payment bond

Increased Production

Ever wonder why a surety bond underwriter asks you for new business?

  • Is it because they are nosy and want to gauge your agency strength?
  • Does the surety has a loss ratio problem?
  • Has poor customer service caused the underwriter to fall short of goals?
  • Or maybe the underwriter has a sincere interest in deepening your relationship for mutual benefit.

FIA has been writing Site/Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds for over 40 years.  We are “A” Rated and having an excellent 2020!

“Can we help you with any new business?”

Call: 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

CE Rescue!

It’s May and now you’re a month closer to your insurance license renewal…  Your CE rescue is here!

FIA Surety is proud to announce we have re-opened our free Continuing Education program.  You may know, we are an accredited CE provider in NJ and PA, and can provide the free CE course on your premises.

Give us a call to set up your class.  We are now accepting dates in June.  All the proper safeguards will be used to protect the class participants.

Free CE credits from FIA Surety!  Call us: 856-304-7348

Since 1979, FIA has been your dependable bonding company for Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds.

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

 

#170: Why Developers LOVE Subdivision Bonds

When developers and home builders start a new project, they must give security to the local township. This guarantees construction of the “public improvements.”

The security can be in cash, an irrevocable letter of credit (ILOC), or a subdivision bond (surety bond).

Why is a bond the best method?

  • Developers retain the use of their cash. Keep it available to acquire and finance new projects. Use it to solve problems. Remember, cash is king!
  • More control if there is a claim: They are processed through the bonding company. There is a discovery process. The developer has input and more control than with an ILOC. With an ILOC they can simply grab the developer’s money!
  • Better long term protection. These guarantees are hard to close, may drag on for years. The township is in no hurry to give up their security. It’s easy to renew the bond and you’re good for another year.

Developers and home builders love subdivision bonds – especially if they obtain them from one of the industry’s strongest players: FIA Surety. We have supported developers and home builders with subdivision bonds since 1979.

Call us for your next one or to replace existing security you have already filed.

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.

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.

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

Flat Tires and Surety Bonds

“It’s only flat on the bottom!”  When you heard that, did it make you feel any better?  No… a flat tire is a real PIA. Nothin’ good about it!

What about “Flat line?”  Heaven forbid!  That’s real bad.

When I was a kid we had an expression, a “Flat leaver.”  That was a person who left you flat. Don’t like that either.

You can probably think of other examples: Flat footed, flat broke, flat on your back…

BUT! When it comes to surety bonds, flat can be good. Look at how major sureties typically make their decisions.  There is the field person in the branch, plus a supervisor, and a bond manager.  Then there is a home office underwriter, maybe two.  Together this “committee” makes major decisions.  Problem is, they don’t actually work as a committee, they process the decision sequentially.  Each person looks at it, then sends it on to the next.  That’s a great system, unless you need an answer in this lifetime!

This is an example of a decision making structure that is not flat.  It is multi-layer, multi-person, each with an “in” box and other priorities.  Getting a decision will take a couple of weeks.

When it comes to surety bonds, you want flat.  You want a structure where decisions are made promptly and efficiently.  Then everyone wins.  You get the answer you need, when you need it.  Isn’t this how the system is supposed to work?

KIS Surety / Great Midwest Insurance Company (GMIC) is your large capacity, most flat market.  We process decisions fast.  All new submissions receive a same day response.  Productive, creative, expert underwriting that has produced superb results for years.

Do yourself a favor.  Take a step up to surety bonds the way they should be. KIS Surety Bonds, LLC is the exclusive underwriting department for Great Midwest Insurance Company an “A – 8” carrier licensed in all states plus D.C.  We have in-house authority for Bid and Performance Bonds up to $10 million each.

Contact us for creative solutions and a same day response: 856-304-7348

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Secrets of Bonding #148: The Greatest Impediment to Bonding

Surety bonds are hard to get. Contractors and their insurance agents know that underwriters are conservative. They ask lots of questions. Then they ask more questions. Then they say they can’t help you. It’s a fun-filled process.

Some contractors can’t get bonded because they have a poor credit history. Others have weak or insufficient financial statements. There are plenty of reasons for an unhappy ending, but what is the single biggest reason – and what can you do about it?

Crappy credit: This is a very common problem. The company may be struggling to get enough work, resulting in a weak credit report. So they decide to move into public work for additional revenues – but the bad credit report makes this impossible. Sometimes the report can be improved by correcting errors and updating the info. This is not the greatest impediment contractors and their agents face.

Weak or insufficient financial statement: There are innumerable potential problems. No financial statement, only an internal statement, only a compilation, an interim FS, a net loss, no working capital – the pitfalls are endless! It’s not the biggest impediment though.

Unsavory circumstances: Excessive bid spreads, inadequate prior experience, bad bond forms, harsh contract terms, too much other work. They are all bad, but they are not the king.

The Greatest Impediment

Picture how the process starts. When the contractor decides to go after bonding, a list of information is requested. The underwriter wants business and personal financial statements. A current work in process schedule is needed. Prior tax returns, resumes of key people and a bank reference letter are desired.

The contractor wants to pursue this, but MAN, that’s a lot of stuff!

He has not needed to make company financial statements, so how to come up with them now?

The company owner never needed to make a resume, always been self-employed. How do I write that up?

The WIP schedule: I don’t have that info available. I know where I am on all my jobs. Why would I take the time to fill out a bunch of forms anyway?

I can get the bank reference letter completed and make copies of prior tax returns (they want the WHOLE THING?!) But if I do that, who’s gonna do the estimating so we don’t run out of work? And I have to visit the projects or everything will grind to a halt. The workers want to milk every job like it’s their last. They’ll suck the profits out of everything if I give them the chance.

Conclusion 

The greatest impediment is the applicant themselves! In my 40+ years of surety bond underwriting, I have concluded that MOST contractors deserve to be bonded, but many fail to acquire surety support. It is because they stop trying, or never really start.

People must make choices. They have to put bread on the table. If they can succeed by doing what they know, why try some experiment that may fail? Sometimes it’s just easier to keep doing the same thing – even if you are discontent.

Our observation is that bonding takes perseverance and patience. It is a journey, a path with unexpected twists. There can be obstacles, but we have solutions! If contractors or agents expect it to be fast and easy… they may be disappointed.

Applicants for bonding must plan to devote some time and energy to achieve a goal they know is worthy. It says a lot to have a surety backing you. They are vouching for your ability, and putting up their own money to prove it. It’s a big deal and not always easy, but always worth it in the end.

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.)

Secrets of Bonding #135: Surety Bond Challenge Question!

Our articles have covered some of the oddities of the surety world: Seemingly crazy bond forms and rating procedures.  Out of all of them, one is the strangest. An agent colleague called us on one this week, so let’s talk about this ugly baby.

Characteristics:

  • Inexpensive, but hard to get.  Often collateral for more than the bond amount plus full indemnity is required.
  • The bond penalty (dollar amount) may not be fixed.
  • Banks and insurance companies can be both the applicant and beneficiary of such bonds.
  • This bond “renews” for free – for years.
  • It is a surety bond that can have another bond as it’s subject.

Sounds pretty weird? Raise your hand if you know.

It is a Lost Instrument Bond.

So what do these do? No, you don’t get one when you can’t find your tuba.tuba

These bonds are required when an instrument such as a cashier’s check or stock certificate has been lost, and a replacement is desired.  The bond protects the interests of the issuer, and is subject to claim if both the original and the duplicate are cashed.  The bond applicant would be responsible for the financial loss – thus the common need for collateral.

The subject of the surety bond can be a government issued investment bond.  So this is the one surety bond that covers another bond!

Bonding companies are not fond of these because they make a one-time annual premium charge, but the bond must remain in effect for a statutory term, typically years (ugh!)

drummerUnderwriters may refuse to provide a bond immediately after the instrument is lost.  The concern is that the original may be found and the bond returned for a refund.  The surety may require a cooling off period to see if the original is located (90 days?)

Instruments with a changing dollar value, such as shares of stock, are covered with an Open Penalty bond.  This means the dollar value will automatically increase to cover the current value of the instrument, in the event of a claim. This is one more reason to make underwriters reluctant – and require more than 100% of the initial value in collateral.

Lost Instrument Bonds: The ugly babies of the surety world.  So now you know.  They aren’t ugly, they’re just “different!”

(BTW, the author thinks ALL babies are beautiful!)

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision and Contract Surety 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.)

Secrets of Bonding #122: Don’t Sign That Lien Release!

WAIVER OF LIEN BY CONTRACTOR, SUBCONTRACTOR(S) AND SUPPLIER

We, the undersigned, acknowledge receipt of the amounts stated below as full payment for all labor, professional services, materials, or equipment furnished for use on or about the property of…”

In construction, lien releases are common. Project owners expect their general contractor to execute them. GCs demand them from their subcontractors and suppliers. They are part of the routine. If you want to get paid, you sign it. But when should you not sign it? Let’s look at what a lien release does, and when you should be cautious about executing.

The Purpose of Lien Releases
Typically, a lien release is required in connection with a monetary payment. It comes up in any of these situations:

  • Monthly payment made from project owner to the general contractor
  • Monthly payment from GC to a sub or suppliers
  • Final contract payments to any of these

The lien release enables the accounting to transition from one billing cycle to the next. It is a form of receipt that protects the Payor by acknowleging that the Payee has received funds – they relinquish the right to claim they were not paid.

danger-aheadNormally, when contractors and suppliers are unpaid, they can file a lien (a security interest) against the title of the physical property. With such a lien in place, the property cannot be sold.  The lien release / waiver gives up the right to file such a lien and possibly other legal remedies as well.

Lien releases come in two basic flavors, and it is very important to recognize the difference between them.

The Good One: Conditional

“THIS DOCUMENT WAIVES THE CLAIMANT’S LIEN, STOP PAYMENT NOTICE, AND PAYMENT BOND RIGHTS EFFECTIVE ON RECEIPT OF PAYMENT. A PERSON SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS DOCUMENT UNLESS SATISFIED THAT THE CLAIMANT HAS RECEIVED PAYMENT.”

A release / waiver is Conditional if it waives rights once a condition (usually the receipt of payment) occurs. An example of conditional language is:

“Upon the receipt of $____, Subcontractor hereby waives and releases its lien and bond rights for labor and materials through _________ (date).”

Unless the waiver states otherwise, the conditional waiver is not effective until the condition, such as payment, occurs.

Also note, this wording includes a condition regarding time which protects the claimant’s lien rights arising in the next billing period.

The Bad One: Unconditionalcaution-proceed-carefully-md

“THIS DOCUMENT WAIVES AND RELEASES LIEN, STOP PAYMENT NOTICE, AND PAYMENT BOND RIGHTS UNCONDITIONALLY AND STATES THAT YOU HAVE BEEN PAID FOR GIVING UP THOSE RIGHTS. THIS DOCUMENT IS ENFORCEABLE AGAINST YOU IF YOU SIGN IT, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PAID. IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PAID, USE A CONDITIONAL WAIVER AND RELEASE FORM.”

Actually it is only bad if the claimant has not yet been paid. Then it would be inadvisable to provide an unconditional release. The claimant will have no recourse if they do not receive their payment, and they will also relinquish their ability to claim against the Payment Bond.

Conclusion
The Conditional Lien Release includes conditions and wording that protects the claimant’s interests.

The Unconditional Release can be detrimental if executed unintentionally or under inappropriate circumstances.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision and Contract Surety 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.