tripartite agreements

Changing Horses: Site & Subdivision Bonds #169

Abe Lincoln said it.  And it’s mostly true.  But here is one time when it really does make sense to “Change Horses In Mid-Stream!”

When Developers and Home Builders start a new project, they give security to the city or township guaranteeing the construction of public improvements (streets, curbs, lights, water, sewer, etc.) The security may be in the form of cash, a bank issued irrevocable letter of credit (ILOC), or a surety bond.

They’re all the same to the township, but there are huge differences for the contractor. The most obvious is the loss of use of their funds. How long will the money be tied up? It can take much longer than expected to get these obligations released (the township is in no hurry!)

If a dispute arises and cash or an ILOC was used, the township just takes the contractor’s money.  It’s all over.  With a surety bond, there is a discovery process through the claims department.  The contractor has input and may affect the outcome.

So, back to the horses.  For clients that have already posted cash or an ILOC, they can swap it out with a surety bond!  Get their money back. Gain more control. Protect company assets.  Put the cash to good use!

How to start? Call FIA Surety.  Since 1979, we have been a steady provider of site and subdivision bonds.  We do little $20,000 site bonds for commercial property owners and have written multi-multi million dollar subdivision projects.  Come to the experts to swap in a surety bond, or to write a new project. We get them done!

Read expert analysis: Why Surety Bonds are the way to go here.

Call FIA Surety: 973-541-3417

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

 

Graduate from the SBA

Congrats to the kids!!  They finally made it.  Now its their time to move on and move up.  What about contractors in the SBA Bonding program?  Is it their time to graduate?

The SBA program is a great help, and the people are awesome: dedicated, helpful.  But the program has a down side.  It costs time and money to obtain their bonding support.  So if a contractor could get federal and other projects without this extra step, why wouldn’t they?

Here’s what you gain, more or less, by graduating into a regular surety relationship:

More

  • Time to pursue productive activities – new projects, strategic planning, employee training, educational opportunities, etc.
  • Time for other personal and family priorities
  • Profits on your projects and financial statement overall
  • Increased profits can lead to higher bonding limits and bigger projects
  • Credibility – a graduated company no longer needing extra help

Less

  • Bonding expenses (bond premium plus SBA fee) on each project
  • Time spent filling out double forms for the surety and the SBA
  • Answering questions to both
  • Waiting for approvals

OK, so if graduating sounds great, how do you do it?

Step one: Ask the current bonding company to provide bonds without the SBA program.  If they do it, you can thank us later!

Step two: If they refuse, call FIA Surety!  We provide bonds for federal and local projects without the need for SBA support.  It takes a creative, experienced surety to graduate contractors.   FIA has been providing Bid, Performance & Payment, Site and Subdivision Bonds since 1979. We’re steady.  We’re willing.  We’re creative.

It’s time to graduate!

For Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds call 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

Banker Holding Back

Sure, your banker loves you. But here is important info they want to keep from Home Builders, Developers and their Agents.

When starting a new project, developers must secure the project with the township. This can be in the form of:

  1. Cash
  2. Bank issued Irrevocable Letter of Credit (ILOC,)
  3. Or a surety issued Site/Subdivision Bond

The International Risk Management Institute says a surety bond is better than an ILOC:

“Corporate surety bonds are far and away the most preferred option for most owner/developers when you consider the potential disadvantages of the alternative guarantee forms.”

Now you know. Too late if an ILOC was already filed with the township… or is it? Actually, our surety bonds can be filed to replace / release the ILOC. Your banker won’t tell you that either!

This is a great move for developers! Get back your cash. Use it to acquire or start a new project. It’s NOT too late the fix the ILOC mistake if you know where to go. Most sureties won’t write this type of bond but at FIA, it’s our specialty!

FIA is also one of the few bonding companies that will write Down-payment bonds for it’s Home Builders freeing up even more usable cash for your company.

If you have an immediate need for a Site/Subdivision bond or are interested in replacing an existing ILOC with a bond, call us at 856-304-7348.

Steve Golia

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

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

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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

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

Secrets of Bonding #162: Burn Baby, Burn!

In the surety underwriting business, we are forward looking.  Bond decisions are based on a variety of factors including “The Four C’s of Bonding” (read our article #5).  Underwriters make a detailed analysis, then set surety capacity levels to administer the account. That all makes sense.

However, the forward looking analysis makes assumptions – that may or may not be correct.  If incorrect, the outcome could be devastating for the contractor and surety.

In this article we will delve into an aspect of evaluation used extensively by investors, but not so much by bond underwriters.  It is called the Burn Rate.  Mood Music: Click!

 

Here is the internet definition:  

Burn Rate is the rate at which a company is losing money.  It is typically expressed in monthly terms; “the company’s burn rate is currently $65,000 per month.” In this sense, the word “burn” is a synonymous term for negative cash flow.

It is also a measure for how fast a company will use up its shareholder capital.  If the shareholder capital is exhausted, the company will either have to start making a profit, find additional funding, or close down.

Very interesting. The reason our underwriters use the Burn Rate is because of the assumption it does not make…

Think of the typical decision-making process.  Working Capital (WC) and Net Worth are calculated then compared to the requested bonding limits. The underwriter wants to predict if the company’s financial strength is sufficient to support the amount of surety capacity.  (A 10% case?) This evaluation is important, but it assumes the client will have enough future work to fill the bonding capacity limits. But what if they don’t? Can we predict the company’s ability to survive with inadequate revenues and in the absence of profits?  Would this not be an important measure of financial strength and staying power?

The Burn Rate enables us to determine:

Runway

 A company’s “Runway” is the time it can survive on existing capital without new funds coming in.

Here’s how to calculate a company’s financial Runway. This is a hard core analysis that eliminates all expectation of new revenues. The formula requires two elements:

  1. Working Capital “As Allowed” by the underwriter’s analysis
  2. Average monthly fixed expenses

Working Capital (WC), as you may recall in Secret #4, is a measure of the company’s short term financial strength.  It calculates the assets readily convertible to cash in the next fiscal period.  Every underwriter identifies this number during their financial statement review.

If future revenues are inadequate, what is the company’s survivability?  The Fixed Expenses help us determine this fact.  These are the expenses that don’t go away, even if there are no new revenues.  Every month, you pay the rent, utilities, administrative staff, telephone, maintenance, insurance, etc.  These expenses are coming regardless of how much or how little sales are achieved.  In the absence of future revenues, it is Working Capital that must pay these monthly bills.  The Runway is how long the company can operate in this mode.  The Burn Rate reveals this survivability.

An actual client:

12/31 Working Capital As Allowed from the Balance Sheet = $1,099,000

1/31-12/31 Total Expenses from the Profit and Loss Statement (not including Cost of Goods Sold, aka Direct Expenses) = $1,243,000

Burn Rate: Average Monthly Expenses = $1,243,000 / 12 = $104,000 per month

Runway: WC Divided by Average Monthly Fixed Expenses

$1,099,000 / $104,000 = 10.6 months

Based on current expected cash flow, the company can cover it’s fixed (unavoidable) operating expenses for 10.6 months even if it has no income/ profits from new revenues.  The Runway is 10.6 months. This measure of survivability can be compared from period to period, by year, or from one company to another.

Don’t forget, when the mood music stops, the party is not over.  Our national underwriting department brings this high level of expertise and willingness to all your bid and performance bonds. 

Call us when you need a corporate surety with excellent credentials and capacity on surety bonds up to $10,000,000.  Excellence in underwriting, aggressive, creative, fast. Underwriting the way you wished it would be.

Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. Call us with your next bid or performance bond.

856-304-7348 

Secrets of Bonding #161: No More Performance Bonds!

This is the Bonding Company’s worst nightmare…

In this article we will cover the situations in which no Performance or Payment Bond is needed!  Some of the projects are big and federal, some are private, ALL are unbonded.  Here we go!

As a point of reference, you may expect that federal, state and municipal contracts demand a Performance and Payment (P&P) Bond equal to the contract amount.  Normally they do.  General Contractors working for a private owner, such as the construction of an office building or apartment project, may face the same requirement.  This can apply to subcontractors, too.

Federal Projects

This area includes all branches of the federal government. Examples: Army Corps of Engineers, General Services Administration, Dept. of Energy, etc. Their contracts are administered following the rules of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).

Suprisingly, the FAR says that no P&P bond is required on contracts under $150,000.

For contracts $150,000 and higher that require security, there are times when the bond requirement may be reduced below 100% or waived entirely.  These include:

  • Overseas Contracts
  • Emergency Acquisitions
  • Sole-Source Projects

If 100% security is mandatory, the FAR lists acceptable alternatives to a P&P bond:

  • US Government (investment) Bonds
  • Certified Check
  • Bank Draft
  • Money Order
  • Currency
  • Irrevocable Letter of Credit

Here’s another option: For contracts performed in a foreign country, the government can accept a bond from a non-T-Listed surety. (Circular 570) Crazy!

State and Municipal Contracts

The bonding requirements may vary by state, but generally their flavor is similar to federal.  They, too, may accept alternative forms of secutity such as an ILOC.

Private Contracts

Anything goes.  On private contracts, the owner has complete discretion to set the bonding requirements – including no bond needed.  Keep in mind, the cost of the bond is added to the contract, so the owner can save some money by not requiring a bond.  They may take other precautions to protect themselves.  Some examples:

  • Require a retainage. These are funds that are held back from the contractor and only released when the project is fully accepted (reduces the risk of Performance failure)
  • Lien releases may be required each month to prove suppliers and subcontractors are being paid appropriately (reduces the risk of Payment failure)
  • Funds Control / Tripartite Agreement – a paymaster is employed to handle the contract funds (Payment risk)
  • Joint checks are issued to the contractor and payees below them – to assure the funds reach the intended parties (Payment risk)
  • Physical site inspections to verify progress (Performance risk)

The Nightmare

In these articles we talk a lot about how contractors can obtain surety bonds and manage them.  But it is interesting to note: A construction company could go forever, performing state and federal projects – and NEVER get a bond.  It’s true!

If everyone did this, it would be the surety’s worst nightmare.  But in reality, there are financial advantages to using P&P bonds, so bonding usually is the first choice. 

Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. 

We can help you solve your next contract surety need.  Call us now: 856-304-7348

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Secrets of Bonding #160: Deep in the Weeds with Set Aside Letters

In this article we will peel back the onion on Set Aside Letters (SAL) issued by banks in connection with construction loans.  What are they, when they are useful for bonding companies and when are they not?

Here is the essence of such documents:

“The agreement covering the project will provide that the funds in said impound account are … to be disbursed for payment of the (Name of Project) mentioned above and only after (Bank) has satisfied itself that the work paid for has actually been performed… In the event (Borrower) fails to complete the project described herein… all funds remaining in said impound account shall be immediately available to Surety to complete and pay the costs of said project, and in such event, (Borrower) waives any claim or interest in the remaining funds. Surety shall not in any way be obligated to repay said funds so used to (Bank).

This is an irrevocable commitment of funds which is not subject to recall or offset by (Bank).”

Pretty interesting!  This letter / agreement keeps the loan in play to fund the completion of the project  – even if the borrower (bank customer) fails / defaults.

When Are Set Aside Letters Used?

These documents are a common underwriting tool when a Site or Subdivision Bond is issued by a surety. If the bond applicant (who is also the developer and borrower) is relying on a construction loan to fund the bonded work, the SAL protects the surety by providing funds for the completion of the work in the event of a default.

What a great idea.  So why don’t we use these on everything?  Let’s look at another example.

Commercial Projects

The project owner hires a bonded contractor and a bank loan will fund the project.  The bank needs a guarantee that the asset / project (which backs the loan) will be built as intended.  A Performance and Payment Bond accomplishes this and assures there will be no Mechanics Liens against the property for unpaid bills.  These two aspects benefit the project owner and the lender.  Keep in mind, in a borrower default situation, the bank becomes the new owner of the property.

It is common for the bank to stipulate that a bonded contractor be used, and they may want to be a named beneficiary on the P&P bond – accomplished by issuing a Dual Obligee Rider.  In turn, should the underwriter require a SAL from the lender?

On Commercial projects, the normal practice is to NOT obtain a SAL from the lender.  Why not?  Why is this different?

Choose one:

a. The bank is a secured lender

b. The bank can subrogate against the borrower’s assets

c. The Dual Obligee Rider serves a purpose similar to the SAL

a. and b. are true, but the answer is c.

Welcome to the Weeds

We’re going in now. The Dual Obligee Rider adds the lender as a beneficiary with all the rights and obligations of the obligee named on the bond (the project owner).  And what are they?  Obviously they are entitled to make a performance claim and have the project delivered as indicated in the contract.

The named obligee also has obligations, one of the most primary is to PAY the builder. Important: The obligee is prohibited from making a performance claim if they have failed to pay the contractor.

Therefore, when the bank is included under a Dual Obligee Rider, they accept the benefits and obligations.  If the borrower defaults, the lender cannot make a bond claim unless they continue to pay the construction loan to the surety.  (Now the bank owns the project and the surety has become the contractor.)

Summary

Is this starting to make sense?  When a borrower defaults on a commercial project, a lender included by Dual Obligee Rider cannot make a claim unless they continue to pay the project funds to the surety.

Deeper Weeds

On Site and Subdivision there is a unique risk – the lender can take a free ride on the surety by having the bonding company pay out of pocket to complete the project.

Site and Sub-D bonds have the local municipality as obligee, not the bank.  The bank doesn’t want a Dual Obligee Rider because they automatically receive a financial benefit if the municipality makes a bond claim to demand completion of the project.  If the borrower has defaulted, the bank has the opportunity to withhold the balance of the loan (the borrower is gone), and watch the surety pay to complete a project they now own.  And they were not even the bond claimant…

This is the risk sureties avoid on Site and Subdivision Bonds by requiring the SAL that keeps the loan in play, even if the bond applicant / borrower has failed.

Admittedly, this is a pretty obscure subject, but also interesting to us “bond nerds.”  It never hurts to understand how things fit together.  These skills help us solve your complicated bond opportunities.  Take advantage of our expertise when the next one pops up.

Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. Call us with your next bid or performance bond. 856-304-7348 

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