Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Supporting Employee Mental Health in a Remote World

 Mental health goes far beyond treating mental illness. Mental health includes a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as their emotional and social well-being. Additionally, mental wellbeing is dynamic, meaning it is influenced by factors such as their workload, stress, and work-life balance. Because of this, employers must consider strategies that are intended to support mental health. While it is known that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted mental health, it is just as important to point out that America was experiencing a mental health crisis long before the pandemic. Over the past decade, mental and emotional issues have “increased significantly,” according to research by the American Psychological Association.

The rise is mental health conditions alongside Covid-19 has been labelled as “another health crisis” in the United States. Just this past June, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40.9% of the 5,470 respondents reported a mental or behavioral health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or increased substance use. July research from Kaiser Family Foundation emphasized those findings, with 53% of respondents reporting that worrying about Covid-19 is harming their mental health.

As organization leaders, you have probably witnessed the effects of mental health challenges in the workplace, and maybe have experienced your own share of these challenges. Many people are stressed out and burned out. No matter how hard they try to overcome the effects of burnout — and despite the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy companies have embraced in the past — some people just can’t leave their worries at the door. There are still reasons to be hopeful. One is financial: an April 2018 article shared that roughly 86% of employees saw improved work performance, and 80% experienced higher job satisfaction following treatment for depression.

The pandemic didn’t create the mental health crisis, but it certainly exacerbated it, and mental health challenges will continue to impact employees and organizations long after the virus has been managed. But for those in a leadership position, there are a few ways to provide your employees with the support they need at work and in life.

Set the Tone Create a culture where people feel safe and encouraged to seek mental health services. Allow mental health to be talked about openly in the workplace. Sharing your own challenges, normalizing therapy, and destigmatizing mental illness are ways that can make your employees feel more comfortable with having a conversation themselves.

Improve Access Make sure you’re offering the care your people need. Review your benefits package to ensure these services are not unattainable to access due to high out-of-pocket costs or a narrow provider network. There is also the obstacle of simply getting to an in-person appointment. Many people must travel long distances or wait weeks or even months to see a provider. As you work to improve access, you might also consider giving employees access to teletherapy to remove these obstacles and ensure they can connect with a provider quickly and conveniently.

Take Care of Their Families Verify your benefits plan includes the right services for dependents. Even your best employees will struggle at work if there are struggles at home. This is especially true for employees whose children might be facing mental health challenges worsened by the pandemic.

Train Your Leaders Lasting cultural changes start from the top down. Provide training for your leaders and executives so they understand the importance of mental wellness, the signs of mental and emotional challenges, and the solutions your organization offers.

Create an Employee Resource Group Gather help from your organizations front lines to gain a better understanding into the challenges and concerns your employees are facing. Work together to customize solutions that improve employee wellness and create a culture of openness and support — and be prepared to make good on those solutions.

Offer ‘Mental Health’ Days Show your employees it is okay to take a breather when needed. Make it acceptable for your staff to take time off for mental health by building it into your organizations sick-time policy.

While the coronavirus pandemic did not cause the mental health crisis, it certainly has shined the spotlight on mental health issues in America. Today, it is crucial that employers prioritize their employees’ mental health and wellbeing by creating a supportive environment, reducing stigma, making help accessible and training management to connect employees with mental health resources. By promoting helpful programs and communicating openly and honestly, your organization should be able to create a culture that supports all aspects of an employee’s wellbeing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Watch Out for These Signs of Social Engineering Fraud

Phishing is probably one of the most common and well-known social engineering fraud schemes today. Social engineering fraud refers to scams that rely on psychological manipulation to convince the victims Google is reportedly blocking 18 million coronavirus scam emails every day and registered a record 2 million phishing websites in 2020. Even though phishing attacks are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, there is still the basic laws that apply at the heart of an attack strategy.

IMITATE, MOTIVATE AND ACT

A phishing message will always strive to look like it originates from a trusted organization or individual. Most cyber criminals try hard to make their messages look legitimate and convincing, using the same fonts and copying colors, logos and branding to fool people.

Scammers tailor messages for one single reason — to motivate people to take action such as a click, reply, download, or tweet. Attackers exploit human instincts by crafting phishing messages that get victims upset, curious, infuriated, or anxious, in the hopes of provoking a response.

Act is the final step or the invisible hook that is lurking in a phishing attack. This could be a form that a user can fill out, a click on a social media post or instant message, or simply a visit to a site that could cause a drive-by download. After a successful click or download, the victim might be stuck with malware that can evade detection for a long time.

Even a carefully crafted phishing attack displays revealing signs that the email is neither legitimate nor trustworthy. Listed below are six common signs to watch for.

SUSPICIOUS SENDERS ADDRESS

One of the trademarks of phishing is that hackers create fake sender addresses that appear authentic. Many hackers use generic email domains like gmail.com or yahoo.com which makes them relatively easy to spot. Some might even use email spoofing to create fake email addresses where only the sender’s name is visible while the email address itself is hidden. As you might expect, many recipients of these emails don’t go above and beyond to check a spoofed sender’s address, especially on mobile devices.

SUBJECT LINES THAT RAISE ALARM

Creative attackers often use scare tactics in hopes that readers will click on malicious links, download attachments, or fill out forms due to worry, urgency, or confusion. The common message in these types of emails is that action is immediately required, payment is urgently needed, or sign-ins must happen now. For example: “New sign-on to your account,” “Suspicious activity detected,” “Password Expired,” and “Account closure” are all common subject lines one may find in a phishing attempt.

USE OF URL SHORTENERS

URL shortening is a common technique used by social media giants like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook that reduces the size and complexity of longer website addresses (URLs) by replacing longer links with a shorter link. Hackers often disguise rogue URLs by using these shorteners which prevents easy detection of known malicious sites or destinations. For example, instead of seeing an obvious URL that indicates a website in Ukraine, Romania or France, a shortened URL link does not reveal where a link will take them or what they will find when they get there. Readers must immediately recognize this red flag and avoid clicking on a shortened URL.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING RED FLAGS

Because the underlying principles of manipulation remain constant, cyber criminals are known to apply similar techniques to other forms of communication. Sophisticated scammers are quick to target alternate channels like social media, telephone, or SMS. 

HOW INSURANCE CAN PROTECT YOU

Companies submitting social engineering claims have often faced coverage denials under their crime and cyber insurance policies. Crime policies can contain exclusionary wording that prohibits coverage for the voluntary parting of property or funds to a third party. Which means if an employee was deceived via an email or phone call though to be authentic and released funds, no coverage is provided.

Coverage under a Cyber Liability policy will only apply if the network was breached or compromised. This inherently means that fraudulent email or phone instructions do not constitute a computer system breach by definition. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss coverage details with your broker. Properly crafted cyber liability and crime policies should indemnify your organization for any financial loss stemming from social engineering attacks.

At Hawley & Associates we pride ourselves on our unique approach to insurance. Our broad access to specialty markets and strong relationships with insurance carriers and underwriters gives us an unparalleled advantage in aggressively negotiating policy terms & premiums, with your best interest in mind. Contact us today to learn more about our risk mitigation and insurance solutions.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Employee Theft Statistics for 2021 and Beyond

 Employees are one of your organization’s most valuable assets. However, their dishonesty can be costly. Everything from scrolling social media during a meeting to sharing confidential documents with an outside source can be considered workplace theft. While some cases are more serious than others, if you are leading an organization, it’s important to stay up to date on current trends. Internal theft can have a major impact on your entire operation, as it is estimated to cost U.S. businesses up to $50 billion a year. From fraud cases to data security, we are covering the common types backed by statistics and trends for 2021 and beyond.

INTERNAL THEFT STATISTICS

  • 75% employees have stolen at least once from their employer. (Source)
  • More than 30% of business bankruptcies are due to employee theft. (Source)
  • 90% of all significant theft losses come from employees. (Source)
  • 40% of all employees who steal from their work have experienced HR red flags prior. (Source)
  • 60% of employees would steal if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. (Source)
TOP INDUSTRIES FOR EMPLOYEE THEFT
  • The three top sectors where insider attacks occur are finance, insurance, and healthcare. (Source)
  • Finance and insurance have the highest number of perpetrators who are business partners, followed by healthcare and information technology. (Source)
  • 84% of incidents in healthcare occur because the perpetrator is looking for financial gain. (Source)
  • 27% of employee fraud occurs in government, healthcare, construction, and service industries, while 23% of employee fraud occurs in finance, technology, and other sectors. (Source)
COST OF EMPLOYEE THEFT
  • Every year, business lose up to $50 billion as a result of employee theft. (Source)
  • Employee theft costs are rising at a rate of 15% per year. (Source)
  • Cash, property, or merchandise are targets for employee theft. (Source)
  • People estimate U.S. companies lose 20% of every dollar to workplace fraud. (Source)
EMPLOYEE FRAUD AND EMBEZZLEMENT STATISTICS
  • Fraud causes companies to lose an estimated 5% of revenue every year. (Source)
  • The average fraud case costs a company $1,509,000. (Source)
  • Fraud cases most commonly occur in these four areas: operations, accounting, executive and upper management, or sales. (Source)
  • Billing and payroll fraud occurs at twice the rate in small business compared to large companies. (Source)
  • 85% of embezzlement cases are perpetrated by a manager, with one-fifth of cases by a C-level executive. (Source)
  • 79% of cases involved more than one person who committed the crime. (Source)
CYBER AND DATA THEFT STATISTICS
  • Insiders are involved in 57% of data breaches. (Source)
  • 20% of cyber incidents are caused by a misuse of privileges. (Source)
  • Healthcare, information technology, and financial services are the top three sectors where insider breaches occur. (Source)
  • Employee or contractor negligence causes 63% of attacks. (Source)

TIPS FOR PREVENTING THEFT FROM EMPLOYEES

While the statistics above may have you locking every door and file cabinet in your office, the best defense against employee theft is proactiveness. There are plenty of measures your organization can put in place to prevent theft.

  • Verify Past Employment In the recruitment process, make sure to conduct a thorough background check for all potential hires. When doing so, contact all references, ask why the candidate left past jobs, and conduct a criminal search.
  • Provide Clear Policies Make sure all employees know that there will be strict consequences for anyone who commits a crime. Write it on paper and have employees sign it so they know exactly what will happen if they choose to steal from the organization.
  • Conduct Random Audits Carry out impromptu audits where you verify bank statements, ledgers for accounts payable and accounts receivable and any checks issued. Consider hiring an outside party who can do the work for you and bring any unbiased suspicious activity to your attention.
  • Set Up a System of Checks and Balances For employees that manage financial accounts, establish a checks and balances system so no one person oversees all financial records. At least two employees should be always working together when dealing with sensitive information. 

While no employer likes to think of its own employees as potential sources of theft or crime, it’s important to make sure your organization is protected in any scenario. Employee theft and fraud are common occurrences, especially for small organizations. Securing the right Employee Theft Coverage can help safeguard your organization from financial losses related to employee dishonesty. To review your coverage options to ensure your mission is protected, contact us to speak with one of our specialized brokers.

Monday, February 1, 2021

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The Toll of Social Inflation on the Insurance Industry

 Social inflation is one of the latest buzzwords in insurance. It is used by insurers to describe the rising costs of insurance claims resulting from things like increasing litigation, broader definitions of liability, more plaintiff-friendly legal decisions, and larger compensatory jury awards. While the key components driving social inflation have been evident for some time, their impacts on the insurance industry have only started to come to the surface within the past couple of years. Because of this, the industry is seeing an increase in both frequency and severity of liability claims, impacting insurers as they try to cover the growing losses. Social inflation is not only driving up the cost of claims, but also contributing to rate increases across the board.

Social inflation has primarily affected commercial liability lines including commercial auto, medical malpractice, general liability, product liability, and umbrella and excess liability. Consumer-facing industries including retail, healthcare, automotive, insurance, pharmaceutical, and financial services are the most impacted by social inflation, but any industry is susceptible. This is a versatile issue and is certain to be influenced by the coronavirus pandemic and continued societal changes. Key factors influencing social inflation include:

  1. Jurors Perspective: A main driver of social inflation is the anti-corporate position dating back to the 2008 financial crisis. These new outlooks mean that injured parties are more likely to bring a lawsuit against companies — and win. Jurors today are often biased toward the plaintiff in the name of social justice.
  2. Litigation Funding: More and more we are seeing claimants receiving help from outside investors to bring their cases to court. These investors pay legal fees and expenses in exchange for a share in potential awards and settlements.
  3. Plaintiff’s’ Bar: The bar is a well-organized and refined group willing to invest in advertising, social media, technology, and expert resources to drive damage awards.
  4. Normalization of Nuclear Verdicts: Across the country, state courts are raising or eliminating caps on punitive damages and damages for pain and suffering. This breaks the ceiling on what plaintiffs can ask for and be awarded.

Social Inflation is insurers’ problem in the short term but will ultimately become a much bigger problem for policyholders. Therefore, it is good practice to understand what is driving up rates and explore risk mitigation strategies such as effective safety programs, good maintenance of property, leases that properly transfer risk to other parties, and sufficient security. These are crucial to make your business a best-in-class risk when presented to insurance companies. We may also experience a temporary pause in nuclear verdicts while the juries are out, due to COVID-19 causing a backlog in court proceedings. Many plaintiffs realize that it could be years before their case sees a trial and are taking the settlement amounts offered by the defendant. However, given how uncertain the market and economy are, it is unknown what to expect long-term. Social inflation could get worse before it gets better.

Partnering with a broker who understands your organizations unique risk profile is essential for surviving this hardening market. Hawley & Associates’ specialized brokers apply innovative and tailored solutions to each situation, along with a deep understanding of the market and long-term relationships with insurers, ensuring our clients are fully prepared for any outcome. Contact us today to protect your organization against the emerging risk of social inflation.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Commercial Insurance Rates Forecast for 2021

Between natural catastrophes, COVID-19, and other market pressures, the property and casualty insurance industry was tested in extraordinary ways last year. According to a market outlook report in June 2020, the industry was just beginning to see the pandemic’s effects across the market place with rate increases, capacity reduction and tighter underwriting across all lines. And now with 2020 finally behind us, comes with an updated report highlighting the rate changes and trends expecting to impact insureds this year. Although the market has already significantly firmed this past year, continued uncertainty from potential COVID-19 related cases, higher than normal judgements, catastrophe losses, and additional factors have insurers rising rates, lowering capacity, limiting or transferring risk, and taking a harder look at each risk profile. Below are some of the market challenges to expect this upcoming year.

PROPERTY

The use of selective capacity by carriers continues to restrict their offerings, especially as it relates to natural catastrophes. Carriers are carefully managing exposures for property clients exposed to hurricanes, wildfires, tornado, and hail events. This strategy has pushed many buyers into shared and layered property policies. These policies tend to be more expensive than the single carrier solutions that were common in the soft market. Carriers are also reporting substantial loss results from communicable disease coverage afforded under 2019-2020 property policies. Event cancellation insurance carriers have also paid large losses related to shutdowns around the world, with many lawsuits still in court and impacting the carrier’s expenses. In an important change, many property policies issues after March 15, 2020, will include an absolute Communicable Disease/Pandemic exclusion.

CASUALTY

Rate increases, capacity restrictions, and tighter underwriting standards are commonplace in the casualty market. 2021 will usher in the fourth year of a hard insurance market for Commercial Automobile Liability lines, and the third year of a hard market for General/Products Liability and Umbrella/Excess Liability. The impact of “social inflation,” which includes nuclear verdicts, increased use of expert witnesses by plaintiffs’ bar, and higher settlements and jury awards are resulting in severe claims payouts that are multiples of what they were even five years ago, which is putting significant pressure on rate adequacy. These developments, coupled with the uncertainty that the pandemic will have lasting effects on the industry, will result in this hardening market continuing well into 2021.

EXECUTIVE AND PROFESSIONAL RISK

Premiums are on the rise for public company Directors and Officers Insurance, primarily due to the uncertainties around COVID-19 and increased litigation frequency and settlement payments. While premium increases in the private sector and the not-for-profit D&O market have not been as severe, increases in retention and excess premium are very likely. As instances of network intrusions and ransomware events increase and escalate, the cyber insurance market continues to show trends of hardening. This is primarily being driven by historically low premium rates, spiked levels of ransomware events, and diverse network intrusion attacks across multiple industries. Insurers are struggling to balance increased extortion demand amounts against premiums amounts collected.

UMBRELLA/EXCESS LIABILITY

Umbrella & Excess Liability continues to be the most challenging casualty line to place, and it seems that each year it becomes increasingly more difficult to place business into the market. Insurers continue to cite the negative impacts of “social inflation” as the main reason why Umbrella/Excess capacity and rates are being impacted more than any other liability coverage, with a few exceptions.

As we move into the new year, Hawley & Associates will remain close to industry and market developments so we can best guide and support our clients through current and future challenges. We thoroughly understand your operations and can clearly and effectively articulate your needs to insurers. We work by your side to navigate the insurance marketplace and secure the best coverage at a price your organization can afford. Contact us or request a quote from one of our specialized brokers on how we can best protect your mission.