advice of an appropriately authorised and regulated insurance broker or intermediary.

Save Money by Comparing Cheap Car Insurance Quotes Online

If you love comparing cheap car insurance quotes online, raise your hand.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way let’s get to the real brass tacks. There are very few drivers who actually enjoy the process of assembling car insurance quotes and comparing them side-by-side. Yet at the same time, if you expect to get the best deal possible it is an absolute requirement. Simply believing the television announcer talking about how much you can save is not going to cut it. You need to do the work necessary to get the best price possible.

To get started, use a free quote tool like the one found on this website. Just enter your ZIP code and any other information it asks for, then sit back and wait for your results. It won’t be long before you have a list of companies you can begin comparing. While you’re sitting here, click on a couple of direct links that will take you to some of the most well-known car insurance companies, then fill out their quote forms as well.

Time to Compare

Some insurance companies will provide a full quote online while others would prefer to call and talk to you first. Either way, once you have three or four quotes in hand it’s time to sit down and compare them. The first thing you’ll want to look at is minimum liability coverage.

Minimum liability is a requirement in all 50 states so there’s no way of getting around it. You’ll probably find that among all the companies you’re comparing the rates for minimum liability are approximately the same. The only exception might be a policy that includes higher limits than what is mandated by law. If you don’t know what’s required by your state you can find that information online

After you get past the minimum liability you’ll then be looking at extra coverage’s such as collision insurance, comprehensive insurance, and gap coverage. Be sure to look at the limits and deductibles for each type of coverage. You might even do a cost-to-benefit ratio based on your annual deductibles.

Consider What You’re Willing to Lose

Finally, once you’ve crunched all the numbers in your comparison, consider how much financial risk you’re willing to assume. The last part of this equation usually is the kicker for most people in deciding the best policy for them. If you’re willing to lose a significant portion of the value of your car you might consider the cheapest policy with the least coverage. On the other hand, if you’re not willing to take a significant financial risk you’ll probably choose the most comprehensive policy with the highest price tag.

This is how comparing cheap car insurance quotes online works. It’s not a difficult process by any stretch of imagination, but it does require willingness on your part to go through the paperwork and run the numbers — regardless of how tedious it might be.

How Commercial Insurance Price Comparison Sites Compare Business Insurance Quotes

You may think that one commercial insurance price comparison site is much the same as another. Some people swear by them, others cannot stand them but not all price comparison sites are the same. There are two distinct types and each has its own benefits, advantages and disadvantages.

This is why different businesses and commercial enterprises have very different user experiences, depending upon which type of comparison or price aggregator site they have visited. They may well prefer one brand comparison site over another, purely because they prefer the way that particular brand’s website works and this often has nothing to do with the quotes it returns.

In order to understand the large differences it is necessary to get under the bonnet and look at the anatomy of a commercial insurance price comparison website’s internal engine.

Inside a Commercial Insurance comparison

Leaving aside the prices quoted which are subjective and variable, the major factor that differentiates price comparison sites user experiences, is the location of the rating and underwriting engine that produces the quotes.

This engine is the rules based logic that produces the commercial insurance quotes you see in your browser. It can be either local with centralised processing, or remote with what is known as distributed processing.

Centralised comparisons hold all the commercial insurance policy and rating information local to the web server where a prospective businessman can compare quotes.

Distributed comparisons have to visit each insurance company or business insurance broker website to retrieve quotes and all the policy information which is then displayed on the comparison website. Distributed processing comparison websites are known a ‘Scraper sites’ because they scrape data from the fields of one form and pass it into equivalent form fields at a remote web server.

When someone visits a commercial or business insurance comparison website, they will initially be asked what type of cover they require for their business. For example a shop or office policy or perhaps just simple public liability cover. Commercial insurance is particularly difficult to underwrite, so the type of policies that are available on Internet tend to be packages where blanket levels of cover can be offered, in order to be suitable for the widest range of business activity and customers.

However all commercial risks have some common elements such as levels of cover required, which need to be captured in order to auto-rate and make comparisons. These are called rating factors.

Comparison Screens

The user is next presented with a screen that has been tailored to ask specific questions that are necessary to rate the chosen commercial insurance. Both types of comparison website offer variations on a theme for data capture, however both will use a typical form that requires filling.

As a businessman completes the online application form, the data entered requires validation. The values entered need to fit standardised parameters and exclude all those businesses that do not fit this standardisation. This is achieved by limiting the choice of the user. For example, the comparison site when asking the applicant to describe their business activities or trade type, will only present to the user the businesses and trades it can quote for, in the form of a drop down list.

Centralised processing comparisons are much more likely to do all the policy and underwriting criteria validation on the front-end form, with for example validation of postcodes, addresses, eligible business types, and numerical validation on sums insured. The centralised comparison system uses Javascript and calls to local tables This gives the system a very quick user experience and assures that the system can return a range of quotes for the prospective business. It also allows the system the provide as much data about available polices before the quotation process is complete, because it knows as the form is being filled out, what policies offer what covers for each of the questions asked.

Conversely, scraper processing sites need to feed data into the screen fields on a variety of remote websites, all which tend to require varying details and user input, in various sequential orders. Scraper sites therefore need to ask many more questions in order to be able to try to satisfy as many rating factors and underwriting rules required for as many different competing companies. The complexity of a commercial insurance policy often requires certain information that you cannot ask for later in the process.

Rating

When all the information has been collected, the data is sent to the rating logic to calculate the rates and premiums.

Trade, Turnover and other factors provided by the user about the business are used by the system to define coverage, policy clauses, excesses and limits of indemnity, which can be returned to the user as part of a quote offer.

Rating tables are held online either locally for a centralised rating system or on the remote websites for scraper style distributed rating. The premium price is calculated from the values of the rating factors provided by the user when compared against the online tables. The actual rating factors vary depending upon the type of commercial insurance policy being applied for, suffice to say that if the system is asked to provide quotes for commercial property cover, the risk address postcode will be used to define the theft rate and flood rate, which combined with the rate for the risks of fire for the trade concerned, will produce a rate for the property perils risk. Rates for commercial property, for example, are usually expressed as percentages per hundred pounds of sum insured.

Processing

It is at this point in the process that the differences in the two types of comparison site become apparent to the user.

When a comparison rating engine sat on a local server, processing is much faster. A locally rated panel will return quotes commercial insurance quotes and covers instantly. The system has all it needs at hand to calculate premiums and also return comprehensive policy comparisons of cover and risk options in micro-seconds.

A scraper site however will consist of extensive ‘middleware’ processing, which inevitably slows down the process. The role of this ‘in the middle’ software is to communicate with the remote websites where the rates are held, and pass all the users details. It then needs to collect the quotes and associated data coming back from the broker or insurance company server and structure and order it into a webpage that shows a price comparison.

The process may take a few minutes when multiple business insurance providers are being asked to quote. The upside is that distributed processing scraper sites generally compare far more policies or companies offerings and more often than not, will return many more quotes. If you can be prepared to wait! You have to wait for the processing to complete on the remote brokers servers and for the quotes, excesses, and terms and conditional clauses to be returned to the comparison website..

Distributed processing comparison sites may have a lot more companies competing and returning quotes, although this does not necessarily mean more choice of commercial insurance. Quite often they are offering the same product from the same company, the only variance being a price differential.

Offering too much choice can also have its downside and create technical and promotional problems. Many of the smaller brokers offering more specialist business insurance propositions, have joined large, well-known brand name commercial insurance comparison sites that employ the scraper methodology. However they often complain that they do not have the server processing power to be able to handle a flood of multi-stringed requests for remote underwriting and processing and by time the quotes are returned to the comparison site, the user has already been offered perhaps thirty or more policy propositions and gone elsewhere.

Comparing Business insurance Quotes

After all the processing has been completed the quotes are presented to the user, usually in order of cheapest first.

Both types of quote and policy comparison site allow the user to compare prices and premiums quoted, however only the centralised sites allow in-depth policy comparisons and to make changes to the original data entered.

Locally centralised comparisons allow the user to compare premiums and also adjust the propositions, add or remove covers and tailor a policy to a particular business needs.

Scraper sites do not allow this as they require all the information beforehand and demand that the user chooses any options or additional covers before the quotation process.

In this sense they only provide a range of premium prices and attached policy conditions for the user to choose from. The scraper sites make no provision to compare policy covers, whereas a centralised local processing comparison site will have all the information to hand for a complete policy and cover comparison. These features are not available for a comparison site that uses remote underwriting. In order to do this it is necessary for the user to visit each individual site, make the adjustments and return to the comparison site to compare quotes, before repeating the process, which is obviously very time-consuming.

Security should be a concern for all those using commercial insurance comparison websites. Although all comparison sites use secure servers and SSL sockets for transmitting the information supplied about the business, by its very nature a centralised processing site will be more secure. With scraper sites your details are being passed around possibly to up to fifty or more different sites around the web, each which could be compromised at any stage of the data transmission, including payment. Furthermore passing your details to fifty companies is effectively adding your business details to fifty mailing lists.

In summary, the user experience is much faster and more informative for businessmen seeking to compare commercial insurance quotes if they use a centralised price comparison website where everything is in one place. Better deals may be had from a distributed processing scraper site, however the process is long-winded with too many questions and too much waiting time. Too often insufficient policy information is returned with the quotes for the prospective buyer to make an informed decision about which business insurance product to purchase.