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California Dreaming: Insuring contractors’ complex risk more completely
January 21, 2020
Micah Eubanks has big dreams for 2020. A 20-year insurance industry veteran, Micah joined AXA XL as senior underwriter for primary casualty on the North America Construction team in June 2019, joining AXA XL’s Los Angeles office. Now, with six plus months under her belt here, she’s eager to help contractors make the most of their business plans for 2020, helping them manage some very complex risks issues and tackle their insurance needs, more completely. Here she explains more.
Where do you see your biggest opportunities to serve contractors in the Southwest?
Micah: We are seeing plenty of opportunities to extend our reach to help contractors throughout the region protect their profitability, people and equipment, as well as their reputation.
We’ve been offering some of the nation’s largest and risk-conscious contractors a more complete coverage solution. Given our capacity and extensive product portfolio, we are very well equipped to help large general contractors, especially those involved with heavy civil, street and road, and industrial commercial construction.
While my main underwriting focus is helping contractors build a strong primary casualty program, including general liability, workers comp and commercial auto, I also work closely with our other product underwriters, collaborating with them to completely address our clients’ insurance needs -- from Excess to Professional and Pollution, from Builder’s Risk to Inland marine.
We match up best with contractors that value Claims and Safety services to support their programs. Our Claims and Risk Engineering team are experts in the Construction field and aim to partner with our clients to provide the best services tailored to our clients’ needs. In addition, while we’ve historically worked with accounts that retain some risk in the form of a Large Deductible or Self-Insured Retention, we are, where it makes most sense for our clients, also open to writing Guaranteed Cost programs.
In today’s business environment, what are today’s contractors most concerned about?
Contractors today are dealing with a lot of complex risk management issues. Among the issues they are dealing with are slim profit margins, a qualified talent shortage, and an aging workforce. And, the construction industry is not immune to today’s challenging legal environment, especially with regard to workers comp and auto claim verdicts and related litigation. Increased awards and verdicts lead to increased experience modifications, increased premiums and reduced capacity across the industry. This can have a big impact on contractors. For instance, their ability to bid projects can be hindered by insufficient coverage or loss experience.
How are you helping your clients navigate in this environment?
The pricing and capacity challenge in the Auto market is a good example. The combined ratio for Auto across the market has been unfavorable, resulting in rate increases year after year. At AXA XL, we focus on an individual client’s safety culture and loss mitigation efforts (defensive driver training, MVR screening, telematics usage, etc.) and provide terms accordingly rather than a “one rate fits all” approach.
Additionally, oftentimes we see a disparity between new business pricing and renewal business pricing among other carriers. We just don’t operate that way. We aim to be consistent with rate need and pricing on both new business and renewal business. The same can be said for coverage terms (exceptions made for some and not others, or terms changing each year), as well as frequent changes to appetite. Hands down, I believe AXA XL team is better than most when it comes to consistency in pricing, appetite and coverage.
Overall, construction risks pose a high hazard for losses. This is just the nature of the business – from working from heights, underground and traffic exposure, shortage of quality labor force in some areas, to construction defect – losses are expected. Contractors need to have the right coverage in place to respond to a loss and have a service team in place to help reduce claim payouts when they do happen. At AXA XL, we take pride in our construction expertise and coverage to be there for our clients when they need us the most – ultimately positively impacting their bottom line.
What more can you tell us about your approach to doing business?
To me, building and maintaining strong relationships is paramount. Let’s face it – people like to do business with those they have a good relationship with. They appreciate it when people understand them and they value working with those they trust and can rely on to help in a time of need. My focus is to build that trust by demonstrating expertise, following through on promises and being responsive. All of this takes time – time that I am committed to investing.
With my many years of experience in construction underwriting and claims, I appreciate both the broker’s needs and as well as the contractor’s insurance needs. Additionally, I understand the importance of loss prevention and keeping employees safe while keeping costs down. I also know how important it is to be reliable, creative, trustworthy, and responsive – this combination can often mean the difference in a contractor winning a bid or not. In my years of experience, I have found that by doing all of these things, intentionally and consistently, results in strong professional relationships.
You’ve spent most of your career working in construction. Why?
While my career started in claims, I moved to underwriting, where I spent most of my time specifically focused on construction risks.
Watching a Contractor’s project from start to finish is really exciting! I love seeing the final product of a Contractor’s hard work. When we’re able to partner with a Contractor for their insurance needs on that project, it feels as if we’re part of the team!
I also love the challenge of finding the right coverage solution for a client. No two contractors are exactly the same. Getting to know a contractor’s operations and exposure, then developing a creative solution is the fun part of working in Construction!
There’s such a sense of ownership; I’ve never seen anything like it in any other industry. Contractors care deeply about their clients, their employees and their craft. I’ve worked with children who have taken on the business from their parents, who took it on from their parents, growing a small successful business into big successful business. It’s just really a great example of the American Dream.
When you’re not helping construction firms manage risk, what do you like to do?
My whole family is heavily into sports. We truly love all sports, but especially English Premier League Football (Sorry LA Galaxy!).
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes. Let’s talk. I want to hear about the challenges you’re facing, whether they’re fairly straightforward or really complex or somewhere in between. Let’s sit down together explore how the AXA XL team and I can help you.