Conference rolls out property survey, launches new database

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference rolls out property survey, launches new database

Sept. 13, 2006  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0545}

An e-Review Feature
By John Michael De Marco**

The Florida Conference’s participation in a new national database will enable conference churches to have more input and control over their property insurance coverage, potentially leading to cost savings and more accurate policies. That’s the hope and goal of the conference’s risk management office.

As recently as the beginning of 2006, conference churches are paying higher deductibles and an average of 65 percent more for property and casualty insurance premiums. The increased costs have largely been the result of the insurance industry striving to recoup its losses from the recent wave of major hurricanes and other natural disasters — and shield itself from future losses.

Despite the increases churches are on track with paying both insurance premiums and apportionments, according to Marilyn Swanson, the conference’s interim director of risk management. She says the conference’s annual property survey and new database launches a new era enabling insurance carriers and churches to make more informed and interactive decisions.

“The survey will supply our carriers with information they haven’t had in the past that can help us keep our rates more level, even though we don’t know what the property market is going to do until hurricane season is over. We don't know right now if we’re faced with an increase or not,” Swanson said. “We’re looking at ways to help fund insurance for churches that might be more impacted — but that’s a ministry, not a risk management, issue. Our focus is shifting toward being able to provide protection for ministry and find ways to help churches being impacted by high rates.”

In her office’s quest toward achieving that goal, Swanson recently met with other denominational representatives in Chicago to discuss how denominations can join forces to approach insurance carriers in a “more united effort for the religious sector to have more buying power.” “We met with Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, etc.,” she said. “We’re meeting with organizations like ours that provide programs for our churches.”
The Religious Services Practice Team of Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG), the conference’s insurance broker, coordinated those discussions. The new database also comes from AJG and replaces the online survey the conference used in previous years. The database, called CONNECT, is being used by United Methodist Property and Casualty Trust and is offered to other United Methodist conferences to help with their efforts to gather renewal data.

Churches can access the CONNECT database at any time to review their profiles and coverage. The database is also password protected, and only those individuals given authority by the church to access the data will be given the password.

The previous system required churches to call risk management to inquire about their coverage, with no computer access to make changes. “In the future they will be able to make simple changes and they can request certificates of insurance online,” Swanson said.

The database became live Sept. 12, with information on how to complete the survey and access the database posted on the Florida Conference Web site at Oct. 2 is the deadline for churches to verify their information through the database.

 “The more information our carriers have, the better they will be able to assess our risk. I think the more information they have, the more they will see the risk is not quite as high as they might think,” Swanson asserted. “It also can help us identify items such as what year a building was constructed, how old a roof is, etc. Those are not things we have supplied to them before. We’ve only supplied building value. I think it will be to our advantage to be providing the carries more information.”

“We are pleased with the opportunity to work with our denomination’s national program in accessing this proven system, named to reinforce our connectionalism,” added Mickey Wilson, the conference’s new treasurer and director of administrative services. “I had the opportunity to watch this program develop during my tenure at GCFA (General Council on Finance and Administration), and I think it will bring our risk management program to an entirely new level of information management — while at the same time empower our churches.”

AJG’s Boca Raton Religious Practice Team, the conference’s risk management partner and service provider, is overseeing the development and implementation of the database and finalizing the uploading of data. Gallagher will also staff a “help desk” and can be contacted at 800-282-8011, extension 126.

“We are hoping for 100 percent participation by our constituency, especially this year with the spotlight being on underwriting information by our reinsurers,” said Rep Plasencia, president of Gallagher’s Boca office and a long-time member of the Gallagher Florida United Methodist Church Insurance & Risk Management Service Team.

Swanson recalls how after previous surveys churches would call her office and inquire, “ ‘Don’t you want to know this; don’t you want to know that?’ ” “There was no place to put this information when we didn’t have a database,” she added. “This is a huge stride to help us better understand the needs of the local churches and what kind of educational safety pieces that might be to their benefit. We’re trying to move from managing the risk to protecting the ability to do ministry.”


This article relates to Risk Management/Administration.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.

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