working capital

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

Surety Bond Challenge: Solve This Problem!

A key vendor / supplier is demanding that a GC provide protection for their purchase agreement. However, the project owner did not stipulate a Performance and Payment bond on the contract and none was provided. The work has started and the contractor needs to get materials delivered from the reluctant vendor.

What are the possible solutions that may satisfy the vendor? Choose one!

  1. Issue a Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement
  2. Issue a Performance & Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement
  3. Bond the contract in a normal way (100% Performance & Payment)
  4. Issue only a Payment Bond on the contract

(1.) Issue a Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement?
A. A vendors purchase agreement is not the same type obligation as a construction contract. A bond guaranteeing payment of the purchase agreement would be considered a Financial Guarantee Bond (Why?  See below *) They are more difficult to obtain than a Payment Bond, so that’s not be the best solution.

(2.) So what about issuing a Performance & Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement?
A. This is also not an option due to the differences between the nature of a purchase agreement and a construction contract.  (Details below *).

(3.) Can we bond the contract in a normal way (100% Performance & Payment)? That Payment bond would cover all vendors, so it would cover the one in question.
A. Bonding a started project is always a red flag. The underwriters initial question is “Why do they want a bond now?” It does seem suspicious, like there may be a problem with the performance of the construction work or the owner received some negative info on the contractor. Maybe the contractor has a problem and the work is in jeopardy.
Another issue is the cost. If a bond was not originally required, the bond cost was not included in the contract price. This means a bond purchased subsequent to the execution of the contract will be paid for out of the contractor’s profit margin. The Principal / GC will be looking for the most inexpensive solution possible.
Keep in mind that the purchase order amount is less than the contract price, so bonding the contract would result in a bond higher (and more expensive) than actually needed.

(4.) Can we issue just a payment bond on the contract?
A. This too will be viewed as a red flag by the underwriters. Who asks for a payment bond but doesn’t want a Performance Bond? That would be unusual.

Summary
We have concluded that it will be difficult to retroactively bond the contract, the amount of the contract is more than the purchase order and only a financial guarantee bond can be issued on the purchase agreement, so a Performance Bond may not be the solution at all!

Our Solution
In this case, we offered Funds Administration instead of a bond. This was an inexpensive alternative, and provided an assurance for the vendor that bills would be paid in a routine manner. (The project owner pays the Funds Administrator who directly pays the vendor.)
Keep in mind, however, that the Funds Administrator has no obligation to the vendor. If there is an unexpected event, such as termination of the contract, the Funds Administrator does not guarantee to the vendor that they will be paid appropriately.  A bond would, if one had been written.

*The nature of purchase orders is different from construction contracts. When issuing a P&P bond on a contract, the surety depends on the fact that the obligee / beneficiary is paying for the work, and that money may be the key to solving any claim or default.

When bonding a purchase order, the obligee / beneficiary (vendor), is not paying – they are receiving payment. That is why a Financial Guarantee Bond must be used, and is why they are harder to obtain.

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.

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

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

Free CE Update

Love, Love, Love!
Love is in the air! We know you love free stuff, so get some here.

FIA Surety provided two free CE seminars in North Jersey recently. We’re doing one this week at an agency in Hatfield, PA.
It’s time to get your agency on our calendar. We have dates available in March. How do you set it up? Just give us a call. It’s that simple!

Speaking of simple, when you need a surety bond, we can make that simple too! Since 1979, First Indemnity of America (a carrier) has been making agents look great.

We’re your “can-do” market for:

  • Site and Subdivision Bonds
  • Bid and Performance Bonds
  • Deposit Bonds for home builders

What’s not to love?

Steve Golia 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

Working Capital Magic!

Working Capital: It is a key element for contractors when they apply for Bid and Performance Bonds.  Too low, and the bond or entire account may be rejected by the bonding company.  Primarily, this number is calculated once a year on the fiscal year-end financial statement.  If the Working Capital (WC) comes out low, you’re STUCK with it all year… or are you?  Are there ways to “poof!” magically find more working capital on an existing financial statement?  Why yes!

Here are three ways contractors and their insurance  / bonding agents may overcome a WC deficiency:

  1. Stockholder loan: The owner can Subordinate an existing loan to the surety.  This means the owner / creditor will not demand that the company / debtor repay funds the company has borrowed.  The Subordination removes the stockholder loan from current liabilities, thereby increasing WC.
  2. Underbillings: Accrual Method financial statements do not include the current asset called Costs and Estimated Earnings in Excess of Billings, or for short: Underbillings.  If a net Underbilling Asset is calculated, it will directly increase the WC analysis.
  3. Bank line of credit: Many analysts will add available bank credit to the WC analysis.

Note: All three of these ideas can be applied to the recent fiscal year-end statement.  You don’t have to wait for a new statement to use them!

Bonus Poof!

How to immediately increase the Net Worth (NW) analysis: Fixed assets, such as heavy equipment, are depreciated each year resulting in their declining value on the Balance Sheet. The carrying value of the asset may eventually be less than the actual “street value” of the machine.  This lost net worth can be re-captured by finding the current appraisal value.  For big and old companies, this can give a major boost to the NW calculation – and therefore the bonding.

We hope you find these four tips helpful.   They can literally improve the analysis of an existing financial statement.

Do ALL bonding companies want you to know these secrets?  Hmmmm…  We do!  FIA is a bonding company (carrier) that has served contractors and their agents since 1979.  We are flexible and creative surety bond experts.  Call us for Bid and Performance Bonds.  Call us for Site and Subdivision Bonds – our specialty!

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.  856-304-7348

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

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them: Bonding Companies

  • “I don’t know what you want unless you tell me.”
  • “Nothing is ever enough for you.”
  • “No, those pants don’t make you look fat.”

Sound familiar?  Have you uttered these words?   Were you talking about your romance life, or your bonding company (except for the pants comment.)

It turns out that much of the frustration we have in life arises from a failure to see things from another point of view. Husbands and wives know this.  But the good news is that there is a common solution.  Open communication and good listening skills are the key.  Can this be applied to suretyship?  (For mood music, Click!)

“What’s with all the Questions?!”

This is a good place to start.  Why do bonding companies ask so many questions?  And just when you get to the end of round one, they think up more.  It’s like they don’t ever want it to end!

Answer: To a degree, it doesn’t ever end.  That’s because the credit analysis a surety performs is based on info that constantly changes – and will do so without notice to the surety. They have to keep a finger on the pulse to be confident when issuing bonds.

“Why do I have to give my personal indemnity AND pay a premium for the bonds?”

It seems like the bonding company is taking no risk and they get paid for it!

Answer: Actually, personal indemnity does not guarantee that a surety will not have a net loss on a bond claim.  When a claim occurs, the company owners may already be depleted (trying unsuccessfully to resolve the problem.) When the “stuff” hits the fan, the surety has to foot the bill and the indemnity may be worthless.

“Do these pants make me look fat?”

When contractors start to pursue an excessive work load the bonding company may put the brakes on. They don’t want the company spread too thin with insufficient management and financial resources. Actually, dying from an excessive amount of work (too fat) is more prevalent than the opposite.

The surety wants to be sure the client remains stable and able to perform their work – and thus avoid any possibility of a bond claim.

Conclusion

Are bonding companies unfathomable, impossible to understand? No, it’s just that, unlike insurance companies, they are risk averse.  They operate on a very thin margin and problems (claims) of any size can hurt them.  Their very survival depends on being prudent and conservative.  This means ask questions and move forward with caution.

So now, can you love your surety?  Maybe a little bit…

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.

Don’t miss our next exciting surety article: “Follow” this blog in the top right hand corner.

Performance Bonds: How To Avoid Collateral

This is a nasty subject. Not because collateral for surety bonds is inherently bad, but because it is a subject of great angst for contractors and their insurance / bond agents. For example:

  • Why is the bonding company taking money from me when they can see I’m in a weak cash position? I need it to successfully perform the new project.
  • You don’t pay me interest on the money? Why not?
  • When the job is half done, you will not release part of the collateral?
  • You will not release the collateral upon acceptance / completion of the contract?
  • You will not release the collateral until the warranty period ends?
  • Etc. Plenty of aggravating phone calls and emails.

With all this aggravation ahead, why do some bonding companies require collateral? The reason is to protect themselves in the event of a bond claim.When a contract surety loss occurs, the claims department hopes to have two dependable resources for financial recovery:

  1. The unpaid balance of the contract goes to the surety as they complete the work
  2. The surety sues the applicant / company and its owners to recover the loss

Collateral requirements arise when the surety wants to have certainty. If a problem develops, they don’t want to find that the client has no money left, or they declared bankruptcy… or left the country. If they are to write the bond, they want a guaranteed way of having financial recovery.Bearing in mind that collateral is a dear price to pay for a bond, let’s look at an alternative approach that helps the surety, but doesn’t take a big bite out of the contractor!

“Retainage” is money the project owner hold back (retains) to assure the final completion of the project and payment of related bills. If the retainage is 10%, the contractor receives 90% of the funds they are owed as the job progresses. At the end, the contract owner / obligee will still be holding 10% to keep the contractor interested in reaching total, satisfactory completion. In this manner, the retainage money protects both the obligee and the surety – making a bond claim less likely.

“Surety Consent to Release of Final Payment” is a voluntary procedure obligees may use as a courtesy to the surety. The last bit of contract funds may be useful leverage to get the contractor moving for the final contract adjustments. There may be building cracks, broken glass, defective lights, painting errors – small stuff that the obligee cares about but the contractor may find annoying to correct. The Surety Consent is another way for the bonding company the avoid a claim. “Fix this problem or we will not agree to release your final payment.”

How can these two useful tools be incorporated to guarantee they will help the surety, and therefore replace the need for collateral?

The answer is to add a condition to the bond (mandatory compliance required by the obligee) stating that there may be no release or reduction of retainage or final payment without the prior written consent of the surety. Now the bonding company is guaranteed to have a financial resource available and the amount is known in advance – just like collateral. But the contractor didn’t have to drain the company bank account to accomplish it: Win-win!

What if the contract terms do not provide for a retainage procedure? One can be added by contract amendment. If Funds Control (an escrow agent) is in use to handle the contract disbursements, a retainage procedure can be added to the funds control agreement.  Keep this alternative procedure in mind if your bond underwriter needs help to be more creative with the underwriting solution.

Speaking of Funds Control, watch for our article next week “Performance Bonds: How to Avoid Funds Control.”

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.

Surety Bonds: How I Voted

Last Tuesday was the big day: 

  • “The most consequential mid-terms of our lifetime!”
  • “Your mid-term vote is a chance to affirm / reject (choose one) the president’s agenda!”
  • “The end of life as we know it!”
  • “Blah-blah-blah!”

I’m not making a joke about voting.  I think it is a privilege.  As citizens of a democracy, we owe it to all who have suffered and died defending this noble right.

So on Tuesday, I awoke bursting with patriotism and planning to cast my ballot.  But I decided to do it differently.  You’ve heard the expression, “Vote With Your feet.” This time I’ll do it!

I identified myself to the voting lady and she sent me to booth #2.  I quickly removed my shoes and socks.  It was hard getting the curtain open.

I entered the booth and reviewed all the choices.  Here it comes.  I steadied myself and placed my big toe on the lever.  I need to flip the lever, slippery, hard to turn it… I got it!

It became easier as I proceeded.  At the end you push a button to register your choices.  My big toe wouldn’t fit so I used the side of my “pinky toe.” Awesome!

I must admit, voting with your feet is harder than I expected, and a lot less fun. Why do people like it so much?  Eventually… it dawned on me what the expression means.  My “foot voting” was a fiasco!

You don’t have to make the same mistake. It’s not too late for you to vote with your feet – the right way.  Choose what’s better for you.  You can do it on Surety Bonds:

  • Circular 570, T-Listed bonds in excess of $10 million
  • Increased commissions
  • Superior, 365 service.
  • Same day response on new submissions.

You can have all this.  You should have it all! Vote with your feet and come over to KIS Surety for all these benefits.  Give us a call with your next Bid or Performance Bond.

Steve Golia, National Surety Director, KIS Surety

856-304-7348

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!