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Insurance Tips for a Merry Christmas Season

By: Dan Reith
Principal Broker
Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

2020 has given us much to remember. With the Christmas holiday season fast approaching it will be important to experience it with as many warm and positive memories as we can. To that end, let us not lose sight of some simple tactics that will prevent you from adding holiday misfortune to your 2020 memory wall.

With respect to your automobile consider:

  • When shopping, place valuables in the trunk keeping seats, drink holders and open trays clear of anything of value. In the absence of a trunk, hatch-backs and mini vans, place items in a covered container or cover with a blanket.
  • Lock your car! Whether at home, in the lane or garage, or any public parking lot, this will reduce the risk of it being stolen and the loss of any personal property stored in your car.
  • Drive with due care and control no matter the weather or how rushed you are! Black ice, too much snow, not enough salt on the road or the driver in front of you who suddenly slammed on their brakes are not excuses for you to avoid being charged for an at fault loss. We suggest giving yourself extra time to get to your destination to ensure your safe arrival.
  • Be alert! Just because you are obeying the rules of the road does not mean everyone else around you is.
  • Stop texting, stop talking on the phone, and set that coffee cup down and put your snack away! Driving requires attention, especially more so in the winter adverse conditions. More than ample studies have proved driver distraction is the root cause of many fatal accidents.
  • Take a moment, and ensure your vehicle is prepared for winter driving before the snow hits. Ensure it is mechanically ready for winter, you have equipped your vehicle with a winter safety kit and the snow tires that you have installed are in sound condition.
  • While it should go without saying, but too many still forget, holiday season or not DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! If you drink; take a cab, stay over-night or find a ride home with a sober driver.

With respect to your home:

  • If you are celebrating the season with a real tree, ensure they are kept well watered and not placed in front of a heat source. Shut off the lights and electronic ornaments when not at home or out of the room for a prolonged period. Drying trees can lead to a total fire loss of your home in less than 3 minutes!
  • While candles do lend a seasonal scent to air and help to remove cooking odors, they are still a leading cause of house fires. Do not leave candles unattended or place them close to flammable fabrics. Always extinguish them when leaving a room for a prolonged period or leaving the house.
  • Do not leave items on the stove or in the oven unattended. It is common to find yourself short of an ingredient and make a quick trip to the grocery store without properly turning off your appliances. Keep a residential fire extinguisher near the stove, along with baking soda. Either can be used to quickly should a small fire flare up on the element.
  • Lock your home. When not at home ensure all doors and windows are locked. Do not display wrapped or unwrapped gifts near open windows. When goods are visible the home can be a greater target. Use your alarm if your home is equipped with one. Over 58% of all home robberies occur through the front door.  
  • Take steps to secure windows and doors so they cannot be pried open from the outside.
  • Ensure exterior lights are working, and on a timer, so that doorways and large windows are lit at night. Do not sacrifice safety for home decoration. Build safety into your decorating plan.
  • If traveling, have your driveway and pathways shoveled to appear someone is home. Place your lights on timers; rotate throughout the house to mimic your usual pattern of light usage throughout the day and evening. This includes festive outdoor light displays. Be sure to cancel newspaper subscriptions, to avoid build up of papers at the front doors, a clear sign that no one is home. Maintain the heat of your home at a minimum and drain water from all lines/pipes before you leave. Have a neighbor, friend or family member collect mail on a daily basis again to prevent build up during your absence. Whoever is checking in on your home leave them with your contact information but also the contact numbers for your insurance provider should a claim need to be reported. It is best it be reported sooner rather than later. This will allow for any damage to be taken care of immediately mitigating the possibility of further loss.

With respect to shopping consider:

  • Christmas shopping season is ideal for identity theft. Keep track of all credit card and debit card receipts, and shred. To maintain control of your personal information, restrict all gift purchases to only one credit card and reconcile your charges against your receipts. Ensure that your anti-virus and malware is current and up to date before you do your on-line shopping.
  • Doing your holiday shopping on-line? Expecting packages to be delivered to your home? Do not leave them unattended. Only use home delivery when someone is there to receive the package. Track your shipments and plan your absence from home accordingly. Alternatively, use an address where there is someone available throughout the business day such as your office or a post-box facility or another family member.
  • If buying goods on-line and taking delivery from private individuals, do NOT attend their homes for pick up and DO NOT invite them to your home for delivery. Meet in a well-attended public place such as the parking lot of a coffee shop. Better still, St. Thomas Police Services offers a public area for just this purpose in their parking lot. Plan to make exchanges there during the day. 
  • Lastly, protect yourself! When shopping ladies, make certain your handbag is zipped closed and cell phones secured within. Gentlemen, if you must carry a wallet put it in your front pant pocket not your back pocket. It is much easier for someone to steal it from the back.

These tips are just a few things you and your family can employ to make your holiday experiences safe, happy, and memorable, and reduce your chance for loss. For more detailed information and specific tactics contact your insurance provider, St. Thomas Police Services, OPP and/or your local fire department.

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Managing Your Post-Covid-19 Reputation

By: Dan Reith
Principal Broker
Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupting businesses, both small and large, across the globe. Businesses have had to drastically adjust their operations.

Once the threat of the coronavirus declines, your business may be ready to open up and return to normal operations. Whether your business had to close its doors or you had to set up your employees to work remotely, it’s important to recognize the global pandemic and continue protecting your company’s reputation.

Why Is Your Reputation Important?

Many companies focus on handling reputation threats that have already happened. That is not reputation management. That is crisis management, a reactive approach to limit the damage that’s already been done. It’s important to focus on a proactive approach to mitigate reputational risks before they become a problem.

Simply put, your brand reputation is how the general public—including customers and employees—sees you, thinks of you and talks about you. It’s word of mouth.

How your business has previously responded to the coronavirus and how you move forward can play a big role in public perception and employee recruitment. As much as a good reputation is vital in driving business, it can also reinforce employees’ commitment to the company. That commitment leads to confidence and trust in the company. Employees are the face of the company, and engaged employees can be your best promoters.

How Can Your Reputation Be Affected?

There’s no denying that this global pandemic is changing how people think, behave and consume information. Since we live in a digital age, customers and prospective employees have many channels available to them as they search for and discover information about companies. A good reputation means that a business is more credible than its competitors. Reputation is all about public perception—even if it’s not factual.

There’s a need to be proactive, as reputational risk often strikes without warning. Here are some common online channels to monitor:

  • Business review websites
  • Social media
  • News releases and articles
  • Blog posts
  • Forums
  • Competitor websites

People will talk about your company regardless of whether you have an online presence. But, if you’re not online or monitoring channels, there’s no way for you to discover what’s being said, and you may risk even bigger reputation problems.

Best Practices

As everyone is coming out of lockdown and business slowly returns to normal, consider the following best practices to keep staff motivated and your reputation unharmed:

  • Put your employees first—First and foremost, keep in mind the health, safety and well-being of employees when making business decisions. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a collective loss of normalcy. Returning to work may be part of the normal that people are longing for, so continue supporting them and checking in to see how things are going. As you protect your company brand from COVID-19 implications, current employees can be the main drivers of your reputation.
  • Follow government advice—If your team has been working remotely due to shelter-at-home orders, the first topic your company needs to address is when to reopen the office. Employers should be looking to their local health departments and government for guidance on when to return to the office.
  • Prioritize safety—Along with ethical reasons, employers have a legal duty to make sure they provide a safe workplace. Considerations include testing, social distancing, personal protective equipment, sick leave policies and business travel guidelines.
  • Keep communication open and honest—Internal communications can help keep employees calm and reduce stress levels. Everyone’s been dealing with much uncertainty. There’s a need to communicate with employees openly, honestly and frequently. The same goes for external audiences like customers and partners. Go with what’s authentic for your company, whether that’s regular updates, or tips and tricks to stay safe. This is a good time to reinforce transparency. Keep communication accurate by leaning on credible sources.
  • Ask for feedback and answer questions—People may be scared and have a lot of questions. Create an open channel or a way for stakeholders to submit questions. Answer them as soon as you can, and provide the responses to everyone. If one person asked it, there are probably more who are wondering the same thing. An open line of communication is key to establishing trust.
  • Reach out to industry partners—Chances are your industry partners are in similar situations. Share information and work together with your industry regulators and influencers to move forward. Consider partnerships that could help your customers or employees.
  • Be a thought leader—While reputation may be defined by what others say about you, it is also defined by what a brand says. If it’s appropriate and authentic for your company, identify a business leader who can publicly address impacts of COVID-19 on your industry or customers.
  • Give back—On a similar note, give back to your community if you’re able to. A little bit of kindness can go a long way during these times.

Be Prepared

As everyone moves into life on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for companies to come out of it with their positive reputation intact and be known for being caring. Businesses seen responding positively to the COVID-19 pandemic are more likely to survive and thrive.

If an issue or crisis does arise, the quicker you respond to and fix any problems within your control, the better off you’ll be. For more information on managing your reputation after the coronavirus pandemic, contact Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited today.

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Social Engineering Scams and Remote Workers

By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB

Principal Broker

Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

When the global covid-19 pandemic sent our country into lock-down many workers were sent to work remotely from home.  For many the notion of cyber threats may not have been a concern, given the locked down and office displacement was only originally intended to be a short-term need.  Many months later, while most of our province is in Phase 3 of re-opening, despite the threat of a second waive and a possible return to lockdowns, many are still working remotely and here is where the problem lies.

According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS), cybercriminals have increased their attempts to identify and exploit individuals working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Cybercriminals view remote workers as ripe for exploit due to the fact that many individuals are relatively inexperienced with remote working. What’s more, home networks are generally less secure than those at the workplace.

Many cybercriminals are using social engineering strategies to exploit vulnerabilities in remote workers. Social engineering is the act of accessing information, physical places, systems, data, property or money by using psychological methods, rather than technical methods or brute force. Social engineering scams rely on exploiting psychological weaknesses and blind spots in order to convince victims to give social engineers what they want. These scams are common and are especially dangerous as remote work becomes more widespread.

Common Social Engineering Scams

There are many different types of social engineering scams, each utilizing different strategies to prey on people’s curiosity and trust. Some of the most common social engineering scams include:

  • Phishing is when a cybercriminal attempts to obtain valuable information by tricking people into visiting a fake website or clicking a link that installs malware. This is typically done via email or text message. While phishing may be used to target specific individuals, such as a person of authority at an organization, it is often a mass untargeted attack.
  • Baiting is the offer of a reward (e.g., a monetary prize or discount) for taking a course of action, such as clicking on a link. Baiting can also be a physical attack. For instance, a malicious party might leave a USB marked “confidential” in public, hoping someone will find it and plug it into their computer. Once plugged in, the USB could install malware or other malicious software.
  • Quid pro quo involves a seemingly legitimate exchange wherein the targeted person believes they are receiving a good deal. For example, a malicious party may identify themselves as an IT consultant offering a technical service in exchange for login details.
  • Pretexting is when someone impersonates a known co-worker or authority figure in an attempt to gain access to secure information.

How to Reduce the Risk of Social Engineering Scams

Fortunately, many social engineering scams can be prevented through these simple cybersecurity practices:

  • Training—Train your employees to watch out for messages with odd text formatting from unknown or unusual sources. Something that seems legitimate at a glance often fails to hold up under scrutiny.
  • Reinforce security—Stress the importance of never giving out logins or other valuable company information to an unidentified third party. Employees should never click links or visit web pages that they are unfamiliar with.
  • Update software—Keep all software updated with the latest security features.
  • Encourage teamwork—Encourage employees to contact the IT department if they receive a message that they believe might be a scam.
  • Review insurance—Review your cyber insurance policy to ensure that your organization is covered in the event of a cyberattack.  A sad reality is the majority of Canadian SME’s do not carry sufficient cyber insurance and rely merely on the basic limited extensions available under their general property and liability policy.  Like any form of cover, cyber can restrictive or robust.  No 2 policies provide identical coverage and price does reflect quality and depth of coverage.  It is a fools errand to think you got “the same coverage” for less money.  Have a knowledgeable cyber insurance professional review and help you select the right cover for your business.

To assess your exposure to cyber crime, check out our Cyber Risk Exposure Score card, available on through our website– and from the Why Choose Us drop down menu, click on “REITH TOOLS” and download our Cyber Risk Exposure Score card.  It is an ideal tool when completed to review with your IT provider and your cyber insurance provider to determine where holes can be filled with existing technology and them insurance.    

Contact Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited today at 519-631-3862 to learn more about how you can protect yourself from cyber threats and to discuss your current coverage.

Nikki Johnson No Comments

Navigating the “Hard” Market

  • By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB
  • Principal Broker
  • Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

The insurance industry is in a phase commonly referred to as a “hard” market. As industry experts closely monitor the market, the state of the insurance industry continues to fluctuate. This can be confusing for business owners trying to forecast future insurance costs while experts try to project whether insurance premiums will rise and by how much.

What is clear is that risk management, loss control and safety continue to be crucial to the success of any business insurance package, regardless of market conditions. Now is a good time to evaluate your business’s risk management plan as a whole to ensure your business can attain favorable pricing regardless of market conditions.

What a Hardening Market Means for Your Business

During times of a soft market, like the past few years, business owners see cost reductions in their organization’s insurance premiums, even without a reduction in their risk. As a result, business owners are often unwilling to spend time and resources on loss control and risk management because they already see their insurance premiums dropping. This reduction in pricing is deceptive, setting businesses up for a shock when the market takes a turn.

It’s important to take advantage of the opportunity to get ahead of the game by proactively addressing losses and risks now. When insurance prices begin to climb, those organizations that have taken the initiative to address losses and mitigate risk will see modest increases in premiums, whereas those that simply rode the market without working to reduce risk will have a harder time placing coverage and won’t be offered as competitive of rates. As a business owner, a 15 per cent increase in cost will still be unpleasant, but a 40 per cent increase in addition to a reduction in coverage could end up affecting your company’s well-being in the short and long term.

Even in the hard market, a business with effective loss control and risk management initiatives will always pay less.

Risk management, loss control and safety continue to be crucial to the success of any business insurance package, regardless of market conditions.

Take Charge of Loss Control

The best approach to control losses is to prevent injury and illness, manage claims effectively and implement cost containment strategies. If you work to reduce risk and prevent loss now, the increase in your premiums later will be minimized. Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited’s consultative approach can:

  • Pinpoint your exposures and cost drivers
  • Identify the best loss control solutions to address your unique risks
  • Create a solid business contingency plan to account for disasters and other unpredictable risks
  • Build a company culture focused on safety
  • Manage claims efficiently to keep costs down

Using all the resources available to you from Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited, we can help you control costs and ensure your business is protected.

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Contractors – Another Liability Exposure

By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB

        Principal Broker

        Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

As a contractor, you work hard to create a quality product and satisfy customer expectations while building a profitable business. However, no matter how careful you and your employees are during the course of business, mistakes can happen it’s a fact.  In today’s business environment, small disputes with customers over projects can quickly escalate into costly legal disputes.

Almost every contractor carries some form of general liability coverage. While these policies provide much-needed protection for bodily injury and property damage claims that occur as the result of a contractor’s work, they typically don’t account for all forms of negligence.

That’s where errors and omissions (E&O) insurance designed for contractors comes into play. Below, we provide a brief overview of E&O insurance and why it is a critical component to a contractor’s overall risk management program.

Why E&O?

Simply put, general liability policies are not adequate to protect against E&O claims, necessitating additional coverage. In fact, most general liability policies exclude claims related your work, your products and impaired property, creating significant insurance gaps.

Making E&O insurance even more crucial, contractors are particularly vulnerable to claims of negligence following unintentional damage to an insured party, impairment of property, damage to products or similar incidents that can occur without warning during a project. Even simple complaints have the potential to escalate into costly legal disputes.

What’s more, courts often rule against contractors in claims related to errors and omissions and, without the proper protection, general contractors would have to cover the damages out of pocket.

E&O policies can help contractors close gaps in their insurance coverages, providing coverage for claims related to the following:

  • Failing to complete projects according to specifications
  • Negligence in providing professional services
  • Poor, incorrect or incomplete work
  • Errors and oversights

Strong E&O policies can protect you and your business following a claim, helping you cover expenses related to court costs, lawyer fees and settlements. It should be noted that E&O insurance may not extend to your subcontractors, and you should encourage them to secure their own policies.

Sample Claim

To further understand the benefits of E&O insurance consider the following example. A window and doors contractor was hired by a developer to install all of the windows on a new apartment complex. While most of the work was completed to specification, the contractor incorrectly measured some of the windows. Accordingly, the windows in many of the units did not lock properly. The windows in these units had to be removed and reinstalled.

With E&O coverage, the contractor would not have to pay for those expenses out of pocket. What’s more, had the client sued the contractor over this work, the contractor’s E&O insurance would have covered awarded damages and defense costs within the limit of the policy.

Securing the Policy That’s Right for You

As a contractor, there are a variety of insurance products to consider. To ensure you are accounting for all of your unique risks—and to secure a policy that is tailored to meet your specific business needs—it’s important to work with a qualified insurance broker.

Contact Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited today to learn more.

Nikki Johnson No Comments

Contractors & Pollution Liability – The Risk Is Real

By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB

        Principal Broker

        Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

Contractors, no matter what industry they work in, face environmental risks stemming from operations on a daily basis. For most contractors, a single pollution incident or loss can seriously damage their operations, balance sheet and even reputation. Making matters worse, pollution incidents can be sudden or occur gradually over time. The reality, however, is most contractors do not appreciate the reality of the risk and chose not to protect themselves or their customers.

While many contractors assume that environmental claims will be covered under their commercial general liability (CGL) policy, the unfortunate reality is the most CGLs contain pollution exclusions that leave contractors uninsured in the event of a pollution incident.

The solution: contractors pollution liability (CPL) insurance to ensure they have the right coverage in place to remain secure and profitable.

CPL Coverage Basics

CPL policies provide contractor-based insurance for third-party coverage for bodily injury, property damage, defence, and cleanup as a result of sudden and gradual pollution incidents arising from contracting operations performed by or on behalf of the contractor. CPL insurance is intended to provide coverage to all types of contracting operations, including contractors who are involved in building construction and environmental firms that remediate polluted sites.

CPL policies are offered on either a claims-made or occurrence basis. What’s more, CPL policies are non-standard, meaning each policy is different and can be modified to cover the various needs of the contractor purchasing the policy. Policies can be offered on a project or blanket program basis.

In some instances, CPL policies can also be used to cover losses from civil fines, penalties and punitive damages.

Covered Pollution Incidents

Contractors should keep in mind that CPL insurance policies differ in regard to the types of pollution incidents that are covered. Two important considerations when evaluating CPL insurance policies are:

  • Whether or not the policy will respond to gradual releases of pollutants, as opposed to sudden and accidental releases; and
  • The types of substances that are considered “pollutants” under the terms of the policy.

Generally, policies that cover both gradual and sudden releases of pollutants provide contractors with a broader scope of coverage. In addition, policies that provide a broad definition of pollutants are considered superior to those that contain a narrow definition. Accordingly, it is important that contractors work with their broker to find a CPL policy that is tailored to their needs.

CGL Pollution Exclusions

A primary reason why contractors obtain a CPL policy is due to the various pollution exclusions contained in most CGL policies. The pollution exclusions found in most CGL policies take one of two forms, either “absolute” or “total.”

CGL policies with an absolute pollution exclusion remove coverage for most pollution events that would occur in the course of an insured’s business operations. However, despite its name, an absolute pollution exclusion may preserve coverage for certain incidental pollution damages, products and completed operations liability, and certain off-premises work.

However, more commonly, CGL policies include a more restrictive “total pollution exclusion.” This type of exclusion effectively removes coverage for any event the insurer characterizes as a pollution incident.

Contractual Requirements

Contractual requirements serve as another motivating factor that lead many contractors to obtain a CPL policy. In many instances, project owners and general contractors will require contractors to obtain pollution insurance that meets certain, predetermined standards. From this perspective, having a CPL insurance policy in place can serve as an upfront sales tool during the bidding process that enables contractors to qualify for opportunities when such coverage is required.

Finding the Right Policy

Regardless of specialty, all contractors should be mindful of the pollution risks associated with their work. A CPL insurance policy can provide much-needed security in the event of a pollution incident, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

CPL insurance is not only good for business, but it also provides peace of mind in industries that are full of surprises and risks. Reith & Associates is available to work with your organization to find the CPL coverage that is right for you.