5 Strategies for Successful Small Business Renewals During COVID

As the U.S. economy continues to work through its phased reopening, including pullbacks and re-starts, many small businesses are struggling and an untold number may fail. However, new ventures have emerged to capitalize on this changing opportunity. COVID-19 has impacted insurers as well, presenting both known and unknown challenges that may reinforce rate and coverage tightening that began before the pandemic.

“The market correction began in late 2018 and early 2019, with notable hardening seen in the six months leading up to the pandemic,” says Troy Santora, senior vice president of AmWINS Access. “Although the more meaningful and dramatic corrections were felt in the SME and middle market brokerage space, binder ‘main street’ businesses were not immune and saw increasing pressures pre-pandemic.”

The challenge for insureds, retailers, wholesalers and carriers will be understanding what insurable risks look like over the next 12 to 24 months, and possibly beyond, as well as how to place and renew those accounts. This article will provide guidance for retailers in navigating the complex small business marketplace.


COVID Impacts

With respect to General Liability, it is a reasonable hypothesis that many business (primarily hospitality, real estate and some retail) exposures have changed and premises claims will likely be down through the period of “shelter in place” and for some time following.

“That said, some businesses that saw increased demand, such as grocery stores, bodegas and convenience stores, could potentially see an increase of slip and falls and other premises-related claims. In either case, what we do not completely appreciate at present is the impact of loss behavior to rate and coverage levels,” Santora says.

Lessors-Risk Only (LRO), Habitational and Hotel/Motel risks will be challenged by depressed occupancy rates. Mainstreet mercantile risks will be concerned with covering the cost of overhead as foot traffic builds. In construction, while all signals suggest residential construction will continue to grow, the picture is less clear in commercial.

Property risks will also present a unique set of underwriting challenges for both the physical property as well as the concerns surrounding business income coverage. Nicola Golder, senior vice president of AmWINS Access, explains: “The retailer, wholesaler and carrier need to acutely understand the changing exposure when considering certain risks may be far less occupied than they were prior to COVID-19. A partially occupied building presents opportunity for increased severity from losses more commonly associated with vacant buildings and, unfortunately, underwriting around moral hazard becomes a very real concern.”

“The retailer and wholesaler have the shared responsibility to protect the insurable interest(s) of the small business while ensuring risk clarity to the carrier,” says Golder. “With respect to business income coverage, insureds will continue to have need for coverage while carriers wait to see the impact of regulation or legislation determinations on the strength and holding of the current and standard policy wordings that requires direct physical loss for coverage to apply.”

“Irrespective, and as we have seen in the past, carriers will continue to strengthen the wording of their policies to eliminate possible ambiguities,” says Tiffany McPartland, branch leader of AmWINS Access in Redondo Beach, California. “Each carrier will independently determine the best timing and approach of making changes.”


5 Essential Success Strategies

In this challenging and rapidly changing environment, there are five essential tips for retailers to understand new client businesses and retain renewal business.

  1. Verify exposures. Don’t assume that a risk is the same at renewal as it was before. “Underwriting renewals with fresh information are more important than ever,” McPartland says .

    In some cases, operations may have changed significantly. “We’re seeing hotels and motels where the insured entered into agreements with local governments to house the homeless. Other businesses are ‘reinventing’ themselves, such as clothing manufacturers making masks and cosmetic companies and distilleries making hand sanitizer. Those changes can have significant impact on rates, coverages and overall underwriting acceptability,” says Michele Plaisant, executive vice president and branch leader of AmWINS Access in Morgan Hill, California.

  2. Assess the financial health of your clients. Many risks have been impacted by “safer-at-home” orders. Some classes have continued to function throughout, such as contractors, groceries and convenience stores. Others have struggled. 

    “Watch for red flags. If something doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t,” says Plaisant. “For example, if sales have gone down, it would be odd for the insured to request an increase in the Business Income limit.” 

  3. Look for new ways to gather information. The business climate is more fluid than before and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Traditional ways of gathering information on an account need to be augmented with other sources.

    “As opposed to being able to walk through facilities and see new operations or products, retailers may need to ask pointed questions and have direct conversations with clients about operational changes,” Plaisant says. “They may also need to look to social media to uncover changes. In some cases, a company’s operations are changing at such an accelerated rate that in the rush to meet demand, they’re not updating their websites or other places where they maintain information.”

  4. Present the most complete renewal package. Retailers need to leave the underwriter with as few unanswered questions as possible. “Using supplemental applications to suss out information is extremely important,” Santora says. “Ask as many questions as possible and then present all the information.”

  5. Get to market early. Underwriters are feeling the time-crunch with increased business flow and the many mid-term changes taking place across existing accounts. “Get to market early in order to best negotiate with underwriters and be prepared to re-market accounts,” says McPartland. “To obtain the most favorable rates and terms, it’s also important to partner with wholesalers who understand the market and have a proven ability to build and maintain relationships with underwriters.”



Although pandemic conditions differ across states and regions, the insurance challenges facing buyers and brokers across the U.S. share many similarities. Yet despite these challenges and the continued hardening market, there is opportunity for retailers to write and retain business.

“Each carrier will take their own approach as to how COVID-19 impacts their view of policy wordings, risk selection, pricing and their appetite in general,” Golder states. “Although how we are all thinking about risk is changing due to uncertainty, most underwriters still have their doors open. They still want, and need, to write business. Our job as a wholesaler is to stay connected with our carrier partners in order to avail the best solutions to our retailers and the insureds.”

We are going through a new phase and whether this becomes the “new normal” in the industry, these tips will help retailers fine tune their understanding of small businesses and capitalize on the opportunity afforded by increased knowledge.

Contact Us

To learn more about how AmWINS can help you place coverage for your clients, reach out to your local AmWINS broker.  If you do not have a contact at AmWINS, please click here.

Legal Disclaimer. Views expressed here do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is for general guidance of matter only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Discussion of insurance policy language is descriptive only. Every policy has different policy language. Coverage afforded under any insurance policy issued is subject to individual policy terms and conditions. Please refer to your policy for the actual language.

(c) 2017 AmWINS Group, Inc.

Most Popular Insights

Unpacking Warehouse Legal Liability


Warehouse legal liability is a complicated line with many gray areas and multiple interpretations of its coverages. This article discusses coverage triggers, legal vs. contractual liability and the importance of warehouse receipts.

5 Strategies for Successful Small Business Renewals During COVID


In the current economic climate, many small businesses are struggling and some may even fail. Despite these challenges and the continued hardening market, there is opportunity for retailers to write and retain business. This article provides guidance on navigating the complex small business marketplace and helps retailers fine tune their understanding of what insurable risks will look like over the next 12 to 24 months.

What Product Recall Insurance and Risk Mitigation Plan Is Right for Your Clients?


​Product recalls are one of the most damaging events a business may encounter. In order to effectively respond to an incident, companies must be prepared with proper risk management strategies. As policy wording varies, it's also critical to ensure your clients have the right policy type in place to appropriately address their first- and third-party exposures.

Is Your Insured’s Website Compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act?


Court rulings, have extended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to apply to websites that are "heavily integrated" with and serve as a "gateway" to a physical stores/services. As a result, companies are now finding themselves targets for ADA claims based on the inaccessibility of their websites and media by those who are disabled.

State of the Market - Q2 2020


Our Q2 2020 State of the Market report provides a holistic view of highly impacted industry segments as well as overall market trends. This report is designed to help our retailers gain the knowledge they need to retain accounts, write new business, overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities that do exist.

10 Catastrophe Claim Tips for Severe Weather Season


Severe weather can be unpredictable and strike at any time. Help your clients be prepared in the event their property is damaged by a hurricane, tornado, hailstorm or similar disaster with these 10 catastrophe claim tips.

On-Demand Webinar: COVID-19 Economic Impact and Future Outlook


As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, our industry is facing a broad array of challenges that impact insureds of every size and in every industry. In the first of a series of webinars, we hear from an economist on the financial impacts of COVID-19 and what we can expect in the future. This webinar is intended to complement your conversations with clients about how to plan for the next 12 to 24 months.

Lloyd's CEO and Property Underwriters Share COVID-19 Response and Market Update


This podcast features an update from John Neal, CEO of Lloyd’s, on the state of the Lloyd's market and their response to COVID-19 as well as a panel discussion with London Property underwriters on how they view the pandemic's impact both the Property sector and their syndicate's business.

Lloyd's CEO and Casualty Underwriters Share COVID-19 Response and Market Update


This podcast features an update from John Neal, CEO of Lloyd’s, on the state of the Lloyd's market and their response to COVID-19 as well as a panel discussion with London Casualty underwriters on how they view the pandemic's impact both the Casualty sector and their syndicate's business.

Lloyd's CEO and Professional Underwriters Share COVID-19 Response and Market Update


This podcast features an update from John Neal, CEO of Lloyd’s, on the state of the Lloyd's market and their response to COVID-19 as well as a panel discussion with London Professional Lines underwriters on how they view the pandemic's impact both the Professional Lines sector and their syndicate's business.

Flood 101: What to Know About Standard Flood Insurance


Ninety-eight percent of all United States counties were impacted by a flood event in 2018, yet many property owners remain unaware of their true risk of flood or what their existing policies cover. This article highlights key statistics about flood risk and outlines the differences between the National Flood Insurance Program and private market flood insurance.

Professional Lines Challenges and Market Response During the COVID-19 Crisis


The COVID-19 crisis has created a rapidly changing environment for the Professional Lines market. With the uncertainty of how claims will develop and the potential for increased exposure, retailers must be proactive. In this article, AmWINS specialists share their insights on why this is more important now than ever, including reactionary underwriting trends, D&O policy exclusions and impacts to EPLI, as well as the threat for increased cyber attacks and crime losses.

Small Business and Personal Lines During the COVID Crisis


Loss of revenue caused by stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic has affected small businesses and the insurance industry serving them significantly. As retailers and carriers prioritize their focus to adapt to the “new normal” of daily transactions, underlying market dynamics remain unchanged. In this article, our experts share their insight on the current changes that we are seeing the small business and personal lines market, and how to navigate the market a this time of uncertainty.

Mind the Gap: COVID-19's Impact on the Logistics Industry


The disruptive impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on supply chains is already having a pronounced effect on the world of logistics and logistics insurance. Port closures, demand surges and production shifts are requiring nimble response to keep up with change. This article arms insurance brokers with the information needed to understand the changes taking place and plan for what is likely to occur in the months ahead.

Navigating the Casualty Market’s Response to COVID-19


The Casualty market’s response to COVID-19 is continuously evolving. With a wide array of factors already impacting this sector pre-crisis, segments of the Casualty marketplace are responding to the pandemic differently. In this article, our industry specialists share overall themes in the Casualty market and take a closer look at how various segments are being impacted.

Top COVID-19 Issues Impacting Builder’s Risk Insurance


The COVID-19 pandemic is causing historical disruption to the construction industry. These changes mean that risk mitigation strategies need to be implemented or revisited, policy language should be reviewed, and carriers should be apprised of all changes at the work-site. In this article, AmWINS specialists examine the major areas of concern for Builder’s Risk insureds, including government-mandated shutdowns, supply chain-driven slowdowns and policy wording that could limit coverage, and provide guidance for retailers to achieve the best results for their clients.

State of the U.S. Logistics Insurance Market


For decades, the logistics insurance market has been considered a sub-market of the cargo or ocean marine market. However, the continual rise of e-commerce and its effect on the global supply chain has carved out a complex and expansive industry niche. This article provides insight into the various lines of coverage, the specialized underwriting approach, and rate surges within the U.S. logistics insurance market.

Lloyd’s & the London Market’s Response to COVID-19


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lloyd’s remains open for business and syndicates have successfully transitioned to working from home. However, there are notable changes in how the London market is approaching business. In this article, specialists from THB, AmWINS’ London broker, share their insight on consistent themes across the London Market as well as updates on various lines of business.

COVID-19 Claims Advice


There have been a lot of questions regarding COVID-19, in particular about coverage and claims handling. This claims advice is intended to offer guidance to help our retail clients through these difficult times.

Insurance Impacts of COVID-19 on the Healthcare and Senior Living Industry


As the healthcare industry remains on the front lines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, staying abreast of the changing landscape and how the insurance market is adapting is critical to ensure new exposures are covered and renewals are successfully placed. In this article, our specialists share what they are seeing in the Healthcare and Senior Care markets, tips for risk control and mitigation, and how to get the best results for insureds.

Sign Up For Our Monthly Newsletter

Sign Up