From the Front Lines: Professional Liability

J_Nelson

Jerry B. Nelson

Senior Vice President, Professional Liability
Bridgepoint Risk Management
Akron, Ohio

How did you get started at your agency?

I got started in the business in 1980 when I was looking for something to do after law school. My wife’s father was quite helpful in giving me some direction. He introduced me to several different professionals, including his insurance broker. Because of my law background, I had a real affinity for the insurance business.

That was a local agency, several jobs ago. Later, I was introduced to an agency on the other side of the state that was very strong in life-health. By that point, most of my connections were property-casualty agents—at one point, I was an MGA for a lawyers and accountants professional liability firm. I had the right background, and one thing led to another—I’ve been with them since 2010. I run professional liability operations.

Why professional liability?

It’s really a significant portion of most business owners’ portfolios. It seems to touch everyone’s business in one way or another.

Biggest professional liability changes?

When I first started, there was no miscellaneous professional liability policy per se. Compared to the capacity that’s out there today, it was a very small market with very few participants. Now, with the nature of claims-made business, first with employment practices in the mid-90s and now because of #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein, it’s a very trying area to say the least. On top of that, cyber liability is just imploding, as well.

Greatest professional liability challenges?

There are too many agents out there who are still selling on price and hoping the gaps they have instituted because they don’t know the market will not develop into claims situations. Risk management should be your motivation for solving a client’s problem.

Future of professional liability?

I don’t foresee any let-up or diminishing activity from a litigation standpoint going forward. If anything, this country is getting more litigious than ever—more willing to threaten or start the process of going to court to resolve dispute. Because of that, not only disciplines like medicine, architecture, law, design and financial areas, but the whole commercial landscape—real estate, IT—can expect professional liability issues.

Professional liability advice for a fellow agent?

You must become more expert on the policy forms and be able to clearly tie in the need to a specific professional discipline. You really have to combine the client service with the technical side of the policy.

Favorite professional liability success story?

A very close friend of mine who was a very influential CPA said, “Jerry, you really need to specialize in accountants professional liability.” At that point, there was one national association program, limits were very tight, but the major provider had a stranglehold on the market. And I told him, “Leave me alone—I’m doing fine, thank you.”

But he didn’t leave me alone—he pushed me into specializing in accountants professional liability. As a result, I became a real expert and developed exclusive relationships, both from underwriting and distribution standpoint.

Will Jones is IA assistant editor.