Federal bond

How Did a Fireman Become the Top Executive of a Bonding Company?

Get to Know FIA Surety: Patrick Lynch Sr.

How did a fireman become the top executive of a bonding company?

Pat Senior (we have two) grew up in Newark NJ, the oldest of five children.  Since 1943 his family was the owner / operator of The Ark, a Newark restaurant, bar and liquor store.  Pat grew up in the business and at age 19 was thrust into a management role upon the untimely death of his father.

Pat proceeded to run and grow the business over the course of the next 20 years, building up their volume more than 10-fold! The business was concluded when the city took over the Ark property for construction of a new housing project.

For 14 years Pat served the city of Newark as a fireman. He survived the 1967 riots – a tragic period that resulted in the shooting death of his boss, Capt. Mike Moran Sr.

Pat served as a board member and finance chairman for the Shepherds of Youth Charitable Trust in Newark.  He was also chairman of the Veterans Hospital.

He became a professional lobbyist during these years, which gave him contact with group insurance programs and lead to the formation of an insurance company.  In 1979, First Indemnity of America, aka FIA Surety was born under Pat’s leadership!

The company started with six employees and occupied three locations over the years.  Our staff eventually grew to 40.  Our home office is now in beautiful Morris Plains, NW of Newark, NJ.

For FIA Surety, the “big break” came when an active writer of subdivision bonds withdrew from the market in 1980.  We moved in, filled the vacuum, and have been a major writer of site and subdivision bonds ever since!

Today Pat is still “captain of the ship” FIA Surety, and is also a deep-sea fishing captain.  Two of his three children work in the business, and he boasts five grandchildren.

Pat built our business on relationships and he remains accessible to our agents and clients every day.

Office:  (973) 402-1200

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

Get to Know FIA Surety: Paul Alongi, Sr., Claims Manager

When was the last time you spoke to a personal friend of Joe Pesci and Frankie Valle? Ok, never? Well, meet our Claims Manager, Mr. Paul Alongi, Sr.

Paul was born in Newark, the oldest of four children and graduated from Barringer High School.  Joe Pesci and Frankie Valle were among his friends. Born with a love of music, he learned to play tenor sax at age 7.  As a big band member, his group backed up Connie Francis, Dion and the Belmonts, Tony Bennet, Xavier Cougat, Al Martino and others.  To this day, Paul is an active musician playing in several venues.

He was athletic, too!  Paul tried out for the NY Yankees in these early years.

Paul started his insurance career in the actuarial department of U. S. Life and studied for his law degree at night. In five years, he graduated from Seton Hall Law School and started his law practice.

While running for public office, Essex County Freeholder, he met a fellow candidate, Patrick Lynch.  Years later this would result in Paul joining Pat’s young company “First Indemnity of America Insurance Company / FIA Surety” to become our first Claims Manager.  He’s been a valuable asset all these years.

Paul has served on the Bloomfield Board of Education (President), the New Jersey Commission of Investigations, and has also been a long-time leader in many community organizations, including: the Bloomfield Federation of Music and Civic Band, the Garden State Concert Band, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and Finance Councils, Holy Name Society and Circle of Friends.

Paul is a highly experienced problem solver and, he is accessible to our agents and clients!  973-541-3414

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

 

Claim Your Free Surety Bond Gift!

It’s easy to get in on our Free Continuing Education program. This is a gift from FIA Surety.

“One of the best CE courses I ever attended! Our producers really needed this information.”

Our program last week was a huge success.

Bonding 101 explores the theory of surety bonds including pricing, underwriting and an overview of the marketplace. We track a Bid and Performance Bond from birth to death. It’s all practical info producers need.

Currently, our courses are approved in NJ and PA. And we deliver the program at your location! This is FIA Surety’s free gift to you. Call us for details.

Since 1979 FIA has been a dependable provider of Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds.

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

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

How to Get Rid of Surety Bonds & Why You Should

“How can I miss you if you don’t go away?”

Performance Bonds are issued by insurance companies – but they are not insurance policies.  When you get to the end of your auto insurance, it will expire if not renewed.  Plus, the company can cancel it in the middle of the year.  Boom, it’s done!  Insurance policies are not “forever.” Click for mood music!

With surety bonds it’s different.  First off, they’re harder to get.  Then, when you finally have it, they don’t expire! And the bonding company can’t cancel a performance bond. So how do they end?

The fact is, people focus on getting surety bonds because they are a mandatory element of many transactions, but they think little of getting rid of the bond – eventually.  Let’s go over why you want to close out a performance bond, and how to do it.

Every performance bond is married to a written contract that is identified in the first part of the bond.  They are married until death – until the contract is completed. If you have a two year contract covered by a Performance and Payment Bond, you have a two year bond, unless the contract is extended. If the contract is amended to a term of 25 months, the bond automatically follows.  If the contract dollar amount is increased, the bond automatically follows.  The point of the bond is to guarantee the Obligee’s (the beneficiary of the bond) satisfaction with the performance of the contract.  So the bond remains in force until the obligee / contract owner accepts the completed contract.

To close out the surety’s obligation, a release or acceptance of the contract by the obligee is needed.  The applicant / principal (contractor) can’t cancel or close the bond.  Only the obligee can end it.

Closing evidence can consist of a Status Inquiry form completed by the obligee.  The questions would be:

If the project IS completed:

Completion date: ___________  Acceptance date: _____________ Final contract amount: $___________

If the project IS NOT completed:

Approximate percentage or dollar amount completed: $_____________________________

Describe any disputes or performance issues on the project: _______________________________

Do you know of any unpaid bills for labor or materials? ____ No ____ Yes  If Yes, please describe: _____________________

Current estimated completion date: ____________________________________

Now that we know how to close out a performance bond, why bother to do it?  There are some very good reasons…

The Surety

  • The surety (bonding company) will conclude the liability on their books when the bond is released.
  • They also immediately earn all the remaining premium. Two good reasons!

The Contractor / Principal

  • That portion of the company’s bonding capacity will be restored to support a new contract.  This helps them qualify for more projects and larger ones. That is the source of their company revenues.
  • When completed, the project is added to the company’s credentials.  They can now list the contract as a successfully completed job.  That’s how their resume is built.
  • The applicant company, it’s owners and spouses have a legal liability that arises through the indemnity agreement (a hold harmless issued to protect the surety.)  It is literally a liability which must be disclosed on their financial statements.  When the bonds are released, this company and personal liability ends.

The Bonding Agent

  • The agent wins too because more bonds can be issued.  And that’s how they make their living.

Conclusion

Everybody wins when the job is closed out and the bond gets released. This is a necessary process that should not be ignored.

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

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

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Surety Bonds Are Not Fair!

Why are some surety bonds better than others? Why can small ones be harder to get than big ones?

Construction companies are among a bonding company’s most important clients. They are the source of Performance and Payment bonds which guarantee their construction contracts. For a bonding company (surety), these are probably the largest and most lucrative transactions. So why would the surety risk losing a client by giving tough terms on an obviously small bond?

There are many different types of surety bonds, and contractors may need a variety of them: Bid bond, performance, payment, maintenance, license, permit, court, are a few. In this article we will discuss why the big ones (large dollar amount) can be easier to get than small ones – even for the same applicant.

The answer to this question lies in the nature of the obligation, not the dollar amount. A good way to illustrate this is to compare a Performance bond to a Wage and Welfare bond.

Performance Bond

Performance and Payment (P&P) bonds concern construction contracts. They guarantee that the applicant will perform the project in accordance with all aspects of the written contract, and they will pay the related bills for suppliers of labor and material.

Wage and Welfare Bond

This type of bond is needed by union contractors (companies that employ union workers.) The W&W bond guarantees that the construction company will pay the union wage rate as required and make the related periodic contributions to the union benefit plans such as the pension and health insurance program.

It’s Just Not Fair!

P&P bonds range in amount from a couple hundred thousand dollars to tens of millions, whereas a W&W bond is often under $100,000. So why can it be easier to get the big one? Why can a $500,000 performance bond be easier to get than a $50,000 union bond?

The answer lies in the nature of the obligation – and the worst case scenarios.

Let’s assume the contractor goes out of business. With a performance bond, the surety steps into the contractors shoes. They must make arrangements to complete the project in accordance with the contract. The beneficiary of the performance bond (aka the obligee, the owner of the contract) continues to pay out the remainder of the contract amount as work progresses. Now they pay the surety performing the completion. This is called the “unpaid contract amount.” Even if the contractor falls flat and has no money personally, the unpaid contract amount is a resource the surety can depend on – and hopefully avoid a net loss on the claim.

The union bond is a promise to pay funds at a future date. It is a financial guarantee – the toughest type of surety obligation. The underwriters will look into their crystal ball… Oh, sorry, we don’t have one.

The surety is guaranteeing the future solvency of the construction company, not an easy task. And if they are wrong, if the contractor cannot make their union payments because they have no money, then there is no money for the surety, either.

Q. Who is likely to pay the wage and welfare claim?

A. The surety (a net loss)

It is the tough nature of some small bonds (wage and welfare, release of lien, supersedeas) that makes them exceptionally hard to get – often requiring full collateral. On the other hand, the surety may give the same applicant a $300,000 performance bond based primarily on just their credit report!

Bottom line: It just ain’t fair, but we never promised it would be – because the nature of the obligation differs. That is the deciding factor, even more than the dollar amount of the bond.

Want to deal with real experts on your next surety bond? Steve Golia is Marketing Manager for FIA Surety, a NJ based insurance company providing Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds since 1979.

Steve: 856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company

Visit us Click!

Bid Results / Sgt. Joe Friday

    From 1951 to 1959 Dragnet was a defining police series that featured Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday.  Joe was famous for an interrogation line he often used: “Just the facts, ma’am!”

When bonding companies issue bid bonds they need to gather facts, too. It is an important process with implications for both the surety and the contractor.  For mood music, click.

So here are the facts, ma’am!

Bid results are the various proposal amounts submitted by contractors pursuing a particular project.  The bids are submitted at a designated time and place.  The list of bidders “lowest, second, third, etc.,” including the company name and $ amount, are the bid results.

The first party to know this info may be the contractor. They often attend the bid opening and write down the results.  Remember, they have a vested interest in the outcome.  They’re hoping to acquire a new project.

It is important for them to report the results promptly to the bonding company.  Here’s why:

Timely Issuance of Performance Bond

If the contractor is low bidder (offering the most favorable price to do the work), an award can be expected. The performance and payment bond will be needed by a set date to avoid loss of the project.  Reporting the bid results is the first step in this process.

Excessive Bid Spreads

A “bid spread” occurs when there is a significant (>10%) difference between the low and the second bidder. This is a red flag for the surety and contractor. All the bidders wanted the work.  They spent time and money developing their proposal. An excessive bid spread means the low bidder has a unique advantage (better expertise, prior experience, special equipment, lower material prices, etc.) over the other bidders OR they made a bid mis-calculation and are underpriced. (*Why is this a concern?)

If the contractor has a special advantage, they must share this info with the bonding company in order to obtain the P&P bond when required. The surety must be confident that the project will be completed properly.

If they made an error, they must notify the obligee / project owner that they wish to withdraw their bid.  If done promptly, they may avoid having a bid bond claim (for failing to move forward.)

Restore Capacity

When a bid bond is issued, underwriters consider a portion of the contractors surety line to be in use – under the expectation that they may win the project and need a P&P bond. If the contractor / bidder is not the low bidder, the capacity is restored to their surety line to support another project – as soon as the surety is notified.

For all these reasons, the prompt reporting of bid results is necessary.  A tight bid is a win for the contractor and surety.  The bidder acquires additional sales volume and the surety books a premium.  It’s how we all make money.

* Why is an excessive bid spread a concern?

If the contractor proceeds with a project that is underpriced, they may end up losing money on the work.

It’s an issue for the surety too, because they are the guarantor of the project.  They must complete the work if the contractor defaults, and they rely on the fact that the contract amount is adequate to accomplish this.  If it is not, the surety could face a net loss.

Excessive bid spreads are bad for everyone, even the obligee. If they award an underpriced project, they may end up with poor workmanship, missed deadlines and possibly a defaulted contract, ma’am!

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 

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

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

Secrets of Bonding: #163: Financial Statement Fraud!

You know the old adage, “Financial statements don’t kill people, people kill people.”

While it’s true there can be misrepresentation and deception in a financial statement (FS), the document is not inherently bad, it is the poor intentions of the preparer or company that is to blame.

As credit analysts, we always review and rely on FSs when underwriting surety bonds. We know there may be attempts to mislead our judgement or even downright deception. But the need to evaluate the financial report is unavoidable. It is considered a valuable “report card on the quality of management.”

There are three levels of financial presentation by Certified Public Accounts (CPAs):

Compilation – a properly organized report where the numbers have not been verified or evaluated by the CPA

Review – includes some checking “Review” of key elements

Audit – is the highest level and includes the CPA’s statement that they have checked and believe the numbers are correct

The reader of the FS is entitled to certain expectations: A candid and complete presentation that informs the reader. Are they entitled to more than that? Does the reader sometimes expect too much?

Let’s consider what the FS actually says, and what it doesn’t… 

The Balance Sheet

This shows assets and liabilities. It describes the dollars in the company (assets) and who owns them (liabilities and stockholder’s equity). You know many of the normal entries: Cash, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory, bank debt, the net worth / stockholder’s equity section, etc.

The balance sheet always has a date, such as 12/31/2017. It shows the status of these accounts on the one day. Credit analysts calculate the Working Capital aka Net Quick (NQ) which is considered a measure of short term financial strength. You find the NQ by subtracting current liabilities from current assets. When the bond underwriter has the NQ number, it can then be incorporated in the decision making.

“What size bonds will be approved for this applicant?”  “How much total capacity can they be allocated?” The NQ figure becomes a benchmark that is used for the remainder of the year.

For many analysts, this one number carries a huge importance for the following 12-15 months.

Let’s move forward one day in time, to 1/1/2018. “Happy New Year!” and let’s check the bank account. Some money has come in! The accounts receivable and cash have changed. Other elements are also different and so, if we calculate the NQ based on the 1/1 balance sheet, the NQ will probably be different from 12/31. Again, that’s because the balance sheet shows the state of these accounts on ONE DAY. It is always changing!

The reality is that the working capital number is only correct for one day, then it is subject to revision. This is not to say the number is not important or relevant. And certainly decision-makers must have annual benchmarks and a method for their determinations. It is very important, but so are other elements.

Financial Statement Fraud

The most common FS fraud is not committed against us by others. It is the self-deception we commit by over relying on these “one-day numbers.” To do so is to miss the big picture!

Underwriters love to see a big cash account sitting on that top line (of the balance sheet). But that’s a one-day number. Isn’t it even more important to determine the average funds on deposit for the prior six months or year? Many analysts fail to ask for this.

Accounts Receivable and Payable – here is another key area where the “one-day number” can easily be given a historical perspective. Aged schedules of A/R and A/P are easy to obtain and they give a view over more than one day. These documents are not automatically included in FSs, and underwriters may fail to ask for them.

Another example: A broader understanding of the banking relationship is accomplished by looking beyond the balance sheet bank debt.  A reference letter can reveal if the client has bounced checks, broken loan covenants or defaulted.

Conclusion

As readers of these documents and analysts, let’s not cheat ourselves by over relying on the balance sheet or thinking it is more than a one-day snapshot. It should be scrutinized and viewed in harmony with other key underwriting factors such as mid-year financial reports and supporting documents.

In this manner underwriters can make realistic, well-informed decisions.

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

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

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.