aggregate capacity

Surety Derangement Syndrome “SDS”

Why wouldn’t you be upset?!

You need a bid or performance bond for a construction project (you need it now). 

It goes from the underwriter who loves it, to the supervisor to the bond manager, then to the genius in home office who HATES it! And it only took two weeks to get… a declination.

There are just too many layers! Naturally you have Surety Derangement Syndrome!

The good news is that we will provide a solution. Here it is, your very own, “Preferred Access Code.” With this code you can cut through all the layers. You want to get right to the decision maker. Talk to the person with the authority to make it happen. Present your case and have the dialogue that can result in an approval. This is the process you’ve been hoping for, but nobody would allow you.

With your special Preferred Access Code, you can talk directly with a $10 million underwriter. Just think of it. You pick up the phone, make the call, and immediately, you have access to a $10 million approval. Awesome.

Get a pencil and write it down. Here is your special Preferred Access Code:

GIMMESTEVEPLZ

Call this number 856-304-7348 and enter your Preferred Access Code.  You will immediately be connected directly with the decision maker. Not a receptionist. Not a computer: “Your call is very important to us…” 

Not a Junior Assistant Underwriting Trainee. This is the real deal.

Say goodbye to your chronic SDS! Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. Call us with your next bid or performance bond. 856-304-7348 

Test your code today to verify it works, and you can use it all day, every day. That’s right. You don’t have another surety like this.

Here it is again:

856-304-7348

“GIMMESTEVEPLZ”

Secrets of Bonding #164: The Phantom of the Underwriting Department

When it comes to surety bonds, you know your underwriter. You know the process.  There are questions and answers, then a decision.  Simple, right?

You rely on your rapport with the surety and know how to monitor the status of the underwriting.  Maybe you understand the underwriter you see.  But what about the invisible surety underwriter, a shadowy phantom who exists in every transaction, and whose opinion always affects the outcome. Call this mysterious one “The Phantom of the Underwriting Department.” 

For mood music, Click!

You cannot talk to the Phantom…

Invisible.

There are no emails, no Q. and A. 

And yet, the Phantom analyzes, reviews and influences every bonding decision.  Let’s pull back the curtain on this ethereal being.

Contractors Questionnaire

It all starts here.  Your underwriter looks at the basic info: How long in business?  Largest prior jobs? What do they do, what do they sub?

But the phantom yearns for more. What company ownership structure was chosen?  Is it a proprietorship, corporation or LLC?  Did the founders make prudent decisions? These choices affect taxes, profits and future liabilities.  They can help or hurt the company… and its surety.

If criminal history, litigation, tax problems or surety bond claims / losses are indicated, these may require further investigation.  The Phantom will make a deeper review.

Continuity of Ownership: Who succeeds the current stockholder in the event of death? Will the company maintain operations and complete its projects? These arrangements show that management has an eye toward the future.

The Work In Process Schedule

These are requested often.  They show the contracts in progress, their billing status and costs. The underwriter wants to know how much “work on hand.” Then, silently, the Phantom digs deeper.

The current expected profit is compared to the original estimate. What does this show? Is the profit expectation as predicted or better? Is the estimating department in sync with the field organization?  Is job site supervision highly efficient? Can an undeclared underbilling asset be added to Working Capital?

Is the expected profit sufficient to produce a net profit at year end?  The Phantom will compare the projected job profit percentage to the company Profit and Loss Statement. Based on historical expense trends, the likelihood of an upcoming profitable fiscal year-end can be verified.

Company Financial Statements

He loves these.  There is so much.  They talk to him. The Phantom takes full advantage of this document to determine more than just “the numbers.”

Beginning with the accountants cover letter, who has the contractor chosen for this important assignment? Are they using a construction expert? Did they pay for a quality presentation?  Is the best accounting method in use? Is the fiscal date at an advantageous point in their business cycle?

Obviously, underwriters look at working capital, net worth, ratios, profitability. But there is so much more.  The financial statements show how the stockholders / managers treat the company.  What does it mean to them? Do they nurture and respect it, growing the tiny acorn into a mighty oak?

Past borrowing practices are revealed.  Also, the relationship between financial performance and the ambitions of management.

Growth of the revenue stream is observed and management’s success in monitoring / controlling expense levels.

The Phantom reviews financial statements and tax returns to appreciate the owner’s commitment to the bonded company.  This commitment is a cornerstone of the underwriter’s confidence.

Banking Relations

Very important! There are similarities between banking and surety bonds.  The banker’s opinions help reaffirm the underwriting position.

The banking history can reveal good cash flow and prudent business practices.  It can indicate stability, reliability and good management skills.

Credit Reports

The pay record is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now there is a historical review which indicates the adequacy of cash flow, the quality of money management, planning and the applicant’s good moral character.

The Phantom is always there, making this deeper analysis that may never be discussed, but can always make a difference.

Meet Our Phantom

Now, Remove the Mask!

Sorry, we don’t actually have any Phantoms.  All our underwriters are regular people, with real experience and know-how when it comes to bid and performance bonds. Our surety professionals review the facts promptly and efficiently. 

Their deep analysis enables us to support opportunities that may have been declined elsewhere – up to $10 million each.

We hope you found this article entertaining, but more importantly, informative!  With us, the underwriting is deep and detailed, giving the applicant the highest likelihood of approval.

Call us with your next bid or performance bond, and speak to a real person. 856-304-7348 

(Don’t miss our next exciting article.  Click the “Follow” button at the top right.)

It’s SO HOT!

Record heat is being recorded in many parts of the country.  But what else is hot?

  1. Floyd Mayweather – Hot earner made $7.6 million per minute for his fight with Connor McGregor
  2. Stephen Curry – Hot contract, NBA’s first for over $200 million
  3. Timothy Berners – Lee (never heard of him?) Inventor of the world-wide web and creator of the first web site. He changed everything. Very hot.
  4. Surety Bonds by KIS – Exclusive national underwriters for Great Midwest Insurance Company!
  5. Bill and Melinda Gates – Hot philanthropists donated $4.78 Billion in 2017. (Don’t worry, they kept some for themselves.)

What was that number 4, Surety Bonds?! Come on!  How can they be hot?

Glad you asked:

Surety bonds are a special area of the business.  They are unique and difficult, an opportunity and sometimes an obstacle.  But they are always a chance to shine: A path to greater success for you and your clients.  All you need… is a way to get there.

What if the surety underwriters were cooperative and production oriented?

Wouldn’t THAT be hot?

You need to ask yourself

  • Do my underwriters promise a same day response?
  • Do they help me find a way to write the business?
  • Are they open to a wide range of underwriting situations?
  • Are they Problem Solvers?

If not, you need to heat up your surety bond production.  Find out why agents bring their big / tough contract surety bonds to us.

Same day response.  Bonds up to $10 million.  Flexible and creative.  THAT’S HOT!

We can help you solve your next contract surety need. Call us! 856-304-7348

Secrets of Bonding #160: Deep in the Weeds with Set Aside Letters

In this article we will peel back the onion on Set Aside Letters (SAL) issued by banks in connection with construction loans.  What are they, when they are useful for bonding companies and when are they not?

Here is the essence of such documents:

“The agreement covering the project will provide that the funds in said impound account are … to be disbursed for payment of the (Name of Project) mentioned above and only after (Bank) has satisfied itself that the work paid for has actually been performed… In the event (Borrower) fails to complete the project described herein… all funds remaining in said impound account shall be immediately available to Surety to complete and pay the costs of said project, and in such event, (Borrower) waives any claim or interest in the remaining funds. Surety shall not in any way be obligated to repay said funds so used to (Bank).

This is an irrevocable commitment of funds which is not subject to recall or offset by (Bank).”

Pretty interesting!  This letter / agreement keeps the loan in play to fund the completion of the project  – even if the borrower (bank customer) fails / defaults.

When Are Set Aside Letters Used?

These documents are a common underwriting tool when a Site or Subdivision Bond is issued by a surety. If the bond applicant (who is also the developer and borrower) is relying on a construction loan to fund the bonded work, the SAL protects the surety by providing funds for the completion of the work in the event of a default.

What a great idea.  So why don’t we use these on everything?  Let’s look at another example.

Commercial Projects

The project owner hires a bonded contractor and a bank loan will fund the project.  The bank needs a guarantee that the asset / project (which backs the loan) will be built as intended.  A Performance and Payment Bond accomplishes this and assures there will be no Mechanics Liens against the property for unpaid bills.  These two aspects benefit the project owner and the lender.  Keep in mind, in a borrower default situation, the bank becomes the new owner of the property.

It is common for the bank to stipulate that a bonded contractor be used, and they may want to be a named beneficiary on the P&P bond – accomplished by issuing a Dual Obligee Rider.  In turn, should the underwriter require a SAL from the lender?

On Commercial projects, the normal practice is to NOT obtain a SAL from the lender.  Why not?  Why is this different?

Choose one:

a. The bank is a secured lender

b. The bank can subrogate against the borrower’s assets

c. The Dual Obligee Rider serves a purpose similar to the SAL

a. and b. are true, but the answer is c.

Welcome to the Weeds

We’re going in now. The Dual Obligee Rider adds the lender as a beneficiary with all the rights and obligations of the obligee named on the bond (the project owner).  And what are they?  Obviously they are entitled to make a performance claim and have the project delivered as indicated in the contract.

The named obligee also has obligations, one of the most primary is to PAY the builder. Important: The obligee is prohibited from making a performance claim if they have failed to pay the contractor.

Therefore, when the bank is included under a Dual Obligee Rider, they accept the benefits and obligations.  If the borrower defaults, the lender cannot make a bond claim unless they continue to pay the construction loan to the surety.  (Now the bank owns the project and the surety has become the contractor.)

Summary

Is this starting to make sense?  When a borrower defaults on a commercial project, a lender included by Dual Obligee Rider cannot make a claim unless they continue to pay the project funds to the surety.

Deeper Weeds

On Site and Subdivision there is a unique risk – the lender can take a free ride on the surety by having the bonding company pay out of pocket to complete the project.

Site and Sub-D bonds have the local municipality as obligee, not the bank.  The bank doesn’t want a Dual Obligee Rider because they automatically receive a financial benefit if the municipality makes a bond claim to demand completion of the project.  If the borrower has defaulted, the bank has the opportunity to withhold the balance of the loan (the borrower is gone), and watch the surety pay to complete a project they now own.  And they were not even the bond claimant…

This is the risk sureties avoid on Site and Subdivision Bonds by requiring the SAL that keeps the loan in play, even if the bond applicant / borrower has failed.

Admittedly, this is a pretty obscure subject, but also interesting to us “bond nerds.”  It never hurts to understand how things fit together.  These skills help us solve your complicated bond opportunities.  Take advantage of our expertise when the next one pops up.

Steve Golia is a long established surety bond provider and expert. Call us with your next bid or performance bond. 856-304-7348 

(Don’t miss our next exciting article.  Click the “Follow” button at the top right.)

 

Secrets of Bonding #127: “The Call”

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Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

A couple of times every week we talk to a new contractor who wants to get their bond account set up for the first time.  Here’s how it always goes:

  • Contractor: We want to go after bonded projects but we’ve never had bonds before.  What’s involved?
  • Bonding Pros: OK Hi! Who am I speaking to?
  • Contractor: I’m Humphrey.
  • Bonding Pros: All right Humphrey, can we start by asking you a few questions?  What is the size and nature of the work you intend to pursue?TelefMan-07

Scenario #1 (Pursuing contracts up to $350,000)

  • Contractor: We have performed residential and light commercial work.  We want to go after general construction contracts up to about $250,000.
  • Bonding Pros: Great! Tell me the ownership and structure of your company.
  • Contractor: The company is an LLC owned by me and my partner Bogart.
  • Bonding Pros: Are you both married?
  • Contractor: Yes, but not to each other.
  • Bonding Pros: We have a very easy program that may be a perfect starting point for you.  To be eligible, the owners and spouses must have good personal credit reports. Are the reports favorable?
  • Contractor: Yes.
  • Bonding Pros: There are some other criteria.  For example, the program cannot be used for long-term contracts or difficult / unique construction – needs to be plain vanilla.  The good thing is that no financial statements or other documentation is required, only a simple one page app. If this program fits your needs, you’ll never find anything easier or faster!
  • Bonding Pros: Give me your email address and we’ll send you the one page app.  We can probably get you pre-qualified within 24 hours!

Scenario #2 (Pursuing contracts in excess of $350,000, or for applicants with low credit scores)

  • Bonding Pros: We have an excellent group of bonding companies, and even offer exclusive capacity not available from other sources.  We find that most contractors are able to qualify for bonding if their account is developed properly.  That’s where our expertise (since 1972!)  comes into play.
  • Contractor: What info will be needed?
  • Bonding Pros:  Getting approved for bonding is like applying for a bank loan. The same kind of financial and background info is needed.  Your relationship with the surety is similar to banking and you promise to protect the surety from loss, just like signing a promissory note with a lender.  That’s why surety bonds are not insurance policies.
  • Contractor: OK what’s the next step and how much does it cost?
  • Bonding Pros: We don’t charge for setting up your account!  We’ll send you an email with a list of items that are needed initially.  Gather as much as you can and send over so we can get started.  The process normally takes a week or two.  You don’t pay until you win a contract and need a performance bond.

Conclusion

Have we oversimplified the process? Actually, no.  It is easier than people assume to get their bond account arranged – when you know the ropes.  That’s our niche.  We don’t pretend to be good at everything, but we are experts at this!

Insurance Agents and Contractors: when tough bonding situations arise, we have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

Give us a call today!  Bonding Pros: 856-304-7348

Not available in all states including Idaho.

Secrets of Bonding #123: Who Was Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr. (& Why Contractors Should Care)

Brought to you by…Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

(January 11, 1918 – July 17, 1990) An American aerospace engineer who worked on safety-critical systems for the U.S. Air Force. He is best known for his namesake Murphy’s Law, which  states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  Murphy regarded the law as crystallizing a key principle of defensive design, in which one should always assume worst-case scenarios.Murphys_Law

Keeping Major Murphy’s principle in mind, what are the critical steps contractors can take to get their projects off on the right foot, and bring them to a successful conclusion – while keeping Murphy’s Law out of the equation?

The first key to having a successful contract is to have a contract. It sounds obvious, but contractors are sometimes induced to start work, or perform change orders / additions to contracts, without an executed document in hand.  Maybe the project owner is in a rush, “We need for you to start right away so we can be completed on time.  We’ll do the paperwork later.”

The contractor wants to maintain good will.  They proceed in the hope that their responsiveness will pay off – and sometimes it does.  There are also times when the contractor incurs costs that are never reimbursed because the contract is not executed.  There could be engineering problems, governmental interference or lack of funding. There are any number of reasons for things to go wrong (as our hero indicated.) And for the contractor, they are all bad.

murphyslaw

On the other hand, let’s say there is no problem with the contract.  The paperwork is signed, the work proceeds, is paid for, and the contractor is completed with a profit in hand. So is that the end?

No, not quite. Just like there is paperwork to get into the project, there is more to get out of it.  The contractor should obtain written acceptance of the work by the job owner (obligee.) 

  • This important document establishes a completion date for the contract and concludes a portion of the liability that is attached to all open contracts.
  • It will close the Performance and Payment bond if there was one. Closing the file restores the contractors bonding capacity. 
  • It may also be beneficial with lenders.
  • If nothing else, a written acceptance may be a defense when the project owner attempts to call back the contractor at a later date or claim the work was not satisfactory.

Edward_MurphyThese simple procedures are basic, good business practices. Contractors who win work competitively, and are paid under a lump sum contract, already face significant risks.  It is important to have the correct paperwork in hand when starting, modifying, and ending construction projects. 

Major Murphy learned this important lesson the hard way – but you don’t have to! 

 

 

Insurance Agents and Contractors: when tough bonding situations arise, we have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

Give us a call today!  856-304-7348

Not available in all states including Idaho.

Secret #91: Bonding Capacity – Enough is Enough

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Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

Contractors know Surety Bonding Capacity is good to have and the more you have the better! But how do you determine the amount that is enough?

Primer on Capacity

  • Bonding capacity is normally described as an amount per project and an aggregate total. The amount per contract is referred to as the “single,” meaning the amount available to support a single contract. The aggregate is the incomplete portion of all the current and new contracts on any given day.
  •  Bonding companies look at the contractor’s capabilities when determining the single amount they will support. These include similar jobs successfully completed, available resources such as supervision, labor, and equipment as well as financial liquidity.
  •  To evaluate the aggregate, underwriters look at historical production levels, financial strength and other relevant factors.
  •  They also consider the capacity amount the contractor is requesting. For successful management of the relationship, it is beneficial to provide what the client desires if possible.

So how does the contractor determine the capacity levels to request?

First off, underwriters are unlikely to support new projects more than double the size of prior work. In addition, they generally expect the financial analysis of the last company fiscal year-end financial statement to show adequate levels of strength for such projects. (Read Secrets of Bonding # 4 for a complete explanation regarding working capital calculations.)

The aggregate capacity is generally double the “single” amount although there may be cases where a limited program consists of a single and aggregate for the same amount. This would mean the underwriters only want to support one project at a time with no overlap.

As far as the ability to bid on multiple projects while performing other work, the solution is to have an aggregate amount that is a multiple of the single, for example $1 million single / $2 million aggregate (referred to as “one over two”).

To decide if the aggregate is enough, first determine if it consists of bonded work only or all projects. This enoughvaries by underwriter. It is reasonable and likely they will say “the aggregate includes all work, bonded and unbonded.” This approach takes all the contractor’s obligations into consideration, everything that may tax financial and human resources and therefore affect the bonded work.

The more liberal treatment is to define the aggregate as only including bonded work. This provides unlimited potential to add unbonded work with no scrutiny by the surety.

Capacity Management Tips

One factor that affects the adequacy of the aggregate is the company’s bidding strategy. Stacking up multiple bids in rapid succession consumes the aggregate more quickly.

The prompt recognition / reporting of progress on bonded jobs and their conclusion has the opposite effect. It helps make more capacity available.

Knowing when current bonded projects will complete can be helpful. Underwriters may support bids knowing that the start of the new project will be after the completion of a current bonded job. This is a slightly creative way of stretching the capacity with a view toward the future. Some underwriters will exercise this flexibility.

Conclusion

In our experience we find that capacity is the most important element of a bonding program.

Contractors are always concerned about the competitiveness of their bond rate. But if you don’t have enough capacity to add the new project, the rate doesn’t really matter.