It is more common than not that those who choose to track Certificates of Insurance (COI) themselves have a harder time of it than those who do it professionally, such as with an outsourced tracking service. There are a lot of reasons for this condition – lack of time, resources and knowledge are leading causes. Nevertheless, both the pros and those who manage COIs in-house have similar needs when it comes to finding ways to make the process go smoother and with greater accuracy.
Based on our experience, here's a toolkit of essential items for efficiently tracking COIs:
Obtaining and maintaining complete and accurate information on your Insureds is the essential first step in any COI tracking program. Insureds are not static entities – vendors come and go; tenants move out, new ones move in; and addresses, email, phone and brokers all change over time. It is imperative you develop a means to obtain and update your basic information on Insureds on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Build a good spreadsheet or utilize one of the many user-friendly database products available to handle this basic task.
Many contractual insurance requirements specify that the insurance be written by a carrier with a designated minimum A.M. Best rating. This ever-changing information is available both online and in printed form. Depending upon your budget and level of service you need, it is possible to subscribe to updates daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.
If you are dealing with more than a few dozen COIs it can become overwhelming simply to communicate with all those Insureds and their brokers. Develop standardized templates for three purposes: 1) requesting COIs, 2) reporting compliance deficiencies, and 3) requesting replacement COIs for those that are expiring (Tip: ask for the renewal COI before it expires). Have a system to easily monitor policy dates - ideally this system will trigger a request for a replacement COI.
Sooner or later you will be unable to connect with the right person to fill in the blanks, answer a critical question or resolve a particular COI problem. Most often this is because you don't know who to talk to. Save yourself time and reduce the stress. There are some very accurate online people directories available, such as ZoomInfo, that make short work of tracking down the right person quickly.
You will accumulate a lot of information for a every Insured, so why not keep it organized? Put all those COIs, correspondence, contracts and everything else in a well-designed repository that will not only facilitate research, records retrieval and review, but also double as an archive. It's way too easy to lose track of important items not to have a permanent recordkeeping system in place.
Sounds daunting? It doesn't have to be. If you choose to go it alone, muster what internal resources may be available to you, such as your IT department, to help with the technical stuff. If you're shopping for an outside service, the tools above should be a given. In either case, getting started is always the hardest part.
Once you've made the commitment your effort should be rewarded with a smoother ride toward increased COI compliance with reduced effort and far fewer headaches.