Category Archives: Business/Finance

Good Help is Hard to Find…

One of the common themes that I’m finding with 3 of the companies that I’m involved with is finding good team members. It seems now a days that everyone wants to have the C Suite executive lifestyle, but only have internship skills and work ethic. In a way I can understand it, because there are only a handful of those who will make it to be successful millionaires. And those few are the ones who show their dedication and hard work on every level of their career. That fact that only a few are willing to do the essential things to be truly successful, correlates to the amount of successful people that there are.
Examples..  Continue reading Good Help is Hard to Find…

At company 1, we had a small team, but when business started to increase, the managers did not increase their staff soon enough. This lead to the small staff  having to handle an increased workload and also to be more efficient. Some of the employees took this opportunity to show their abilities and put themselves in a position to be promoted. Other employees showed their flaws and their lack of skills. Once the new staff was in place, the company is now faced with the recently hired employees, the impressive employees, and the employees who proved that they could not cut it under pressure. So the decision is now what do you do with the employees who folded under pressure? Do you keep passing them over for promotions and hopefully they’ll put in their resignation? Do you give them a chance and fire them if they don’t produce? Do you try to coach them to become better employees?

Company 2. This start up company was designed to provide an opportunity to others who wanted to build and promote their personal brand.  In the initial stages before launching, everyone was excited and eager to get started.  Some stated that they wanted to submit blog posts, some wanted to work on the podcasts, and others wanted to work on the business side.  5 months into the company, none of them have done anything!!  I’ve learned in the past that most people just like to speak just to hear themselves speak.  You’ll find in your career that everyone will tell you want you want to hear and what makes them sound good.  Be prepared to deal with this numerous times.  It’s easy to get frustrated, but just try to judge people a little better.  It’s always great to give someone a chance to prove themselves, but don’t count on that person as a dependable staff member until they prove they are.

Company 3

This company has been operational for 2 years, so it’s still in the start up phase .The company has done great until this point, but there have been lots of changes to the staff since it was started. The company is at the point now where they want to expand their locations as well as products/services offered, but they are at a stop due to the staff.  Most employees are trained in one area, and can not be trusted to handle different tasks without supervision. This also puts a strain on the 1 or 2 people who are multi skilled because they now have to be a part of everything and it’s stretching them thin.  The logical options for this situation would be to either train the staff according, hire new staff, and/or alter the products and services offered until they can properly be handled.

The moral of it all is that it’s important to find the right people to partner with or to hire as employees. One bad hire can set you back 6-12 months of productivity. One bad partner can cost you your entire company. So understand the importance of you decision, take your time, and choose wisely.

 

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How Big Data is Changing the Future of Insurance

What is Big Data?

Big data can be defined as extremely large sets of data that may be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. It can be used to benefit numerous industries and sectors, but I’m going to focus on its influence on the Insurance industry at this time. Big data can provide an enormous amount of information to help insurers achieve many of their long term goals. The objective is to utilize the data collected to make the industry more efficient, lower risks and costs, and provide better access to information while creating innovation. When analyzing the insurance sector, Big Data can play a major part in Auto, Life & Health, and Property insurance. Using data properly can help companies use predictive analytics as a means to extend their product lines, reduce claim expenses, set better loss reserves, and cut operation costs. Let’s take a look at a few ways that Big Data can help change the insurance industry, analyze some of its issues, and discuss ways to implement its use to help benefit insurers.  Continue reading How Big Data is Changing the Future of Insurance

Applying Big Data

Fraud Protection

Nearly 10% of insurance claims are fraudulent, causing over $25 billion a year to be lost due to fraud claims in just the P & C industry alone. Utilizing data from your company’s claim history, preventive analytics can assist in prioritizing claims. This is accomplished by recognizing when a submitted claim type has previously resulted in a higher payout amount. With the proper data, insurers can decrease their chances of fraud claims. They can mark their submitted claims by the estimated settlement size to determine which claims are higher priorities and which should be investigated further. By managing Big Data, predictive analysis can properly notice fraud sooner and more effectively at each step in the claim cycle. Information such as demographics and examples of the more frequent types of fraud cases reported can be used to help recognize fraud during the claim process.

Claims

Currently, most claim adjusters believe that their companies do not utilize the information that it collects from the claims department. The more insurers use more preventive analytics, the more breakthroughs that will be achieved. Using Big Data as part of the claims process can be a resource that differentiates your company from others. It can also create a cost savings to the company’s bottom line. Just a 1% improvement in loss ratio for a billion dollar company can save 10’s of millions. Insurance companies that utilize this data will mean that insurers would be combing data that they already have access to such as MVRs, clue reports, and the company’s database. They will also access new resources for data such as security cameras, tracking sensors, utility records, and even social media. In addition, adding sources such as traffic and crime reports can give a company a great assessment of a claim risk. Analytics can also shorten the claim cycle and save on payout and operation costs. Loss reserves can be calculated more appropriately by comparing the reported loss with similarly filed claims. A system can be set up to re-evaluate the reserves as the claim information is updated. Analytics can also provide a chance for certain claim submissions to be marked for closer inspection and priority handling. This would allow more senior adjusters to handle certain files from the start more efficiently. This information can also help the insureds with risk management. Analytics can predict the chances of a loss such as wind or theft, and help the insured take steps to avoid or decrease the chances of a loss.

Litigation

A claim that has to go to litigation can cause a company to use a lot of their expenses. Insurers can utilize Big Data to calculate which claims are more likely to result in litigation. When recognized, these claims can then be assigned quicker to more experienced claim adjusters, who could potentially settle the claims faster and for a lower settlement amount

Subrogation

Utilizing data collected can assist in finding subrogation opportunities. Using processes such as text analytics can help find subrogation opportunities earlier in the claims process. This will help to minimize loss expenses and maximize subrogation collections. By recognizing these opportunities sooner, you can organize your information needed and start the subrogation process in a timelier manner.

Underwriting

Data used for predictive analytics can allow the underwriter to sort out the normal submissions, and have the exceptions handled manually by more senior underwriters. This would allow the underwriters to spend less time screening lower risk applicants, and focus on the more unusual cases with higher risk factors. In areas such as homeowners insurance, carriers are utilizing data to make better predictions about vandalism, theft, and flood risks. The carriers that implement these practices in their process will be the competitive companies in the near future. Underwriters will also be able to properly locate potential problem risks upfront and decline to quote, or surcharge appropriately with exclusions or special deductibles.

Marketing

Analyzing data correctly can lower your marketing expenses and improve your organization’s success. Helping to define your target audience and monitoring your current marketing plan for efficiency are just 2 examples of the benefits of data to your marketing needs. Information can also assist with your social media use, website, and mobile marketing strategies.

Operations

Big Data can also improve your company’s process to create better services, lower premiums, increase your sales, lower operation costs, improve loss ratios, increase customer retention, and return higher profits.

Challenges of Using Big Data

There are currently a few challenges for implementing techniques of gathering and using Big Data. One of the main challenges is sorting out the irrelevant information to find the appropriate information that will provide the most benefits and competitive advantage. Once the information is gathered, you must then determine how to utilize it to save costs and increase revenues for your business. To properly gather and analyze Big Data, insurers will have to provide more funding to their IT Departments and make sure they have adequate cloud storage space for this data. The availability of data and the ability to collect data from various sources into a meaningful format is the biggest area where companies fail in their effort of creating predictive models. This can cause inaccurate data, which can harm a company if applied incorrectly. Also, most insurers lack the ability to collect and analyze data, which can affect their decision-making, business growth, and delivery of great customer service. Collecting and analyzing lots of information can be complex and expensive. There is also the fact that most consumers do not like their personal information being obtained and used. But research has also shown that most individuals would not mind giving up some personal information if it can give them a savings on their premiums.

Implementation

With the current amount of technology available today, every industry has the potential to change the way that companies do business. Big Data is helping companies that are striving to be on the leading edge in their industry. The volume of information that is becoming available is growing exponentially, and we are now creating the tools to be able to organize and manage this data. Unlike other sectors, the insurance industry has gotten off to a late start to utilizing Big Data, but they are now using it for methods of predictive sales models, marketing, customer service, as well as claims and underwriting. In order to remain competitive in the future, insurance companies will need to take advantage of Big Data. There will be few companies that will emerge and change the industry. These trendsetters will be the companies who embrace change and adjust their processes around this abundance of information available.

You may be thinking, “Where do we start?” Currently your company may have access to large amounts of information from claims databases, company notes, and publications. Start by determining how analytics can bring value to your company. Become aware of the numerous resources available and how to integrate them to your operations, and improve the automation of your workflows and predictive models. Many insurance companies should reinvent their information management process to get the most value from the enormous amount of information they’ve been collecting for years. Companies’ constant interaction with insureds, agents, and brokers accumulate lots of information with few utilizing that data for external and internal gain. John Anderson, senior managing consultant in IBM’s North American Strategy and Analytics Practice says, “Insurers are sitting on a virtual gold mine of information. Claims activity, underwriting activity, sales and distribution activity. All of that information should be collected and compiled, and that’s beginning to happen as insurers go through transformational changes to their claim systems, underwriting platforms, and even to their distribution capabilities.” There are no limits to the ways information can be captured for analyzing. Information can be gathered from satellites, fitness wearables, social media, construction plans, weather data, energy resources, traffic cameras, drain systems, Nest home thermostats, and more. Within your organization, you can gather data from your company reports from sales, marketing, distribution, and operations. You can then develop analytic tools to improve theses areas. Once the data is obtained, there are many ways to organize and analyze it. Information can be sorted by coverage lines, geography, industry, claim type, age of insured, amount of loss payouts, or premium amounts. Look for areas of growth, opportunity, and help evaluate performance and workload of individuals. Expand your company’s ability to implement new products, new markets, and new coverages.

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Insurance Overview: Standard vs. Non Standard; Admitted vs. Non Admitted

A common question when dealing with insurance is “What are the differences between Standard and Non-Standard policies, and also Admitted and Non-Admitted insurance carriers?” I will attempt to give a brief overview to highlight some of the differences for these classifications, and to also clear up any myths that there may be regarding these terms and policy types.

Continue reading Insurance Overview: Standard vs. Non Standard; Admitted vs. Non Admitted

Standard policies are insurance policies that are written on policy forms that have been approved by the insuring state. These policy forms tend to be similar with most other standard companies regarding the terms of what they cover and the cost of coverage. Standard policies also have limited underwriting guidelines, so they are more suitable for insureds that have a good insurance history, and for those who are considered to be a low risk. A standard insurance policy is generally issued by an Admitted insurance carrier.

Non-Standard policies are also written on policy forms that are approved by the state, but they vary from company to company in their terms and pricing, due to the broader range of risks that they cover. Non-standard policies are mostly issued through Non-Admitted or Excess & Surplus carriers. E & S carriers are financially stable companies that are regulated in the state(s) that they operate in. In addition, they require specific reporting procedures and supporting documentation that must be submitted to the state. Non-standard policies are not considered to be second-rate, as they offer the same coverage as a standard policy. They differ in that they can offer a broader range of insurance products for insureds that may not be accepted otherwise.

An Admitted carrier is a company that must conform to regulations of the state’s Department of Insurance. Admitted carriers must also file their rates with the state in order for them to be approved. In addition, they are required to contribute financially to the state’s guarantee fund. This fund is in place in the event of an admitted carrier’s insolvency, the state has the responsibility to pay an insured’s claim up to the state’s specified limits.

Non admitted carriers do not operate from a state’s insurance laws. Non-admitted carriers also do not have to file their rates with the state, so they are able to have more pricing flexibility. These carriers are able to insure higher risks that admitted carriers would rather not cover. If a non-admitted company becomes insolvent, there is no guarantee that an insured’s claim will be paid. To write a policy with a non-admitted company, an agent can not legally do so unless there are no other admitted options. The agent/producer is required to perform their due diligence and check with 3 admitted carriers in order to provide a quote for the insured. If the risk is declined by 3 admitted carriers, it can then be placed with a non-admitted carrier.

Admitted and Non-Admitted classifications have nothing to do with the financial status of the company. The financial quality of a company is determined by its rating on the A.M. Best Ratings chart that is used for insurance companies.

The main differences between admitted and non-admitted companies are the regulations that each must follow. Due to the different types of regulations, you may not be able to get a certain type of policy for an admitted carrier, which you would be able to get from a non-admitted carrier and vice versa.

I hope this helps with understanding the differences in these policy and company types. If you are not sure about the classification of your quotes or policies, it is always suggested to consult with your underwriter for clarification. It is also recommended to find out if there are any additional fees, taxes, and if any additional forms may be needed from your agency.

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Strategic vs Tactical Asset Allocation; Aggressive vs Defensive Strategy

We all understand that if you want to make more money or keep the money that you already have, you should get involved with some type of investing.  Although it’s easy to just give your money to an advisor and let them handle the rest, nowadays we all should be taking more responsibility for our finances and have a personal strategy that is  best for our needs.

When it comes to allocating your assets, 2 popular options to follow are strategic allocation and tactical allocation
Continue reading Strategic vs Tactical Asset Allocation; Aggressive vs Defensive Strategy

Strategic Asset Allocation

Strategic asset allocation should be used if you are planning a long-term investment portfolio.  Normally this suggests that you subtract your age from 100 to determine the percentage of your portfolio that should be invested in stocks.  For example, a 30 year old should have 70% of their investments in stock and 30% in bonds and cash/money market fund.  Using this basic formula will give you a good starting point. If you want to be a little more aggressive, you can invest a higher percentage into stocks than the model suggests. If you decide to be more conservative, then you would put a lower percentage into stocks.

Tactical Asset Allocation

Tactical asset allocation refers to rebalancing your portfolio based on market conditions.  If the market is expected to do well in the short term, you would then put a higher percentage into stocks. If market is expected to do poorly over short term, you would lower stock percentage and purchase more fixed income securities such as bonds.

Defensive Strategy

If you’re trying to maintain your money and increase your investment value with as low a risk as possible, you would utilize the defensive strategy. This strategy involves investing in Blue chip stocks with low volatility, AAA rated bonds, and US Government bonds

Aggressive Strategy

If you are trying to grow your money as fast as possible and take on a higher risk, then you would try an aggressive strategy.  The aggressive strategy will have you purchasing securities such as high volatile stocks, Investing in put and/or call options, and/or Buying securites on margin.

 

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7 Best Apps for Entrepreneur Productivity

On average, all of our lives have become so busy with work, school, children, extra curricular activities, and everything else.  For those who are trying to start a business in addition, it can be even more of a load to carry.   Fortunately, there is technology being created that can now assist everyone with being able to handle their workload and stay productive.  There are alot of great apps developed out there that can help tremendously with getting your tasks done in a productive way. I’ve highlighted some of my personal favorites that I believe everyone should utilize in their lives on a  daily basis.  By the way…these are also FREE Continue reading 7 Best Apps for Entrepreneur Productivity

Evernote Evernote allows you to write notes of all types and access them on any device.  It can collect web articles, handwritten notes, and photos to save in their cloud system.  It offers great search features to help you organize and locate all of your saved information in your account. It enables you to create notebooks for any category you want and allows you to add tags to all items saved. You can also share selected notebooks if you’re working on projects with other people.  The premium option allows you to have access offline, add pin security, and gives you more storage space.  I use this app everyday rather it’s for saving webpages for future reference, drafting copies of blog posts or books, business ideas, and pretty much everything.  I even have copies of my family’s medical cards and ids incase I ever need to reference or use when traveling.

Pocket Pocket allows you to easily save articles, videos, and other web content to access at a later time.  You can view and share saved items on any device and offline. Pocket allows you to  save as many articles, videos, and links that you want, and it even has a tag option to help you organize your saved items.  The premium option gives you more organization and search options, and can provide additional viewing options.  This app is very helpful to me because I normally come across many videos and articles everyday that I find interesting, but don’t always have the time to read them at that moment.  Pocket allows me to save these articles/videos so I can access at a more convenient time without having to email myself a link. cropped-cropped-logo3-e14110989217451.jpg

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Sunrise Sunrise is a calendar that syncs with google calendar, icloud , exchange, facebook, and many other apps. It offers a great design and great way to have all of your calendars in one place for easy and convenient access.   It allows you to  see upcoming birthdays, events, and your own items from your to do list.  Out of all the many calenders and organizers out there, this is my favorite because it combines so many platforms into one simple app.

Trello Trello is designed to make working on group projects more fluent and easy. It can also be used for your personal projects that you are working on. All updates and notes are synced instantly so that you and anyone else who is authorized, can access on all devices.  You can create “boards” to organize items that need to be done, currently being worked on, or already completed.  Trello also allows you to assign different users to certain projects that concern them.  So if someone is only handling for example the writing portion, you can block their access to the financial “board”.  You can create you own notes within each “board” and also add links and documents related to your project. This is great for teams that work remotely to be able to have one central place to communicate and stay informed on what they’re working on.

Bloomberg+ With this app you are able to get access to business news, market data, and investment tools.  It also allows you access watch live broadcast from Bloomberg TV (certain operation systems).  You can personalize your profile to only show the information that you are interested in and wish to see on your homepage.  It offers many categories for news from economy, technology, politics, currencies, funds and many more.  You can add items to your personal watch list and keep track of your personal holdings,  along with detailed company information that’s available.  This app offers  S-Pen and airview features for devices that are compatible.  Another big bonus is that you have access to watch video clips and listen to audio from Bloomberg, and you can sync this app with your bloomberg.com account and watch any saved episodes of their many programs available.  Definitely a favorite for me for my morning commutes, to watch the morning shows and catch up on the latest news.

Flipboard Flipboard is designed to be your personal magazine for your devices.  You can add your favorite blogs or publications such as New York Times, Forbes, People, etc, and have access in a flip page style on your phone or tablet.  It also has features to include your social media profiles and flip through the updates in a magazine style.  You can even create your own magazine for your website or just for your interest, and have thousands of people subscribe to your magazine.  You can save items from external source to Flipboard, and also send items from Flipboard to other outlets.

Hootsuite / Buffer Buffer allows you to consolidate your social media profiles into one app. It allows you to post to multiple profiles at once, and also to schedule future posts.  Buffer also provides analytics on your posts so that you can follow up and see how other have responded to your posts.  There are many apps and social profiles that Buffer work with, but you will have to subscribe to the premium version to link to more than 3 accounts.  The free version also limits the number of posts that you can have in your future posting que. That is why I also use Hootsuite Hootsuite is similiar in the same features that Buffer offers.  Their free version limits you to 3 accounts also, so between the 2 , you can have 6 accounts for free.  Hootsuite also lets you schedule future posts.  Hootsuite allows you to view the time lines on your social media accounts also within the app.  These apps are great for making sure you are posting to your profiles when the most people will view, and for allowing you to not have to physically post it at that time.  You can find an article at 2am and schedule for it to be posted at 1pm when it would be more visible.  I typically schedule my posts up to three days in advance and it’s helping a lot with staying active in social media, but not having to spend so much time on it.

What are some of your favorite apps for productivity?

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The Strategy of Value Investing

When it comes to investing, there are 3 major strategies to consider.  Those strategies are growth investing, income investing, and value investing.   Growth investing involves finding those stocks that will have a high increase in the future, but are more risky.  Income investing involves investing in stocks that can bring  a steady dividend payment, producing an income.  Growth investing consists of finding undervalued stocks to purchase for a low price.  No one strategy is better than the other, and most investors combine all 3 strategies in their plan. Warren Buffet has had a very successful career utilizing the value investing method. Usually it will depend on the individual and their needs, to determine which is the best option for that person to use.  I will be going into further detail regarding value investing and what it consists of.

Continue reading The Strategy of Value Investing

Value investing involves searching for stocks of companies that the investor believes are undervalued in the market. Sometimes you’ll find that the current stock price is based on over reactions by the market. Value investors believe that the company’s long term strength is more of a factor than what the market’s current opinion is. This provides a chance for value investors to buy stock when the price is at a low, deflated amount, and produce a future profit. The investors take a second look at stocks that are household names, when their prices have fallen. Value investors believe that these  companies that offer valuable products and services can recover and remain strong in the future. If you’re willing to do the  work to find these companies, you can get stocks at bargain prices that other investors will not even recognize.  Value investors typically do not follow the pack when making their decisions. If the rest of the market is selling, they are holding or buying.  When the market is buying, value investors use this opportunity as a sign that it’s time to sell.  Value investors also search for stocks that are incorrectly undervalued by the market, believing their share price will increase once the market corrects itself.   To a value investor, buying a stock is buying ownership in that company. They seek stocks that have a lower price per earnings ratio and those that also have a high dividends yield. They usually favor quality companies, over just trading shares for a fast profit.  Remember, this strategy is a long term investing strategy.  It can take years to accumulate your desired profit that you are seeking. Due to this strategy, there are limited external factors that value investors see as harmful to a company.
Value stocks can be located in all types of market exchanges.  They can also vary in industry type, but they are usually found in industries that are troubled at that moment in time.

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Quick Guide For Locating Value Stocks

1. PEG should be less than 1

2. Debt/Equity Ratio should be less than 1

3. Current assets should be twice as much as current liabilities

4. Stock price should not be more than the book value

5. P/E Ratio should be low

6. Only buy stocks when they are priced at two-thirds or less of their intrinsic value. This is the margin of safety necessary to earn the best returns and minimize investment risks.

Basic Value Investing Ratios

1. Price-to-Earnings Ratio
This is one of the most valuable ratios to utilize. The P/E ratio divides a stock’s share price by its earnings per share and calculates how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of a company’s earnings. The P/E ratio provides a measuring stick to compare valuations across multiple companies. The lower the P/E, the better. As long as you’re comparing companies in a similar industry,  the P/E ratio can give you a good look at a stock’s valuation.

2. Price-to-Book Ratio
The P/B ratio is  what investors are willing to pay for each dollar of a company’s assets. The P/B ratio divides a stock’s share price by its net assets, minus any intangibles such as goodwill. For most stocks, a P/B of less than 1.5  is good.

3. Debt-Equity
This  indicates what proportion of financing a company has received from debt (loans or bonds) and equity (shares of stock). This ratio can vary from industry to industry. The lower, the better.

4. Cash Flow
This tells us how much actual cash a company is left with after any capital investments. The more cash available, the better.

5. PEG Ratio – The price/earnings to growth ratio
This formula takes the P/E Ratio and divides by the potential growth for Earnings per share. PEG takes in effect future earnings growth.  PEG ratio below 1 is considered to be a good value.

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