In this feature, we turn the spotlight onto some of the key companies within our industry. In this edition, we look at specialty insurance provider Wallace Risk Solutions.
Founded in 2009, Wallace Risk Solutions was created when James Wallace wanted to combine his experience of corporate insurance with his love of working closely with clients. Over the last nine years, the insurance brokerage has grown year on year and recently expanded, taking residence in a new office in Melbourne.
At first, Wallace Risk Solutions focussed on arranging general insurance products on behalf of clients: home and contents, travel and automotive. However, Mr Wallace realised that these general insurance products alone were insufficient when it came to meeting the specific needs of those working in certain niche industries. Timber pest inspectors, building inspectors, and pest managers operate in litigious industries where reports, recommendations and specific contract wording can have far-reaching consequences. So Mr Wallace set about sourcing insurance products specifically for those working in these industries.
“Our aim is to give our clients the tools they need to do the best job they can. That might mean giving them access to excellent reporting paperwork, risk management advice, or arranging an appropriate insurance policy. We offer more than access to an insurance policy; we want to minimise their risk in every regard,” said Mr Wallace.
Common legal pitfalls
When it comes to insurance, what mistakes do pest managers often make? Firstly, Mr Wallace advises of the importance of accurate report writing.
“It’s important to establish what’s fact – the things that have been spotted during an inspection – and opinion. It’s also essential to advise the customer on what they should do about the issues identified. Failing to offer the appropriate advice can lead to a potential claim. Both observations and recommendations need to be recorded accurately in reports.”
Secondly, Mr Wallace advises pest managers to understand the ‘insurance gap’. It is essential to have continuous cover in your professional indemnity insurance; if you are moving from one insurer to another, any gaps in timing between the policies would most likely result in you only having cover from the start of the new policy. To ensure that you have full retroactive cover (cover for all the years you have been in business) there must be no gap in time between policies and the date from which continuous cover was incepted is noted. In the event of retirement or closure of a business, run-off cover should considered, as a professional indemnity policy only responds if it is in force at the time of claim.
For a pest manager, receiving a solicitor’s letter out of the blue from a potential claimant is a frightening experience. “Even if it’s outside of the scope of their insurance policy, or they need advice at the weekend, we’re still here to help. That’s what insurance is for – to give pest managers peace of mind in case something goes wrong, knowing that we’re here to help.”
Protecting pest managers
It was specifically income protection policies where Mr Wallace felt pest managers were being short-changed by the standard insurance policies on offer. The terms of these policies often came with harsh terms that would only come to light when pest managers needed to claim, such as when they’d been injured on the job and could no longer work.
In 2017 Mr Wallace set up a sister company, Surety Life, with the aim of providing income protection and life insurance policies that actually offered pest managers the protection they needed. “Superannuation insurance is good, but it doesn’t protect people in the way they often think it does,” explained Mr Wallace. “Through Surety Life we offer a suite of products for those who want to be covered, knowing exactly what will happen, should they have an accident or worse.”
The importance of paperwork
The wording of a report or contract term will often determine whether or not a claim can be made against a building or pest inspector. This is why Wallace Risk Solutions offers a popular review service, where pest managers can review their report and contract documents to ensure they are compliant with the law and latest regulations. This is particularly important in light of the recent updates to the Australian Standards.
“Sometimes we review an inspector’s paperwork and find that it hasn’t been updated in over ten years, and it wouldn’t stand up in court – which leaves them exposed,” Mr Wallace said.
“By giving pest managers access to good quality legal documents – contracts, reports, compliance certificates – we’re giving them every tool possible to make sure they’re compliant with the law. The terms and conditions are watertight, so they’ve no need to worry. Even if a pest manager chooses not to use the templates we provide, it’s beneficial for them to know what fully compliant paperwork looks like,” he added.
Having robust paperwork gives a pest manager a solid position for their insurer to defend in court, should a claim be made against them.
New tools and digital apps
Wallace Risk Solutions offers specialist online training courses for building and timber pest inspectors. Created together with Report Systems Australia, the online courses equip inspectors with the means to meet the shortfalls associated with professional indemnity insurance claims, including oversights in reporting on accessibility issues and evidence of timber pests, especially termites.
The Wallace Risk Solutions app (My Reporting APP) is currently being reviewed for intended redevelopment and will soon offer all the administrative tools needed on the job. Armed with just a tablet, pest inspectors can complete compliant paperwork, receive payment, schedule jobs and write reports using editable templates. Human error is minimised through use of the ‘timber pest statement generator’, where inspectors can tap the appropriate statements that apply to the inspection job, and edit if needed. The app will also integrate with Xero and QuickBooks.
At the end of 2018, the Wallace Risk Solutions website is set become an invaluable industry resource, with claims case studies, report writing tips, and a pest identification library being added.
This is all part of the company’s philosophy of giving pest managers the right tools they need for the job. Mr Wallace explained, “We want to be the broker of choice in our marketplace and for our clients to be the pest managers of choice in theirs.”