Top 8 Reasons We Can’t Quote Your Submission

Every day we receive new business submissions from agents.  We love seeing new accounts come across that we can delve into!  Some agents really know their stuff and get us fully completed apps with all the extra bells and whistles needed for that spectacular submission.  But many times we, as brokers, find the submissions fall short and we have to go back and forth to get all the necessary information that wasn’t provided. Perhaps you have to do that, too, with your insureds.  We know how tough it can be!   It ends up being time consuming for all involved.

So, in order to form a more perfect union between us, here’s a list of reasons we normally find we can’t quote your submission:

  1. There is no Insured name on the application. Trust me, knowing the name of the insured you are going to write insurance for is important.  I know sometimes it seems we are mind readers but our clairvoyance doesn’t always extend to Insureds.
  2. The address is missing. Do they not have any address at all?  Are they living and working in their parent’s basement and are afraid to tell anyone? If that’s true, we still need their parent’s address.  I promise we won’t call their mom.
  3. Sales or receipts information is absent or just a guesstimate. It’s kind of important to give us that information so the account can be rated properly.  Also, there’s a big difference between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in receipts.  That extra zero can do a lot.
  4. The class codes are non-existent on the application. Yet another important piece of the rating puzzle.  Those codes give our carriers a better understanding of what the liability exposure is.  It also helps them determine the premium and any necessary exclusions.
  5. There is a bad explanation of the risk. Or no explanation of the risk.  We really do want to know what the insured is doing!  Plus sometimes the explanation helps solidify the class code to use, as there may be something that’s outside the norm.  If the company has a website that’s the most helpful – make sure you put that down!
  6. Property apps don’t have any pertinent information. You can’t just write down the address and hope for the best.  We have to know the year built and when the last updates were on ALL things (plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc.).  Is it a single home or a duplex?  A vacant building or a warehouse?  These are the questions that keep us up late at night.
  7. The loss history hasn’t been included. I would LOVE to just take the insured’s word that they have never had a loss.  Unfortunately, we need proof in this business. And please, please, send loss runs that have just been run within the last 30-60 days.  We can’t hope that those loss runs you received in 2014 are still the same today.
  8. Expiring and Target premium hasn’t been advised. Nobody likes to spin their wheels, getting nowhere after a lot of hard work.  If we know the insured’s expiring premium and what number we need to work at being at or under, then we have a better chance of getting you a quote that your insured will like.

When it comes down to it, we’re here to help you give your insured the best coverage for the best price.  I know it may seem like we’re grumbling about these submissions, but it’s only so we can offer you our best.  We want you and your insured to be happy!

cathyCathy Thurber has over 10 years’ experience in the insurance industry and likes to think she’s learned a few things along the way, one of which being to not take herself too seriously.  She would love to say she has as many cool expertise’s as her fellow blogger, Ken Kukral, but she’s just not as old as him.  Cathy is a voracious reader and a total word nerd.  Most importantly, she’s been married to her favorite person for almost twenty years and has two kids that she actually likes.  However, the dog is her favorite child and she’s been wheedling for a cat for years.  Perhaps this is the lucky year?

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Time to read the ISO Manual again…

When I started in the insurance business some 30 years ago, I began as an underwriter.  This meant I needed to learn the “rules” and how to do rating if I was ever going to put out a quote.  As a wholesale broker I needed to figure out pricing, terms and how to sell the underwriter on accounts that were “submit”.  I always felt I needed to know a significant amount of information if I was going to have the “upper hand” with both carriers and clients.  This was my basis of eventually becoming a “coverage guy”.

Part of my initial training was reading and understanding specific sections of the ISO Commercial Lines Manual.  Without this, I wouldn’t have the necessary foundation of which to build on and understand the technicalities of this business.  I can’t tell you how many times I searched through the classification tables in order to find the most appropriate classification for an account.  There was not always one, so I needed to find the most appropriate one and then convince the underwriter to use that classification.  There were many times that there were additional “rules” associated with a classification and I needed to know how that impacted the account.

Some of the areas that were the most important were the following:

  • Minimum state payrolls. Each state has their own minimum owner payroll and many carriers had modifications to that.  A mistake here could result in a mid-term endorsement increasing the payroll and the agent and insured would certainly NOT be happy.
  • Premium basis. Understanding what each type of premium basis is and what was included was important.  Knowing if it was “each”, per $100 or per $1,000 could make all the difference in rating up the account.  A mistake here could result in a premium 10 times too high or too low.  Carriers also had modification to this such as contractors where they might rate per employee instead of payroll.
  • Details of what was included in payroll. Should executive payroll be included?  Clerical payroll?  Salesmen payroll?  Overtime or holiday double time?  Other forms of remuneration?  Knowing the rules here could help significantly reduce the premium basis and subsequently the premium.  This could mean the difference between writing an account or just narrowly missing it.  Since carriers allow for up to three years to audit an account, you can go back that many years and possibly get significant return premiums by properly applying the rules.  Do not assume the auditor knows all the rules.  You may also want to “school” your client on these rules so they properly keep track of proper payroll and do not have any surprises at audit time.  Also make sure your carriers do not have any modifications to these rules.  Know what Rule 24 is?  A clue, it gives many of the important payroll rules.  When you get bored one day, do an internet search or e-mail me and I will send you a copy.
  • Square footage. There are a few quirks here too.  Sometimes carriers base their premium basis on “customer accessible” square footage.  Calculating this out can sometimes make a significant difference.  I have also found that relying on county property records can be an issue.  The county property records may not have included a recent addition or change and will be picked up when the carrier inspects the property.
  • Additional insured endorsements. In over 90 percent of requests we receive to add additional insured’s, we are NOT given the specific endorsement that should be added.  This begs the question, if the wrong one is used, whose fault is it?  All requests for additional insured status should give what endorsement form number to be used, when it is to be effective, the interest of the party looking to be added as additional insured and any other specifications that are needed.  Using the wrong additional insured could even cost your client a bid for a job if they catch this detail and reject their bid, no fault of their own.  Keep in mind that certain additional insured endorsements are “free” and some may incur a charge per additional insured.  Talk to your client up front about how many they expect so you know if you should pursue a blanket additional insured or not.
  • Rule 85 – Know what this is? This the rule that defines the criteria for a specific risk on if the fire rate will be specifically rated or class rated.  A good risk is eligible to be rated after ISO inspects it and takes into account all fire protections.  This can make a risk come in with a much lower rate than if it was class rated.  You need to check the effective date of the rating and check with your customer to see if any changes were made since that time that would improve the fire rating.
  • Debits or credits – The ISO manual defines what the potential credits are bases on certain criteria. Of course carriers may have their own criteria that supersede this criteria so also know the modifications your carriers make and your authority to use this debits or credits.
  • Package credits – Who doesn’t like credits. There is a wide range of package credits based on classification.  Your carriers may also have modifications to these.
  • Deductible credits – Does your client have a higher tolerance to retaining risk? If so, you can quickly figure out how much they might save by going to higher deductibles.
  • Construction definitions – Questions on masonry versus masonry non-combustible? Definitions are here so you can properly determine the proper construction class.
  • Changes – ISO goes out of their way to discuss changes being made to classifications, rules or forms. You need to read and understand the changes so then when your clients ask about them, you are on top of them.  This is especially true if there is a reduction in coverage.  Keep in mind that carriers do not immediately accept changes and you need to watch for their adoption date.
  • Exception pages. There are always exceptions.  Many do not apply to what you are doing, but you need to make sure if they do.

While reading the ISO manual may not be an exciting read, it could help you out in writing business.  Knowing the rules will help you to use them to your advantage and show your client that you understand the minutia of your business so they don’t have to.  How much would your client love you if you were able to get them a return premium from the policy they previous wrote with another agent?  Think helping them out would help solidify the new relationship?  Just like in golf, it is important to know the rules so you can use them to your advantage.   Happy reading….

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

Should Ohio Agents Be asking about their client’s workers compensation?

By Ken Kukral

Being a monopolistic state (no private carriers allowed to write in Ohio), most agents have completely ignored discussing workers compensation with their clients.  Is this wise?  I do not hear about any movement to take Ohio to a competitive workers compensation state, but that does not mean you should completely ignore this aspect of your clients risk profile.  Some things to think about:

 

  • Most likely you have discussed group rated workers compensation with your client and have placed them in one of these programs. Did you realize that not all group rated WC programs offer the same amount of discounts?  Have you researched other programs to see what might be best for them?
  • Did you know that high deductible programs are available within the Ohio Workers Compensation Program? If your client is looking to control losses and costs of coverage, this may be an option you want to explore.
  • Did you know that “retro” programs are available through the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation? A more sophisticated client may want to explore how this option can control their losses and costs over the long run.
  • If your client is over 500 employees, have you explores self-insuring for WC? (Including and excess WC policy). This is only for larger insured’s, but is a very viable option to control their WC cost for the long run.
  • Does your Ohio insured ever have employees that go outside Ohio? In the past an endorsement was offered by the OH BWC but a number of states may not be willing to accept this as “valid” coverage.  Here is a document that lists what states “recognize” this coverage:  http://www.ohiopia.com/Uploads/Documents/Advocacy/BWC_OSC_Reciporocal_Exempt_Statutes.pdf  Since March 1, 2016 you can now purchase “All other States coverage” through the OH BWC.  If they have locations in other states you would not need this, but just about every insured I know of does some traveling outside Ohio.
  • Do they have stop gap liability coverage? I am running into more accounts that do not have the coverage on their policy and have a significant coverage gap.  While exposure for intentional torts has lessened, there are still the other gaps (action over claims, compensatory damages and dual capacity claims) and clients need the coverage.
  • Does your client travel internationally on business? If so, then you should look at an international package which provides voluntary employers liability.  There are so many other lines of coverage provided in these policies that it is super cost effective and should be discussed with a client.
  • What about loss control and risk management in the workers compensation area? What difference does it make since you aren’t writing coverage in this area?   First of all if a client’s loss ratio goes up they could be dropped from their group rated WC program.  This can bring about a shocking premium increase.  Secondly, wouldn’t this help differentiate you from other agents?  If you or a trusted vendor could provide these services at a reasonable cost, wouldn’t this help tie you more to a client?  Also, isn’t WC a portion of your clients overall cost of risk (Premiums, deductible portions of losses and uncovered losses)?  It is still money going out of your clients pockets and anything you can do to help control those costs is ultimately helping your client.
  • Is your client less likely to go to another agent when they do expand outside Ohio? If you have been involved with the WC for your client, it is just natural they will contact you rather than looking for another agent in the new territory.
  • Can WC claims lead to EPLI claims? Getting an injured employee back to work is important and the risk of a separation of employment (wrongful termination) increases the longer they are out.
  • What about OSHA compliance? OSHA fines are not covered by insurance and could hurt your client’s bank account, not to mention their image and reputation.  Same with exposure to VSSR (Violation of Specific Safety Requirements) claims, which can be significant.

 

Think these issues are not important to your clients?  Think again.  Helping your client with their workers compensation exposure and coverage is of great importance to them.  Be ready and involved so that if the Ohio workers compensation market goes to a competitive market, then you are already involved and helping them out in this area.

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

6 Reasons Freight Brokers Need Insurance

Check out our handy infographic letting you know the top 6 reasons all Freight Brokers and Freight Forwarders need insurance. Feel free to save and pass along!

freight-broker-infographic

The Top 3 Reasons You Should Be Insured On St. Patrick’s Day

Though St. Paddy’s Day came and went quickly, there’s always time to be prepared for next year! Did you or your insureds run  into any of the below incidents this past week?

Las week we celebrated one of my favorite holidays– St. Patrick’s Day!  While I’m Irish every day, it’s always fun to celebrate my “Irishness” with a special day.  There’s nothing like eating corned beef, drinking something green, and dancing to a lively Irish jig.  Plus, I got to wear my “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” shirt!

There are, however, a few reasons you and your insured need to be insured on this green holiday.  Without further ado….a drum roll and some bagpipe music, please!

  1. Someone over-indulges while at your bar. Yes, we know this is a foregone conclusion.  However, while you may be smart enough to have liquor insurance on your location, let’s think about that individual.  There’s always the DUI to consider – which, hopefully they get pulled over before they do any damage.  Your car insurance company certainly won’t like you –if you’re not dropped then expect an aggressive increase in premium!  And what if they are smart enough to leave their keys and walk home?  Then to top that off they start dancing and singing Irish tunes while stopping traffic.  Well, that’s when they’re arrested for public drunkenness.  I’m not sure that any insurance will help them at this point.
  2. Assault and battery. Listen, just because we’re all enjoying ourselves while we get our Irish on doesn’t mean that you can start acting like a complete idiot.  I know some of you will want to!  But please, I ask you to refrain from making fun of short, red-headed people.  We are not leprechauns.  We do not have a pot of gold hidden somewhere.  What we are is Irish – and that means we have a temper.  So, be prepared to be taken down at the knees and then pray that we’ll stop there.   I’m also hoping that the bar we’re in has A&B coverage because they’ll probably need it after I get through with you.
  3. Green food problems. I know….everything is green on St. Patrick’s Day, even the Chicago River!  But what if your corned beef and cabbage turns into something toxic in a patron’s stomach?  Those potatoes shouldn’t have been green, either.  Well, get out that property and casualty insurance, because you’re going to need it!  File the claim, inform the health department if it’s more than one customer, and make sure everyone on staff has already taken their food-handling course.

cathyCathy Thurber has over 10 years’ experience in the insurance industry and likes to think she’s learned a few things along the way, one of which being to not take herself too seriously.  She would love to say she has as many cool expertise’s as her fellow blogger, Ken Kukral, but she’s just not as old as him.  Cathy is a voracious reader and a total word nerd.  Most importantly, she’s been married to her favorite person for almost twenty years and has two kids that she actually likes.  However, the dog is her favorite child and she’s been wheedling for a cat for years.  Perhaps this is the lucky year?

Not enough limits? Time to reassess what crime limits my customers need.

limits

Agents will many times be asked, what limits should my business carry?  This is one of those “loaded” questions and you risk an E&O exposure if you answer directly.  You can always come back with the response, “What limits do you feel comfortable carrying?”, but this won’t really help.  Other answers:

  • Many similar businesses such as your own, carry $X,XXX,XXX limits.
  • I recommend carrying a minimum of $X,XXX,XXX limits.
  • Since we are trying to protect your assets, let’s look at the amount of assets we are trying to protect.

Whatever answer you give, always offer quotes for limits above that so they can see what they cost and they can potentially accept those higher limits.

Where I see the most shortsightedness in terms of both coverage and limits is with crime insurance.  Many times the limits offered under a BOP are not sufficient and the agent fails to offer higher limits.  I believe crime insurance is the most “undersold” coverage that agents handle.  Many clients do not believe they are ever going to have a loss and therefor do not request higher limits than they are offered.

Let me give you some examples of some recent losses to exhibit the point I am trying to make:

  • $3,300,000 embezzled from a school district
  • $728,143 stolen from a trucking company
  • $2,900,000 embezzled by a caregiver of a blind patient
  • $350,500 embezzled from an electrical contractor
  • $20,000,000 embezzled by a credit union CFO
  • $510,000 embezzled by CEO of mental health agency
  • $500,000 embezzled from insurance agency over 10 year period and discovered when the sale of the agency revealed the loss (they only had $10,000 limits under their BOP)
  • $410,000 embezzled by church administrator
  • $5,000,000 embezzled by bank assistant branch manager
  • $8,000,000 embezzled from an industrial processing firm

You can see where I am going with this.  Losses have grown and the thought process behind offering higher limits has not.   We look at general liability limits and property valuation limits and barely give a thought to proper crime insurance limits.  Keep in mind that for every embezzlement news story you hear, there are 5 or 10 that you DO NOT hear about.  Think about it….  Do you want your customers to know that one of your “trusted” employees embezzled from you?   Will they think you don’t have “good controls” in your business and are poorly running it?  If it was a large amount taken over a period of time, would they think you don’t know what is going on in your operation?  Many times in family operations they don’t want this information to get out for fear of hurting the rest of the family or ruining their reputation.

Some statistics for you:

  • 80% of workplace crime is committed by employees
  • One in four employees has either witnessed or committed workplace fraud or abuse
  • One in four employees committing fraud against their employer has been with the company for more than 10 years.
  • Only one in three of those witnessing a workplace crime bothers to report it.
  • The average organization loses 6% of its total annual revenue to fraud and abuse committed by its own employees.

So what should you do?

  1. First, learn more about crime insurance. I have run across very few agents who had an in-depth knowledge of crime insurance and would be able to subsequently explain to a client what they needed to properly cover their operation.  I found one online that would be a good starting point:   http://www.independentagent.com/Education/Webinars/SiteAssets/Pages/live-webinars/2014%20Crime%20Webinar%20Handout.pdf
  2. Get familiar with the new ISO endorsements that just came out that pick up some of the cyber crime exposures. It is amazing at how much has changed recently and this gives you a good reason to discuss this area with your clients including discussing cyber liability coverage.
  3. Get familiar with your carriers forms since many of them may not use ISO endorsements and their forms may differ from ISO.
  4. Get familiar with the type of losses happening out there and have claims examples ready to show your clients so they can see just how prevalent it is and “it can happen to them”.
  5. Look at monoline crime coverage if your carrier can not offer higher limits or cannot offer the comprehensive crime forms available in the market. If you are going to use more than one carrier, make sure the coverage is coordinated between the carriers.
  6. Always, always, always quote higher limits. This avoids them saying in court in an E&O trial that if they had known it only would cost a little bit more, they would have bought more coverage.

I truly believe this is a coverage area that can “come back and bite you”.  It is viewed more as a fringe coverage and not as essential coverage.  I think you have to view it as a required coverage and then push for sufficient limits.  A uncovered crime loss can put a company out of business!

 

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

 

Need help figuring it out?

Composite image of young businessman standing back to camera scr

Having just spent a significant amount of time trying to resolve a coordination of coverage solution, midstream, I look back and wonder if we could have done it more efficiently.  In “plain English”, if I was given all the information upfront, could we have done a better job for the client?

An agency should never have a problem reaching out to help find a solution for a client.  You are not expected to know all the answers or know the best options or solutions for a client.  Realize your knowledge or technical expertise limitations and reach out to a broker who can help you arrive at the best solution for the client.

Do I have you confused yet?  Let me try to explain and give you a couple of examples.  Here are a couple of recent situations that came across my desk:

  • Agent calls to place general liability coverage for a “crime scene clean up” contractor. In going over the account, they were mainly interested in JUST getting general liability coverage.  I was able to convince them that a more comprehensive solution would be a better fit.  By going to the environmental market (who feels much more comfortable with this type of risk than a contractors general liability market who would be a bit more queasy) I was able to secure general liability, products & completed operations, pollution liability, professional liability, blanket additional insured, blanket waiver of subrogation, primary & non-contributory wording, stop gap and EBL for about the same price as just the general liability with another carrier.  It will make the account much tougher to lose since many agents will not be able to better or replicate the program to take it away.
  • Agent calls to place a barge that has been permanently moored and converted to an office. In was able to get a copy of their current insurance program and show the significant holes in their current insurance program.  I was then able to come up with a more properly written solution that covered their exposures.  Had I not been able to get significant underwriting information and a copy of their existing program, I might have been doomed to continue with the same issues or problems with their current insurance program.  Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get the information but it helps us to do a better job in the end.
  • Agent has us help with the aviation portion of an account without providing us with the full details of the overall insurance program they put in place. Upon pressing deeper, I found that there was duplication in coverage and I am in the process of coordinating coverage to help reduce the customer’s insurance premiums.

So what am I asking for?  I am asking for a shot at helping  to provide a solution instead of just “filling an order” for a piece of the program.  Wholesale brokers see such a wide variety of accounts, build an expertise and knowledge base and many times can provide innovative solutions to your customer’s insurance issues.  This is where getting on the phone to discuss and account makes sense.  Just sending an e-mail doesn’t cut it and leaves a lot to be desired.  I get on the phone with my underwriters and have these types of discussions so I can get an idea of how favorable they are to the particular account and what innovative type of solutions they may have.

You can also take the perspective of looking to improve on the prospects current insurance program.  How can you address the client’s exposures better than the current agent?  This might involve adding broadening endorsements, removing exclusions or offering higher limits.  A wholesale broker may have some ideas that could help you accomplish this.  Remember, we are here to write business and I am assuming that is your ultimate goals so we are both headed in the same direction.

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

Quality Submissions- Setting your own standards

By Ken Kukral

In other industries the standards for applications is MUCH higher.  If you applied for a mortgage and left 60% of the blanks empty the application would be rejected.  For that matter if you left 10% of the questions unanswered the application would be rejected.  So how can an agent expect to get a reliable quote based on limited information?  Is it an exercise in trying to provide the absolute minimum amount of information to get an indication?  I hope not.

 First let me get a couple terms defined:

 Indication – A rough, ballpark guestimate of what the premium will be based on insufficient information.  They are non-bindable, can be withdrawn without notice and can not be relied on.

 Quote – A solid estimate of insurance premium based on information that addresses the insurance exposures.  A quote is bindable and has a high reliance that the policy will be issued based on the price given

 Why do I define these two?  Because many agents see these as the SAME thing.  While I may be able to give an indication based on limited information, the account has not been “underwritten”.  Wouldn’t you rather give your potential customer a quote that has been underwritten and is able to be bound if the prospect agrees to the terms?

 While I may be preaching to the choir with most of you, I hope to change the perspective of others.  I hope have some influence on setting higher standards for submissions.  I hope to have each agency set higher standards each year and “up their game”.  Competition is fierce in the insurance business, so why not find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition by providing superior submissions?

 What would a quality submission include:

 1. For many risks ACORD applications are a good starting part.  ACORD provides tutorials on how to complete their applications in case you are not familiar with them or a question is confusing.

2. Supplemental applications – If the prospect is a contractor, include a contractor’s supplemental application.  If they are an apartment complex include a habitational supplemental application.  Check the website of the carrier or wholesaler you plan to go to and review their list of supplemental applications. 

3. A Narrative!  This is more times than not, missing.  This is the opportunity to “fill in the gaps” and provide information that the applications did not ask for.  This is also the chance to explain why this account is an excellent account and should get favorable pricing.  When I review submissions, this is the first place I look.  This sets the tone for the submission.  For many agents, this becomes an “art form”.  They build their own style and this soon becomes the “highlight” of the submission.

4. Website for the prospect – Since most businesses have websites please include their website.

5. Pictures – as they say, pictures are worth a thousand words.  The quality of the risk can be shown by what they look like.

6. Cost estimator – If it is a property submission make sure you include this. And why you are at it, include a statement of values.  Also make sure you include details on any updates they made to the roof, HVAC plumbing or electrical.

7.  Loss runs – Years ago they were not a part of a standard submission, but now they are “expected”  If you are not going to include them, include a no known losses letter or details on any claims.  Make sure to include any information that explains why past losses are not likely to continue.

8. Whatever – If there are contracts with insurance provisions, include those.  Include details on any additional insured’s.   For certain risks they may need financials. 

9. The “lowdown” – Advise current pricing and terms and what pricing and terms are needed to secure the account.  If you are not the incumbent, explain why you should be able to extract the account away from the current agent.  Ask for options that may help you enhance the account.  Advise when you need pricing by.  Set your expectations.  Your market will have trouble meeting your expectations if they don’t know what they are.

10. Be accurate and truthful – Accounts can’t all be perfect.  Explain the negative side of the account so that the underwriter can weigh this into their pricing.

As you may know, quality submissions tend to find their way to the top of the stack.  When you give the underwriter the “tools” they need to do their job they can do a better job for you.  Make sure you submission is something you can be proud of.  The potential client is counting on you to show them in the most favorable light.  With a quality submission your client stands the best chance of getting the most favorable terms and pricing.

 Set the standards for your agency and stick to them.  Let your brokers and carriers know they can count on you for a quality submission.  It is one more way you can get an edge of your completion.

 I would be interested in hearing more from agents who provide superior submissions.  What sets your submission out from your competitors?