surety support

Surety Bonds: How I Voted

Last Tuesday was the big day: 

  • “The most consequential mid-terms of our lifetime!”
  • “Your mid-term vote is a chance to affirm / reject (choose one) the president’s agenda!”
  • “The end of life as we know it!”
  • “Blah-blah-blah!”

I’m not making a joke about voting.  I think it is a privilege.  As citizens of a democracy, we owe it to all who have suffered and died defending this noble right.

So on Tuesday, I awoke bursting with patriotism and planning to cast my ballot.  But I decided to do it differently.  You’ve heard the expression, “Vote With Your feet.” This time I’ll do it!

I identified myself to the voting lady and she sent me to booth #2.  I quickly removed my shoes and socks.  It was hard getting the curtain open.

I entered the booth and reviewed all the choices.  Here it comes.  I steadied myself and placed my big toe on the lever.  I need to flip the lever, slippery, hard to turn it… I got it!

It became easier as I proceeded.  At the end you push a button to register your choices.  My big toe wouldn’t fit so I used the side of my “pinky toe.” Awesome!

I must admit, voting with your feet is harder than I expected, and a lot less fun. Why do people like it so much?  Eventually… it dawned on me what the expression means.  My “foot voting” was a fiasco!

You don’t have to make the same mistake. It’s not too late for you to vote with your feet – the right way.  Choose what’s better for you.  You can do it on Surety Bonds:

  • Circular 570, T-Listed bonds in excess of $10 million
  • Increased commissions
  • Superior, 365 service.
  • Same day response on new submissions.

You can have all this.  You should have it all! Vote with your feet and come over to KIS Surety for all these benefits.  Give us a call with your next Bid or Performance Bond.

Steve Golia, National Surety Director, KIS Surety

856-304-7348

Secrets of Bonding #166: Meet the Weatherman

Tonight’s forecast: Dark!

We like to joke about the TV weather team: “I wish I had a job where I could be wrong 50% of the time!” *  But in reality, we still tune in and watch.

   Question: Is a surety bond underwriter just like a weatherperson?  How are they similar?

Both are paid to make predictions.  They gather and analyze information: “Crystal ball gazers.”  There is a hope / expectation that they will achieve some degree of accuracy.  Whether you are forecasting the POP, or the completion of a construction project, isn’t it just about the same?

You know forecasters use computer models.  They have the National Weather Service and there are Canadian and European Models.  They could just put that up on the TV screen!  We don’t really need the “local weather talent,” do we? 

What about bonding? Many sureties already use computer based programs.  These provide instant or quick answers on surety bonds that fall into certain categories.  Is that all we need?  Should we get rid of the Surety Underwriter / Weatherman entirely?  We say “No!”  Here’s why…

  • The Underwriter does more than predict the future. A good underwriter contributes to the outcome.  Their efforts positively affect many people. 
  • When bonds are approved, the bond agent makes money.  The construction company achieves new revenues. So do their suppliers and subcontractors.  Think of the ripple effect!
  • The bonding company and their reinsurers make money. 
  • Presumably something of value is built for the owner; a useful asset is created. 

Really good underwriters are more than “yes / no” decision makers, they are facilitators. The experienced underwriter sees a path forward that may not be obvious to others.  How can this deal (performance bond) be supported while protecting the interests of the surety, the guarantor of the project’s success?  Here’s where knowledge, experience and attitude come in. 

Does the underwriter want to make the deal happen, and have the know-how to do it?

These high level underwriters aren’t weathermen, they are Rain Makers!  They work actively to produce profits and success for all they touch. Without their expertise, projects would not be supported and built.  Doors get opened and companies reach new, higher levels of mutual success. 

This is a combination of science and art with a dash of experience.  And you don’t find it too often.  But when you do, grab an umbrella and watch good things happen.

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.)

*  Actually, weather forecasters average more than 80% accuracy.  Good job guys!

Secrets of Bonding #121: Are Court Bonds Like Fruit?

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.

produce_manMostly we issue contract surety bonds (Performance & Payment) for contractors and our insurance agent / colleagues.  However, we are also an important provider of Court and Probate bonds.  We issued a number of interesting court bonds recently so here is some info on this subject.

What Are Court Bonds Are Why Are They Needed?

Generally, court bonds serve three purposes.

  1. They provide required protection for the other party in the litigation (opposite the bond applicant)
  2. They guarantee the payment of related court costs
  3. The court likes them

An Injunction Bond is a good example.  In these legal actions one party wants to limit or prevent the actions of another.  An insurance agency may request an injunction to prevent a former salesman from soliciting their clients.  The court requires the plaintiff (insurance agency) to provide a bond for the protection of the defendant (salesman) in the event it is found that (s)he has been wrongfully restrained.

A Replevin Bond is similar.  These are required when the plaintiff (a bank) wants to seize an asset (your private jet) for failure to pay your finance charges.  The bond will protect you if it is later found they wrongfully seized “Wings Over Yonkers.”  See how these work?  In different situations the bonds provide the same type of function.  The name of the bond identifies the underlying legal action.

Why Do Courts Like Them?

You may think “what’s not to like?!” That’s true. But the court may require a surety bond for a practical reason.  If the litigation involves a financial matter, they could require that an escrow deposit be placed with the court for the benefit of the other party. They would hold this money until the case is decided.

This works, but is not convenient.  Where will the funds be held?  Who is responsible for their safekeeping?  Will there be periodic accounting if the case runs for years?  Who pays the expenses associated with this?  What if the money is misplaced or stolen? 

Compare this to a surety bond: Get the bond, throw in the file. Done!

cherriesEven though the court may have the option to take cash in lieu of bond, they may demand the issuance of a surety bond simply for its convenience.

Other Court Bonds

When a money judgment is rendered, the defendant may want the matter heard by the Appellant Court. Let’s say Maynard sued Dobie for money and wins a $10,000 judgment.  Maynard figures “Ok here comes 10 big ones!”  However, Dobie wants to dispute the decision so now Maynard has to wait.

In order to bring the Appeal, Dobie must obtain an Appeal Bond which protects the interests of the court and guarantees prompt payment if Dobie loses again.  To get this bond, he’ll have to give his personal financial statement, his indemnity, and put up maybe $11,000 for the surety to hold.  Oh, and pay the bond premium!  Why is all this necessary?

Bond underwriters know that most defendants lose at the Appellate level.  They also know that the court will simply claim on the bond to pay off the judgement.  This means that underwriters expect full penalty claims on defendant’s appeal bonds – which is why they normally require full collateral for the judgment amount plus interest and expenses.nanners

Conclusion

Hopefully it is apparent that there is a thread of similarity between these different types of court bonds.  This can make it easier to understand them when a client comes a-knockin’.

Oh, so why are court bonds like fruit?  Because they have appeal!

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.

Secrets of Bonding #111: WIP Quiz

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.

 When it comes to Bid and Performance Bonds, nothing may be required more often than financial statements and WIP schedules (Work In Process aka Work On Hand).  For mood music, click here.australian-whip

The WIP schedule could be required monthly for active bidders.  Certainly, the construction company management team monitors this critical info.  It tells the tale of how things are going, and where they’re headed. Profitability is revealed.  It is a preview of the upcoming Profit and Loss section in the next financial statement.  Poor results on the WIP schedule equal low Gross Profits on the next P&L – and maybe a net loss.

Let’s look at a couple of examples and see if you can spot what’s going on.  For the sake of illustration, we’ll use an abbreviated format.

On each of the following WIP schedules, compare the expected profit upon completion to the original profit estimate.

Joe Shmoe Construction

Project

Current/Revised Contract Amount

Original Gross Profit Percentage

Billed to Date

Costs to Date (Including change orders)

Revised Remaining Costs to Complete

1001

$1,000,000

10%

$700,000

$602,000

$202,000

Is the current profit projection more or less than originally expected?

  1. More
  2. Less
  3. Exactly right

 

Global Construction and Gutter Cleaning

Project

Current/Revised Contract Amount

Original Gross Profit Percentage

Billed to Date

Costs to Date (Including change orders)

Revised Remaining Costs to Complete

4321

$1,000,000

10%

$700,000

$602,000

$410,000

Is the current profit projection more or less than originally expected?

  1. More
  2. Less
  3. Exactly right

 

Dummenhappie Contracting

Project

Current/Revised Contract Amount

Original Gross Profit Percentage

Billed to Date

Costs to Date (Including change orders)

Revised Remaining Costs to Complete

007

$1,000,000

10%

$700,000

$630,000

$270,000

Is the current profit projection more or less than originally expected?

  1. More
  2. Less
  3. Exactly right

 

Got your answers?  Let’s go over these:

Joe Shmoe originally projected $100,000 profit (10% of $1,000,000).  Now it has nearly doubled! (602,000+202,000=804,000.   1,000,000-804,000=196,000)  “a. More”

Global starts with the same numbers (to help illustrate our point), but the costs are different.

(602,000+410,000=1,012,000   1,000,000-1,012,000= -12,000)  Not only has the profit margin slipped, it exceeds the contract amount resulting in a projected overall loss. “b. Less”

And finally Dummenhappie.  This one is amazing!  They are about ¾ of the way through the project (actually 70%), and right on target profit wise. The expected profits and total costs are exactly as predicted before they started the work.

(630,000+270,000=900,000   1,000,000-900,000=100,000)  “c. Exactly right”

Think about that. This answer “Exactly right” means prior to actually starting the project, they accurately predicted the exact number of labor hours.  Do you think the reality of the project might be somewhat different from the prediction?  Maybe they will hit unexpected obstacles and things will go slower (higher labor costs).  Or they may find more efficient ways to perform the work as it progresses (lower labor costs).  The cost of material purchases can also vary.  Get the point? It’s hard it imagine any project in which the costs can be perfectly predicted in advance.

indy-whipSo what’s going on here if Dummenhappie isn’t brilliantenluckie?  Our assumption is that the contractor has failed to RE-estimate the remaining costs to complete.  They are still relying on the original estimate – not analyzing the actual “costs to complete” during the life of the project.

Relying solely on the original cost estimate is a dangerous and weak practice.  The contractor may be unpleasantly surprised if unanticipated costs (such as labor inefficiency) have eroded the profit margin.  The worst part: They won’t know about it until the end, when it’s too late to make a correction!

Surety underwriters will detect if the remaining costs are not being reevaluated.  It reflects poorly on the contractor’s management practices.  It also means their profit projections may be totally unreliable.

The solution is to keep accurate records of the labor and material costs that go into each job, and periodically reevaluate (re-estimate) the remaining costs to complete. 

You can have a lot of fun with WIPS!  We’ve just touched on one part in this article. The analyst must not only review the profit trend, but also the method of calculation to confirm that accounting procedures are appropriate.

The experts at Bonding Pros can help 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

Secrets of Bonding #76: The Second Bidder’s Second Chance

In this article we will talk about some opportunities that may exist for second bidders.  These are the contractors who have come in 2nd on a competitively bid project, such as a federal or state contract.  These projects are typically awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder” (meaning they must have the proper credentials and meet other requirements.)  As for the 2nd bidder, they get nothing.  They were close, but did not win.  It’s a 100% waste of time and money – unless they DO ultimately acquire the project.  A contract may be awarded to the second bidder under certain circumstances – such as a defect in the low bidder’s paperwork.

There are many documents required in a typical bid proposal: Licenses, certifications, references, non-collusion affidavits, business registration, consent of surety, bid guarantees, etc.  If documents are missing, or issued with defects, the low bid can be declared “non-responsive” at the discretion of the project owner.  The 2nd bidder then becomes the lowest responsible bidder and may receive the contract award.

Here are some of the technical areas to check that can cause bids to be rejected:

  1. Mandatory forms Failure to use mandatory forms, use of obsolete / expired forms, or not following a stipulated format.  Does the bid invitation contain a bid bond form described as mandatory? Bid bonds are all similar but the failure to use the right format or document is a potential cause for rejection.
  2. Bid bond details Check all the typed information for accuracy.
    1. Bidders name
    2. Obligee’s name
    3. Job description and project number
    4. Bid bond percentage or dollar amount
  3. Capped bid bonds If a “capped bid bond” is used, a proposal amount that exceeds the bid bond maximum would invalidate the instrument.  (More info in Secret #68)
  4. T-List requirement If a “Treasury Listed” surety is required, does the bonding company appear on the list, and for a sufficient amount?  http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/fsreports/ref/suretyBnd/c570.htm
  5. Power of Attorney Is one attached, in the correct name, properly executed and for a sufficient amount?
  6. Notary Acknowledgment Needed for both the surety and the contractor, properly executed.  Is the notary’s commission for the correct state and not expired?
  7. Execution Signed and sealed with the correct seals?
  8. Financial Statement Attached for the surety?  Is it for the correct surety name? Is it as of an appropriate date (not obsolete)?
  9. Consent of Surety This is not always required. However, if stipulated, failure to provide it can cause a rejection. Are all the details on the consent accurate? Properly executed including correct seal?  If there are stated conditions, does the proposal comply? (Example: The Consent may only be valid up to a stated bid amount.)

On public bids (municipal, state and federal), the bid documents are normally available for public review.  Second bidders may be surprised to learn they have a second chance if the low bid is defective.

Another second chance may arise if the low bidder falters on the project after commencing work.  In the event of default, the bonding company must come to the rescue and they want an efficient (fast, economical) way to complete the job. Who better to call than the 2nd bidder?  The 2nd is the natural “completion contractor” to finish the job for the surety.  They already know the project and presumably offered a price close to the low bidder. The 2nd should contact the claims department of the surety that holds the Performance Bond if they see the project is in trouble.

Now a parting comment for LOW BIDDERS: Keep in mind that 2nd bidders don’t give up easily.  They, too, spent time and money pursuing the work, and want to win the contract.  Be sure your quality control prevents bid errors that cause bid bond claims and open the door for 2nd bidders.

KIS Surety is the national contract bond underwriting department for Great Midwest Insurance Company, a national, corporate surety with an A-8 rating.  We throw all this underwriting talent at your bond opportunities and support contracts up to $10,000,000.

If you have a contract surety case that needs a fast, creative response, call us: 856-304-7348

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

Secrets of Bonding #46: Turn IRON into GOLD

When contractors apply for Performance Bonds, the underwriting review always includes a financial analysis along with other elements.

Two key components of the financial analysis are Working Capital (WC) and Net Worth (NW).  WC is a measure of short term financial strength.  NW is the ultimate value of the company upon liquidation.

The inspiration for this article came from a new bond account we recently reviewed.  The company is a trade contractor, the kind that normally performs their own work rather than subcontracting. This means their financial statements should show appropriate levels of labor, plant, and equipment.

In this case, the Profit and Loss Statement (P&L) showed sales in excess of $10 million, not a small company. The Balance Sheet showed an acceptable amount of WC, but NW was low – resulting in some weak ratios.

Another element caught our attention: On the Balance Sheet, the net value of the equipment asset was only $65,000! This made us wonder how a company could perform $10 million in sales with so little in physical resources.

There could be a couple of explanations:

  1. They could be subcontracting most of their work.  This is unlikely, however, because they themselves are subcontractors. Typically there is not enough profit to share between two firms. A review of this company’s P&L statement did not indicate extensive subcontracting.
  2. They could be renting almost everything (instead of owning).  This doesn’t sound like a practical approach with sales as high as $10 million, and the P&L did not show high rental expenses.
  3. The equipment could be substantially depreciated resulting in a low net value on the Balance Sheet.  This did turn out to be the scenario in their case.

Let’s talk more about #3. But first off, what is depreciation?

IRS definition: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-%26-Self-Employed/A-Brief-Overview-of-Depreciation

It says in part, “Depreciation is an income tax deduction that allows a taxpayer to recover the cost or other basis of certain property. It is an annual allowance for the wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence of the property.”

This means when a $100,000 backhoe is purchased, its value as an asset on the Balance Sheet goes down each year as the depreciation progresses.  Bear in mind, this is an accounting entry.  It is not an indication of the current market value of the asset.

Eventually, the asset is depreciated to zero. However, even if it is valueless on the Balance Sheet, it may still be out on a job site working and producing revenues.  It may still have a market value. So therein lies the Gold.

Assets such as heavy equipment (referred to as “Iron”), may have value that is not reflected on the Balance Sheet. So the question is: How to recapture that value and help the bond worthiness of the account?

One way is with a professional appraisal.  Even if the backhoe is depreciated to zero, if the current market value is $25,000, that represents NW that can be added to the financial ratios.

Imagine the effect for the company in question.  Upon further review, we determined that the cost of their equipment was nearly $2 million.  They had a lot of it and it was older so depreciation had reduced the net value on the Balance Sheet to $65,000.  However the current market value was actually $500,000!

Q. Based on these facts, what value should the bond underwriters use for the equipment:  $65,000, $2,000,000, $500,000 or some other amount?

A. If you’ve been following along, that’s where the appraised value comes in.  You need an independent determination of current market value that recognizes the amount of cash these assets could bring.  If well maintained, they have a value higher than that shown on the Balance Sheet. ($500,000)

How else can the value be determined?  The client could provide a copy of their equipment floater as evidence of current value.  You could also get an informal appraisal from their equipment dealer.  Any of these options are better that living with the unrealistically low value shown on the Balance Sheet.

Going back to our example, if the backhoe’s market value is currently $25,000, give that info to the underwriter.  The newly found net worth for all such assets can be added to the bonding analysis.  You turned the Iron into Gold, a POT of Gold!  It can totally transform the ratios and the client’s ability to qualify for the bonds they desire.

Consider this technique for companies with a sizable fleet of mature equipment, especially when their Net Worth is less than desired for bonding purposes.  This analysis can also help strengthen the banking relationship.


A special note from the author: Steve Golia

I am an Independent Broker and Surety Bond Specialist. If you wish to co-broker bond business, together we will deliver the best in bonding expertise for your clients.  I have a broad range of markets available and often can solve problems even when others have failed.

Call me now (856-304-7348) or email: Steven.Golia@gmail.com

 

Secrets of Bonding #27: Beneficiaries of a Bond

The process starts simply: A construction company needs a bond in order to acquire a new project.  So they contact their agent who surveys the market and seeks a surety that will support the account and provide favorable terms. There are a number of beneficiaries of this transaction:

Bond Agent

The bond agent and agency earn a commission on the transaction.  These revenues not only provide the basis to pay the agency’s sales and administrative staff, they also form a production base that enables the agency to attract more sureties and additional bond clients.  It is a key to their current and future prosperity.

Contractor

Bonds enable contractors to acquire new work – the lifeblood of their business.  The newly issued bond not only provides a profit making opportunity, it also helps build the company’s track record of projects completed under bond.  This is a higher standard of performance than unbonded work because of the additional scrutiny by the surety, paperwork and reporting requirements, and related activity such as accounting and legal requirements.

Having a surety and performing bonded work helps the contractor acquire future work and additional bonds. It is a building process and an important part of the company’s credentials.

Obligee

Some obligees, such as public bodies (city, state and federal contracts), are required to obtain bonds because of their beneficial effect.  They are an effective way to protect the public interests. Other obligees such as owners of commercial property or general contractors may choose to bond their projects. The advantages are numerous.

From the outset, the obligee has a pre-qualified contractor on the project, a better contractor.  Sureties only issue bonds after making a thorough evaluation.  The bond protects the obligee from the contractor’s failure to perform and from non-payment of subs and suppliers – and those potential claimants are equally protected.  Bonds are required on public work because they are such a great means of assuring the correct performance of the project.

Surety

For the surety, issuing the bond means incurring a risk and earning a fee. This is, of course, the surety’s business.  It is the purpose of the company to identify and issue bonds that meet with their underwriting requirements.