Bill Kliewer has been in the insurance business since 1977. During that time, he has helped grow Bigham Kliewer Chapman & Watts into an award-winning, regional powerhouse.
Kliewer sat down with the Herald to talk about the insurance industry.
What is a major trend in the insurance industry right now?
There are a lot of things going on on the property and casualty side where I work most of the time. The things that you see are markets getting tighter for insurance coverage throughout the United States. That is primarily because of the claims and losses the insurance carriers have had with superstorm Sandy, wildfires and snowstorms. The insurance industry has had a lot of losses over the years. When you combine that with less investment income in their portfolios and higher claims, the trend that we’re seeing is property insurance is definitely going up.
How is that affecting the local market?
In Central Texas, it’s not going up nearly as much as it is going up in other places. For example, a commercial property on the coast or in Houston, it’s not uncommon to see increases of 25 to 50 percent on your premiums on a property policy. In Central Texas, we’ve seen them as high as 20 percent, but typically they’re in the 8 to 10 percent range, sometimes less. You’re seeing higher deductibles, particularly on hail and wind.
How does that impact how you all do your jobs?
They impact how we do our job because one of the things we do is look at what is in the best interest of our clients. To us, that is providing them the best value for their insurance dollar that we can provide. We’re looking at ways to reduce their premiums because of the increases in premiums they are seeing. It’s not the ideal time to get bigger bills with the economy not doing so well, although in Central Texas, I think we’re very blessed. But with sequestration going on, there is a possibility in Central Texas that a lot of businesses in the area will see decreased sales. We think it’s important that we do everything we can to save our clients money.
How do you go about doing that?
We do that by trying to make sure we do a good job of loss control and helping them to avoid losses to start with. We do it by shopping their insurance programs to multiple companies to try to find them the best values for their dollar and still provide them with the best coverage possible. On the employee benefits and the life and health side, you’ve got Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as it is really called, coming into play. There is a lot of confusion in the minds of businesses and individuals about what their health insurance is going to be, how it’s going to work, what the changes in their coverage is going to be. So I know the benefits side of our business is very involved in trying to educate customers and prospects as to how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is going to impact their premiums.
How do you think the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is going to impact the industry, specifically your business?
A lot of people in the industry think that is going to negatively impact our business. I kind of disagree with that. I think that people are very confused, and I think they really don’t know what is going on. I think generally speaking, it creates a great opportunity for our industry, and our business in particular, to go out and advise these people on what is in their best interest and how to best protect themselves.