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Case Study: B. F. Saul Insurance Helps Hillel International Reduce Risk and Fill Coverage Gaps

Written by Michael Cronin on

The Situation: A Non-Profit with a Diverse Affiliate Network

Hillel International is the world’s largest, most inclusive Jewish campus organization, serving students at colleges and universities around the world. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the organization supports about 250 US-based campus-level affiliates that operate independently, providing vastly different scopes of services and possessing a wide range of physical assets.

Some Hillel affiliates lease just a few hundred square feet of space in a university-owned property, while others own and operate stand-alone facilities valued at tens of millions of dollars, including student housing and kosher cafeterias. Most affiliates offer a variety of student programs, which range from low-risk on-campus activities like a speaker series to high-risk off-site excursions such as scuba diving.

While many affiliates obtain their insurance through a local broker or the Jewish Federation, about 70 of the US-based affiliates relied on Hillel’s insurance program for certain lines of coverage.

The Challenge: A Master Policy that Didn’t Match Each Affiliate’s Exposure

Since 2000 the parent organization, referred to as SIC (short for the Schusterman International Center headquarters) was purchasing a master policy that covered itself and about 70 of its affiliates for key exposures like general liability (GL), directors and officers (D&O) liability, and employment practices liability (EPL). Each affiliate was responsible for purchasing its own auto and property insurance.  

Though this approach offered efficiency advantages, over time two challenges began to emerge:

  • Although every affiliate’s operations, assets, and risk exposure differed, they were all written under the same blanket policy, with no customization. That meant some affiliates were over-insured for their specific risks while others were underinsured.
  • If an affiliate submitted a claim that exhausted the master policy limit for an exposure, the policy wouldn’t cover a claim by another affiliate for the same exposure during the same policy period. This rendered the coverage unusable in such instances

Administering the master policy also proved time-consuming and challenging for SIC. Since affiliate participation was voluntary, the staff spent significant time tracking down affiliates and ensuring they had adequate coverage—a situation exacerbated by the high turnover typical of these local organizations.

In late 2020, SIC leadership decided it was time to revisit the existing insurance program with an eye toward ensuring every affiliate had coverage that reflected its true level of risk and full confidence that its claims would be covered.

“We felt it was a good opportunity to ensure all the affiliates were on the same page and accounted for accurately in the underwriting, and to better bifurcate the risks between SIC and the affiliates,” said Cris DePaola, Senior Director, SIC Administration & Building Operations.

SIC interviewed multiple brokers, including national firms, and ultimately chose B. F. Saul Insurance as its new partner. The organization valued B. F. Saul’s deep nonprofit experience and breadth of resources, and felt the broker offered the best approach for managing the complex insurance relationships with its affiliates.

The Solution: A Holistic, Customized Approach

Hillel signed on with B. F. Saul Insurance as its new broker in July 2021, with VP Michael Cronin leading the account. The first priority was an in-depth discovery effort to understand the insurance challenges, needs, and opportunities for both SIC and the affiliates.

Through this collaborative discovery process, it became clear that the organization and its affiliates would benefit by restructuring the insurance program to better reflect changing times and evolving risks, including the ever-increasing exposure to liability. Together, B. F. Saul and Hillel envisioned and designed an insurance program that viewed the organization holistically, diversifying the risk pool by distributing the risk more broadly while ensuring each affiliate was covered for its unique exposures.

“B. F. Saul’s approach was to ensure the underwriters had a true understanding of each affiliate’s exposure,” DePaola said. “Michael laid out the details and worked with the underwriters to design and build a robust program that worked well for every affiliate, based on their unique risks.”

The result was a basket of coverages that affiliates can choose to purchase; if they opt out, they must show proof that their own coverage is comparable to SIC’s offering. Each affiliate’s policy and premium are customized to its exposures, typically with higher limits and broader coverage than the previous policy. And since each affiliate has separate policy limits, they no longer run the risk of someone else exhausting the coverage.

In addition to the GL, D&O, and EPL coverage provided under the previous policy, the new insurance program offers:

  • Professional services liability insurance, covering the rabbinical counseling and other services many affiliates provide
  • Abuse and molestation coverage, which is critical for organizations that work with young adults
  • Broader property insurance for fine art and religious articles—eliminating the previous requirement to notify the carrier any time the Torah or other artifacts were taken off campus, often leading to unintended oversights
  • Accidental death and dismemberment coverage for non-employee participants in affiliate programs, on-campus and off-site
  • Broader cyber liability insurance that reflects the risks associated with a college-age employee base, including first-party and third-party coverage

B. F. Saul also implemented new processes designed to improve efficiencies, streamline billing, and shift more of the administrative workload away from SIC. And the broker brought in its A-team of nonprofit insurance experts—including Cronin, Account Executive Adrienne Schickert, and Account Manager Kallie Drewyer—to oversee the program and manage the whole effort with the affiliates. With improved processes and support from a top team of professionals, Hillel affiliates began to find it much easier to secure the coverage that best meets their needs.

An Added Plus: Combining Insurance with Risk Management

Over the course of the partnership, the B. F. Saul team has forged strong relationships with affiliates to help them reduce their exposure through education and risk management.

B. F. Saul hosts an annual town hall meeting and periodic webinars to educate new staff on insurance in general, the Hillel program specifically, and the importance of coverages like D&O. By providing clarity on what the insurance covers vs excludes and the pitfalls to avoid in their daily operations, the broker is helping affiliates reduce their risks. The broker also emphasizes that the coverage is customized to the nature of their operation and no longer constrained by blanket policy limits, which is a welcome change for the affiliates.

B. F. Saul has even developed FAQs around risk management topics like hosting and transporting students to off-site events, streamlined the process for affiliates to obtain certificates of insurance, and set up a portal that makes it easy to purchase first-dollar travel insurance for better protection while outside their home country.

To further support the affiliates, B. F. Saul offers to review their vendor contracts to assess the insurance requirements and potential liability exposures, along with any waiver forms they require for program participants. The broker also provides a simple-to-use claim reporting kit, along with free water sensors for those that have property coverage through the program.

Just as important, Hillel affiliates now have a dedicated advocate on their side: Brandon Newlands, Senior Vice President and Senior Director of Coverage and Claims at B. F. Saul. A former practicing attorney with deep insurance experience, Newlands is a knowledgeable adviser and a trusted resource the affiliates can approach confidentially.

“If an affiliate is concerned about a possible D&O or EPL claim—for example, a potential discrimination claim stemming from a return-to-work policy—they know they can call Brandon for advice before contacting the insurance company,” Cronin said. On a confidential basis, he can advise them on their legal requirements, provide guidance on the documentation they need to gather, and counsel them on how to properly notify the carrier.

The Result: Lower Risk, Better Coverage

Though it’s challenging to effect change and move affiliates away from local insurance relationships, B. F. Saul has been successful in gradually gaining buy-in from additional affiliates who value the ability to customize their insurance program. With the program’s reputation spreading by word of mouth, participation has increased steadily and currently stands at approximately 85 affiliates.

In the process, SIC and the participating affiliates have gained better coverage that more accurately reflects their respective exposures. “Now the affiliates are treated as separate entities from a risk perspective, but they’re also clustered together to mitigate exposure,” DePaola said.

Participating affiliates now have coverage that better aligns with their most likely exposures. In addition, they no longer need to worry about another group exhausting the policy limit or the risk that someone on their staff will forget to notify the carrier that the Torah or other high-value article will be in transit for an off-site event.

DePaola believes the B. F. Saul team has done a great job for Hillel all around.

“Adrienne is a strategic resource who collaborates with the affiliates so they truly understand their exposure, and Michael educates them on the policies that can reduce their risk and helps keep our board up to date,” he said. “They’ve established a self-sufficient program that supports our affiliates well. And they’ve taken on much of the day-to-day interaction from an insurance and risk mitigation standpoint.”

From a service perspective, SIC couldn’t be more pleased with the experience. “With any relationship, it really comes down to the interpersonal elements,” DePaola said. “B. F. Saul is so responsive, you would think we were the only account they have, and that’s how it should be.”

B. F. Saul Insurance helps non-profit organizations and other businesses protect their assets against a wide range of risks and exposures.

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About The Author

Michael Cronin is a Vice President in B. F. Saul Insurance’s Commercial Lines division with over 20 years of experience in the insurance industry. He is responsible for business development and overall client service delivery, with extensive experience working with clients in the real estate, non-profit, government contracting, and professional services industries.

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