bond forms

NO GOOD REPORT FOR FIA SURETY

Oh, the irony!

Last week Patrick Lynch Jr. received glowing praise over our handling of a recent bond request.  He asked the agent, “Wow thanks, do you mind if we use that in our advertising?”  The agent refused!

Why?  He said he wants to keep us all to himself!    Gotta love it.

Are you that enthusiastic about your surety underwriters?  Find out what you’re missing…

For Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds call Steve Golia: 856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company  Visit us: www.fiagroup.com
We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

Surety Bonds: Pay Raise or Title?

Enjoy this scene from Cheers “Woody: Raise or Title?”

We laugh at Woody being duped.  He went after the wrong prize, just like some agents when it comes to commissions.

Agents face this choice: Commission percentage or commission dollars?

You might think a higher commission percentage automatically means higher dollars, but slow down Woody: It ain’t necessarily so! Let’s do the math.

Example 1) Bond Amount: $1,000,000

Premium rate: 2% = $20,000

Commission Percentage: 30%

Commission Dollars: $6,000  

Example 2) Bond Amount: $1,000,000

Premium rate: 2.5% = $25,000

Commission Percentage: 25%

Commission Dollars: $6,250  

Interesting! A lower commission rate can yield higher commission dollars when the premium rate is higher.  When the premium rate goes lower, the commission dollars drop even more.  A 1% rate with a 30% commission yields only $3,000 commission!

What about sliding scales?  At 30% commission, the 25/15/10 rate delivers only $4,050 in commission dollars.

OK so here’s the conclusion: Focus on commission percentage and you may end up being Senior Bartender like Woody. When calculating income, the bond rate makes you a winner!

Since 1979 FIA has been a dependable provider of Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds.  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr. 856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company, Morris Plains, NJ

We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

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FIA Surety Success Story

This was a tough case.

The contractor needed a performance bond. We reviewed the bond request form and noted the bid results: They were 100% below the second bidder!

We obtained the company’s fiscal year end financial statement. Our analysis revealed a negative working capital and their net worth had slipped below zero due to a net loss for the period. Pretty tough…

The agent was not a bonding expert, so it was up to us to find a way to help this account.

Collateral was not an option because of their weakened condition. If it hurts the contractor, it can’t be good for us.

We dug deeper to fully appreciate all of the applicant’s attributes:

  • The bid spread resulted from the fact that the project was specialty work and the second bidder was a general contractor. They would have to hire someone like our client to perform the job. This contributed to their significantly higher price. Also, the applicant documented a good profit margin in their price.
  • There were specific reasons for the net loss. Corrective actions were taken and current financial results were improved.
  • We identified the applicant’s additional financial resources – there were multiple credit lines available (unused) and personal cash.

We wrote the bond! The difference is that FIA has a team of seasoned professionals with many years of experience (since the ’70s!). We know how to get through these tough cases.

Site, Subdivision, Performance and Payment Bonds.

Now you know who to call.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr. 856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company, Morris Plains, NJ

We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

Alpacas vs. Llamas

Look at that face!  Don’t you love it? That sure is a cute Alpaca! Uh…or is it a Llama?  Hard to tell,  but  it’s  OK.  You still love it.

For Surety Bond Producers, it can be hard to tell the difference between a performance bond and a site bond.  In this case, it does matter because the apps and markets you use for performance bonds may not get you the site bond your client requires. You need to know the difference!

Solution #1.  You have at least one market that is a strong, stable player on Site and Subdivision Bonds.  FIA Surety is your go to market.  We has been writing these confidently since 1979.

Solution #2. FIA offers a free, accredited CE course on Site and Subdivision Bonds (PA and NJ).  We provide the course at your location. After this 3 credit course, you will know the difference.  Give us a call and get on our calendar for a CE session in March or April.

Solution #3. That’s an Alpaca!  Smaller than a Llama: 150 lbs vs. 400 lbs.

Steve Golia 856-304-7348
FIA Surety is First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.  (a carrier)
2740 Rt. 10 West, Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Office: 973-541-3417
Visit us: www.fiagroup.com
We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

 

 

 

Be A Code Breaker! (Surety Bonds)

The Enigma Machine was a famous encryption device used by the Germans during WWII to transmit coded messages. It allowed for billions of ways to encode a message, making it incredibly difficult for other nations to crack German codes during the war.

Enigma Machine

In this article, You will learn how to break a code, how to solve a mystery in 20 seconds or less – every time. It is a surety bond mystery: The key element that determines the nature of the bond and predicts the successful underwriting path.

Here are your clues.

  1. “KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:”  These words are the common beginning of surety bonds.  You’ll see them over and over.
  2. “WHEREAS” will start one or more paragraphs which describe the circumstances in connection with the bond need.
  3. “NOW THEREFORE, THE CONDITION OF THIS OBLIGATION…” is the beginning of the promise in the bond.  It is the point of the bond guarantee and it determines the underwriting path.

Find the “NOW THEREFORE” paragraph and you can break the code.  What does it guarantee?  If it is the correct performance of a contract, the underwriting will concern the applicant’s ability to complete the work.  If the guarantee is to pay money when due, the underwriting will concern the applicant’s credit history and financial strength.  It makes sense.

Test your new skill

Ever hear of an ARC bond?  Probably not, but here is the “Now Therefore” clause for you to analyze:

NOW THEREFORE, THE CONDITION OF THIS OBLIGATION IS SUCH that if the Principal shall duly comply with the provision of said Agreement with respect to all amounts owed to the Obligee, as in said Agreement provided, during the term of this bond as hereinafter provided, then this obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and effect in law…

OK Code Breakers, what can we conclude?

  1. It promises compliance with an agreement, so we’ll want to review that document.
  2. The applicant must comply with respect to “all amounts owed to the Obligee,” so the bond is guaranteeing the payment of money in the future.
  3. How can we determine if they are likely to do that?  Need to get financial and credit info on the client.

So there you go!  In 20 seconds you scoped it out and already have an idea about the underwriting, difficulty in placing, and potential markets that may have an appetite.

The underwriting path always follows the nature of the guarantee, which you will find in the NOW THEREFORE clause.  It’s that simple to break the code!

What a great feeling when you deal with the real experts.  You know you’ll get fast, efficient processing by folks who really care.  Call FIA Surety with your next surety bond.

FIA Surety is First Indemnity of America Insurance Company based in Morris Plains, NJ.  We provide site, subdivision, bid, performance and other forms of surety bonds.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.  856-304-7348

 

Performance Bonds: How To Avoid Funds Control

Funds Control, Escrow, Funds Administration – are all the same thing, and can be part of the process when a Performance and Payment Bond is needed.

What is it, and how can you avoid it?

Funds Control is an underwriting device used by some bonding companies. The procedure is specifically intended to reduce the risk associated with the Payment Bond aspect of the surety’s exposure. The surety is guaranteeing that suppliers of labor and material will be paid. If they are not, the creditor is entitled to make a claim on the Payment Bond for recovery.

The funds administrator acts as the paymaster on the contract. They pay everyone, including the contractor. Under this arrangement, the contractor is not handling money or disbursing funds. This makes the surety confident that folks will be paid appropriately (thus preventing payment bond claims,) and it also assures that none of the money for our bonded contract is shifted over to support other unbonded projects (an illegal action.)

Now the paymaster doesn’t work for free. They perform monthly checking on the contract status including the billings, they gather lien releases from the vendors, they keep the books on the project and write all the checks on behalf of the contractor. The cost if this may be.5 – 1% of the contract amount, paid by the contractor. Normally it comes out of their profits.

Contractors may be unhappy with the fee, and they always worry about the turn around time to get checks issued by the administrator each month. They need to keep the project moving.

So let’s look at an alternative procedure that doesn’t cost the contractor any money, prevents any possible delay in turn around time… and still protects the surety on the payment bond.

The alternative is to have Joint Checks issued by the obligee. What does this mean?

Joint Checks are issued by the obligee / project owner in the name of the bonded contractor and their vendor. For example, if the contractor owes the lumber yard $20,000, a check is written payable to the contractor and the lumber yard specifically for $20,000. This procedure assures that funds sent to the contractor must end up in the hands of the supplier. Under the normal method of payment, a lump sum check for multiple vendors is sent to the contractor, and everyone hopes the funds will be used appropriately / promptly to pay bills related to the bonded work. Please note: That doesn’t always happen. And when money is mis-directed, a payment bond claim can result.

Conclusion: Compared to Performance Bonds, Payment Bonds are the most frequent area of surety bond claims. When the bonding company needs an extra cushion to assure the proper handling of money, Joint Checking is an alternative to Funds Control that is fast and free for the contractor – and helpful to the surety.

Want this expertise and creativity on your next Bid or Performance Bond? FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company that can help!  We have specialized in Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds since 1979.

Steve Golia is Marketing Manager for FIA Surety.  Call Steve now: 856-304-7348

Visit us Click!

Bond Underwriting Challenge

This is a real case that was handled by our surety bond experts… a doozie! See what you can make of it.

The facts:

  • This is a Performance Bond request for a multi-million dollar subcontract
  • The applicant / principal is a long established company
  • They have successfully completed similar sized projects
  • The company has a modest net worth, but is on a profitable trend. Ratios are OK.
  • Personal financial statements of the stockholders add more net worth to the picture
  • The company is owned by a father and son. Son is the primary stockholder.
  • We noted their SS numbers are only a few digits apart
  • Father has a substantial net worth. Son has a small net worth as indicated on his personal statement.
  • The applicant has started the subcontract
  • The GC / obligee has a mandatory bond form – very tough. It effectively makes it a forfeiture bond (obligee completes the job and sends you the bill.)
  • Father has a living trust
  • Son also indicated he has a trust

A lot of moving parts. What are the issues?

  1. Low company net worth. Too low for the size bond requested.
  2. “Close” SS numbers imply these individuals are immigrants (received SS numbers at about the same time). Are they U.S. citizens?
  3. Started subcontract. Why were they allowed to start without a bond? Degree of completion? Work acceptable? Bills paid? On schedule?
  4. Do we want to write a forfeiture bond form (financial guarantee?)
  5. What assets are in the trusts? Can they give indemnity? Will we rely on the indemnity of a trust?

– Think of your possible solutions – 

Here is the approach crafted by our underwriters:

  1. Low company net worth. We do not prefer to require collateral because it may be counter-productive, making it harder for the client to complete the project. Instead, the client agreed to add capital to the company – an investment in their future. The funds could be a subordinated stockholder loan, or a stronger method: Additional Paid-in Capital. The latter is more permanent and therefore desirable. The client agreed to permanent capital that would be verified in writing by their CPA and supported by a current interim balance sheet.
  2. Close SS numbers. Why would we inquire about anyone with a social security number? It is because the number itself does not prove citizenship – nor does the filing of a US tax return. Non-citizens authorized to work in the U.S. can get a SS#. “Tax residents” are permanent residents and green card holders who are non-citizens required to pay U.S. taxes. All sureties are cautious when taking the personal indemnity of a non-citizen. They may easily flee the country to avoid their obligations. On this account we determined the father and son were immigrants as we suspected, and naturalized U.S. citizens.
  3. Started subcontract. This would be clarified by obtaining our All’s Right Letter from the obligee, stating the relevant facts on the project (degree of completion, on time, no problems, etc.)
  4. Bad bond form. We had previous dealings with this major GC and negotiated a bond modification that made the bond operate more normally. They agreed to use the bond mod again.
  5. Trusts. It turned out there was only one trust. The son was the beneficiary of the fathers trust, no separate trust of his own. A review of the father’s trust showed it was not prohibited from signing the indemnity agreement. However, living trusts are revocable, meaning the terms can be changed and assets moved out – making them unreliable indemnitors. And it contained the single most important asset, the father’s residence. How to overcome this last obstacle? Our solution: We will place a lien on the property giving us access regardless of changes in the trust.

There you have it. Did you come up with solutions to match ours? It was a tough / complicated case, but we worked hard to solve it.We’ll work hard to solve your bond cases too. Bid bonds, performance and payment, and also site and subdivision!

Include us in your bond production efforts. We can make it happen.

 

Steve Golia is FIA Surety’s Marketing Manager.

The insurance company provides Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds with speed and creativity. Contact us today and let’s discuss how we can help. Call 856-304-7348.

Visit us Click! FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Ins. Co., Morris Plains, N.J.

Secrets of Bonding #166: Meet the Weatherman

Tonight’s forecast: Dark!

We like to joke about the TV weather team: “I wish I had a job where I could be wrong 50% of the time!” *  But in reality, we still tune in and watch.

   Question: Is a surety bond underwriter just like a weatherperson?  How are they similar?

Both are paid to make predictions.  They gather and analyze information: “Crystal ball gazers.”  There is a hope / expectation that they will achieve some degree of accuracy.  Whether you are forecasting the POP, or the completion of a construction project, isn’t it just about the same?

You know forecasters use computer models.  They have the National Weather Service and there are Canadian and European Models.  They could just put that up on the TV screen!  We don’t really need the “local weather talent,” do we? 

What about bonding? Many sureties already use computer based programs.  These provide instant or quick answers on surety bonds that fall into certain categories.  Is that all we need?  Should we get rid of the Surety Underwriter / Weatherman entirely?  We say “No!”  Here’s why…

  • The Underwriter does more than predict the future. A good underwriter contributes to the outcome.  Their efforts positively affect many people. 
  • When bonds are approved, the bond agent makes money.  The construction company achieves new revenues. So do their suppliers and subcontractors.  Think of the ripple effect!
  • The bonding company and their reinsurers make money. 
  • Presumably something of value is built for the owner; a useful asset is created. 

Really good underwriters are more than “yes / no” decision makers, they are facilitators. The experienced underwriter sees a path forward that may not be obvious to others.  How can this deal (performance bond) be supported while protecting the interests of the surety, the guarantor of the project’s success?  Here’s where knowledge, experience and attitude come in. 

Does the underwriter want to make the deal happen, and have the know-how to do it?

These high level underwriters aren’t weathermen, they are Rain Makers!  They work actively to produce profits and success for all they touch. Without their expertise, projects would not be supported and built.  Doors get opened and companies reach new, higher levels of mutual success. 

This is a combination of science and art with a dash of experience.  And you don’t find it too often.  But when you do, grab an umbrella and watch good things happen.

Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. Call us with your next bid or performance bond. 856-304-7348 

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*  Actually, weather forecasters average more than 80% accuracy.  Good job guys!

Secrets of Bonding #164: The Phantom of the Underwriting Department

When it comes to surety bonds, you know your underwriter. You know the process.  There are questions and answers, then a decision.  Simple, right?

You rely on your rapport with the surety and know how to monitor the status of the underwriting.  Maybe you understand the underwriter you see.  But what about the invisible surety underwriter, a shadowy phantom who exists in every transaction, and whose opinion always affects the outcome. Call this mysterious one “The Phantom of the Underwriting Department.” 

For mood music, Click!

You cannot talk to the Phantom…

Invisible.

There are no emails, no Q. and A. 

And yet, the Phantom analyzes, reviews and influences every bonding decision.  Let’s pull back the curtain on this ethereal being.

Contractors Questionnaire

It all starts here.  Your underwriter looks at the basic info: How long in business?  Largest prior jobs? What do they do, what do they sub?

But the phantom yearns for more. What company ownership structure was chosen?  Is it a proprietorship, corporation or LLC?  Did the founders make prudent decisions? These choices affect taxes, profits and future liabilities.  They can help or hurt the company… and its surety.

If criminal history, litigation, tax problems or surety bond claims / losses are indicated, these may require further investigation.  The Phantom will make a deeper review.

Continuity of Ownership: Who succeeds the current stockholder in the event of death? Will the company maintain operations and complete its projects? These arrangements show that management has an eye toward the future.

The Work In Process Schedule

These are requested often.  They show the contracts in progress, their billing status and costs. The underwriter wants to know how much “work on hand.” Then, silently, the Phantom digs deeper.

The current expected profit is compared to the original estimate. What does this show? Is the profit expectation as predicted or better? Is the estimating department in sync with the field organization?  Is job site supervision highly efficient? Can an undeclared underbilling asset be added to Working Capital?

Is the expected profit sufficient to produce a net profit at year end?  The Phantom will compare the projected job profit percentage to the company Profit and Loss Statement. Based on historical expense trends, the likelihood of an upcoming profitable fiscal year-end can be verified.

Company Financial Statements

He loves these.  There is so much.  They talk to him. The Phantom takes full advantage of this document to determine more than just “the numbers.”

Beginning with the accountants cover letter, who has the contractor chosen for this important assignment? Are they using a construction expert? Did they pay for a quality presentation?  Is the best accounting method in use? Is the fiscal date at an advantageous point in their business cycle?

Obviously, underwriters look at working capital, net worth, ratios, profitability. But there is so much more.  The financial statements show how the stockholders / managers treat the company.  What does it mean to them? Do they nurture and respect it, growing the tiny acorn into a mighty oak?

Past borrowing practices are revealed.  Also, the relationship between financial performance and the ambitions of management.

Growth of the revenue stream is observed and management’s success in monitoring / controlling expense levels.

The Phantom reviews financial statements and tax returns to appreciate the owner’s commitment to the bonded company.  This commitment is a cornerstone of the underwriter’s confidence.

Banking Relations

Very important! There are similarities between banking and surety bonds.  The banker’s opinions help reaffirm the underwriting position.

The banking history can reveal good cash flow and prudent business practices.  It can indicate stability, reliability and good management skills.

Credit Reports

The pay record is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now there is a historical review which indicates the adequacy of cash flow, the quality of money management, planning and the applicant’s good moral character.

The Phantom is always there, making this deeper analysis that may never be discussed, but can always make a difference.

Meet Our Phantom

Now, Remove the Mask!

Sorry, we don’t actually have any Phantoms.  All our underwriters are regular people, with real experience and know-how when it comes to bid and performance bonds. Our surety professionals review the facts promptly and efficiently. 

Their deep analysis enables us to support opportunities that may have been declined elsewhere.

We hope you found this article entertaining, but more importantly, informative!  With us, the underwriting is deep and detailed, giving the applicant the highest likelihood of approval.

Call us with your next bid or performance bond, and speak to a real person. 856-304-7348 

(Don’t miss our next exciting article.  Click the “Follow” button at the top right.)

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one, Bid and Performance bonds, too.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Our Surety Agents Look Good

* Tuesday 6/19/18: We received an urgent submission.  A new client needed a $1 million final bond. We reviewed the file immediately and sent back our “road map to success.”

Complicating factors:

  • New file.  Short fuse.  All the basic analysis, credit reports, financial evaluation, indemnity agreement, etc. were needed.
  • Another surety had issued a bid bond, but because of unexpected developments, was unable to provide the final bond
  • There was a bid spread
  • The job specifications needed clarification regarding the surety obligation and possible requirement for a maintenance bond
  • Company year-end FS was a draft
  • Analysis regarding the collection of FYE Receivables was needed
  • Two other sureties reviewed this opportunity, causing the clock to run down for the client

* Wednesday 6/20: Agent provided additional info.

* Thursday 6/21: An engineering evaluation of the project was completed, including the adequacy of price.  Wednesday evening and Thursday, the underwriting review was completed. Bond is approved!

*Friday 6/22: Bond is issued and in the hands of the agent and contractor.

Actual agent comment: “Thanks so much!  Great job!”

Making our agents look good.  That’s what we do.

We can help you solve your next contract surety need. Call 856-304-7348