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The NBIS Difference: All About Risk Management-Based Insurance

Featuring Kevin Cunningham, Executive Vice President, NBIS Construction & Transport

Posted on 04 Aug 09

This week we spoke with Kevin Cunningham, Executive Vice President of NBIS, NationsBuilders Insurance Services, Inc., a hybrid MGU specializing in insurance program administration for the Heavy Construction Equipment and related Transport industries and in the Residential Builders’ and Contractors’ marketplace. Headquartered in Atlanta, NBIS also has offices in Baltimore, Chicago and San Diego, and with a staff of 80 provides program underwriting, policy issuance, claims adjusting and customized risk management services in its industry niches to retail producers nationwide.

Originally founded in 2001 to provide Contractor’s Liability for the Residential market on the West Coast, in 2006 NBIS expanded and began also offering Heavy Construction Equipment cover underwritten by Special Risk Services Group LLC (SRS). NBIS acquired SRS over the last 15 months, underwent a top-to-bottom organizational re-engineering process to integrate the NBIS companies servicing these two distinct markets. This involved creating new products, a new operating system, re-branding (a new logo, website, etc.), and much more -- all based on a philosophy that focuses on providing risk management for NBIS’ retailers and their customers.

Furthermore, in June of this year, NBIS announced the launch of a new multi-line specialty program for Heavy Construction and Transport, developed in partnership with Tower Group, a leading insurance and risk-related services company based in New York City.

The Heavy Construction industries NBIS serves includes:

• Crane Rental/Rigging/Millwright
• Heavy Haul & Machinery Transport
• Concrete Pumper Contractors
• Energy Service Contractors
• Drill Shaft Contractors
• Drilling Service Contractors

Coverage for these classes includes: General Liability, Contractor's Automobile, Trucker's Liability/Physical Damage, Inland Marine/Heavy Contractors Equipment, Special Transport Cargo, and Excess Liability. Cover is available in all 50 states, with plans to go international with a London office that will focus on Central Europe. In fact, Kevin will be a featured speaker at the Annual World Crane and Transport Summit held in Amsterdam in October.

NBIS has an exclusive endorsement from the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA).

The NBIS Residential program is available in the western half of the United States and provides General Liability cover. ProBuilders Specialty Insurance Co., RRG, a risk retention group owned by its builders/contractors, underwrites the program.

“We’re a true hybrid of an insurance and risk management provider,” says Kevin. “We provide 100% of the core functions of a specialty insurance company to agents/brokers and insured customers as an MGU, including taking risk through our small reinsurance subsidiary (NBIC), and handling agency relationships, marketing, submissions, quoting, binding, claims adjusting, claims investigation, loss control, premium audits, regulatory filings, legal, accounting, and financing.”

Leveling the Playing Field for Clients

Everything NBIS does is founded upon providing a tangible risk management support system for each and every policyholder. “We believe that the construction insurance claims defense system is not working. It is reactive by design, slow-moving, and expensive,” says Kevin. “When a claim occurs what typically happens is that the claimant’s plaintiff attorney is immediately on site to gather forensic evidence, and investigate the loss. In the meantime, the insured’s policy has a “duty to defend” clause, which means that one has to wait to be sued before beginning the process of legal investigation and getting an attorney at the site. Once the lawsuit comes in, it is then that the insured’s case gets outsourced to independent claims investigators and a local attorney. This takes about two to three days at minimum, and in a worst-case scenario may take up to one to two weeks. Therein lies the problem. The Plaintiff attorney has already been on site, gathered information, etc., before the defense even begins the process. The playing field is not level,” explains Kevin.

As a result, NBIS created kits/tools for retailers and policyholders to help change the process and outcome. “We have a 24/7 claims hotline, a dedicated risk management unit in Baltimore that works daily with our legal department and claims department and local counsel to get an attorney out on site immediately, to do what the plaintiff attorney is doing…and that is to immediately get to where the loss occurred to investigate and gather evidence. We’re leveling the field now.”

Kevin explains that this approach may increase front-end defense costs but it is well worth it as it’s “all about the outcome of the suit and mitigating overall costs.” This allows NBIS to deliver competitive rates in different classes, as it reduces long-term costs. And the approach also helps with NBIS’ retention rate, which is between 85%-95%.

“It’s all about risk management-based insurance,” says Kevin.

In addition, due to the special relationships NBIS has with affinity and trade groups, the company is continuously expanding into new classes of business. Part of NBIS’ plans includes offering cover for infrastructure construction in late 2009, early 2010. Plans also include doubling its revenues and increasing staff by 30% within 12-18 months.

A New Look, Effective Marketing

As part of the NBIS re-engineering process during the last year or so, establishing a “new look” for the firm was an integral component. “We dedicate 100% of our resources to construction and transport risk management and we strongly believe that the new look of NBIS, along with our new and improved website, embraces that concept,” says Kevin.

Kevin explains NBIS’ marketing approach is multi-faceted. This includes doing conventional advertising in most insurance agency trade publications; conducting direct marketing to a database that has been developed over the years, promoting the company’s risk management approach to the industry; co-branding with regional key producers. Additionally, working with trade associations as an educational platform is a cornerstone of NBIS’ marketing strategy. “We spend a lot of time conducting workshops, giving presentations to those in the industry,” explains Kevin, “ highlighting underwriting experience, safety management, and risk management.”

Ultimately, the values that form the NBIS culture are what distinguish the company. These values include: putting associates, customers, producers, and stakeholders first, in everything it does with transparent communication, integrity, trust, accountability and respect; being passionate about world-class service to customers; developing and encouraging a high-performance mindset that builds synergy across all functional teams; delivering best-in-class results; fostering an environment that promotes associate involvement, open communication, teamwork and cooperation; and providing stakeholders with financial strength and profitability.

To find out more about NBIS and its programs, please visit the company Storefront and its website at: You can also contact Kevin at 770.257.1130 or