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Should Your Agency Rely on a Carrier Portal to Access a Policy?

What is an agency’s responsibility or best practice regarding maintaining an electronic copy of the full policy document in their agency management system?
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should your agency rely on a carrier portal to access a policy?

Q: With the increase in carriers providing policies directly to insureds and agencies' ability to simply download a policy from carriers, what is an agency's responsibility or best practice regarding maintaining an electronic copy of the full policy document in their agency management system (AMS)? 

Is it appropriate to never have the policy document in an AMS and depend on the carriers' portals to access a policy? Or is it better to always obtain the full policy document and keep it in the AMS?

Response 1: Errors & omissions classes always suggest keeping all carrier forms and endorsements in an AMS so that if an issue arises and the carrier has already replaced the policy or endorsement in question, you have what was used on your system. This is particularly important in dealing with carriers that make their own forms, use older forms or endorsements, or use forms or endorsements that contain a statement along the lines of “Contains Copyrighted Material of..."

Response 2: Download policies and keep them with your customer records so that you can check the policies for accuracy and have them readily available to review with the clients when making changes and coverage recommendations. 

It is disturbing that agency staff are not checking policies and are unable to discuss coverage with the clients or provide policy forms and endorsements. Carriers sending policies to clients directly has reduced the professionalism of agencies. This doesn't serve the client well and results in more E&O claims that arise, in part, from a lack of policy knowledge.

Response 3: It is up to the organization. I've dealt with asbestos claims from the '80s where we were asked by the insurer to provide the policy forms after the state's statutory requirement for the carrier to retain the forms had long expired. I feel better when the agency retains forms instead of relying on the insurer. 

Response 4: The agency must maintain all policy records related to all policy documents and coverages. Relying upon the carrier is an open door to an E&O claim.

I would recommend that the agency accept the download and then transmit it to the client. This allows you to review the policy, which is your responsibility as a professional. We live in a digital world and we must endorse the capabilities provided by the touch of a keyboard.

Response 5: An agency needs access to the forms but not an attachment of every single form in their own system. Surplus forms should be maintained in the agency system. Forms that are accessible at the carrier site or at the client's portal should not be kept in the AMS as attachments. 

What is even more important is that your AMS database is complete with all client info, coverage detail, and optional endorsements, as well as losses, updates, and activity documentation.

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and any opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s). The article is provided “as is" with no warranties or representations of any kind, and any liability is disclaimed that is in any way connected to reliance on or use of the information contained therein. The article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal or other professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for obtaining such advice. If specific expert advice is required or desired, the services of an appropriate, competent professional, such as an attorney or accountant, should be sought.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Agency Operations & Best Practices