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What’s In a Name?

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"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." ~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

This phrase: ” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” often quoted from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and sometimes shortened to “a rose by any other name,” is a perfect example of how a name immediately brings to mind a particular image. The intent of the phrase is also to put forth that it is not the name itself that is memorable, but what is behind it that is actually the sweet scent that brings joy to our senses. Had the “rose” been called virtually anything else – pansy, daisy, thorn or even “Bob” – the flower itself would have retained its beauty both in looks and scent, regardless of what it was called.

Good marketing is the initial key to the success of any business. Marketing people will tell you that when you name your business, it should either be something that identifies who you are or creates an instant image of what the business is. “Nike” brings an immediate thought of sportswear and athletic gear. “Maytag” brings an immediate thought of appliances. “Ford” or “Chevy” means automobiles. These and myriad of others are brand names that have been studiously analyzed and created to keep themselves in the public mind, to make one think of a particular “something” when the name is mentioned.

When you named your insurance agency, either consciously or subconsciously, you wanted to do the same thing. But something that may be lost is that by using a particular phrase or words for your agency name, unlike “Nike,” “Maytag,” “Ford” or “Chevy,” you may create the basis for some plaintiff’s attorney to have a jury to believe that you have created a higher standard of care or duty to advise that is owed to their client in the unfortunate event of an errors and omissions claim.

Just as using terms and phrases on your website or other marketing such as “best,” “expert,” “peace of mind,” or “comprehensive,” has been used against agencies to create a higher standard of care, so can using seemingly innocuous terms in your business name. “All Risk Insurance Agency,” “XYZ Professional Insurance Agency,” “XYZ Expert Insurance Agency,” and many others, do just want is intended: create an image that the agency is above and beyond all others. They create an image that the members of the agency can do more than the agency down the street. And while that may be the image that is wanted to be projected, in the hands of a skillful plaintiff’s attorney, it can lead to the potential downfall of the agency.

The purpose here is not to tell you what to name your agency, but rather tell help you avoid what you shouldn’t name your agency. The same terms that are highlighted in the IIABA/Swiss Re Corporate Solutions webinar series “Your Website Says What?,” apply equally to your agency name. We don’t profess to be marketing experts, and would never use “expert” in any description of ourselves. Rather, our purpose, as your errors and omissions resource, is to help you avoid creating the potential for a much greater problem than is necessary, simply by avoiding certain words and phrases.

If your agency is named after a person, either you, a previous owner, or some group of owners, such as “AJ Jones Insurance Agency” or “Tinkers, Evers & Chance Insurance Agency,” there is virtually no risk that an inference can be made that the name itself would increase the standard of care of an agent in providing services to their customer. “Ford Motor Company” was named after Henry Ford, for example. He wanted everyone to know it was HIS company. And the same would be true for any agency named after a person or persons.

However, insurance agency names that use words or phrases such as “All Risk Insurance Agency,” “Insurance Risk Partners,” “Peace of Mind Insurance Agency,” “All Lines,” “Partner,” “Integrity,” and many others, will send up a red flag for a plaintiff’s attorney that if they need to sue your insurance agency due to an E&O claim against you for their client, you’ve made their job much easier by creating a higher standard of care, just by the words you used to name your agency.

If you’re reading this and you are now having thoughts that maybe your agency name is problematic, you should consult with your attorney to determine what steps are needed to make a change. Or, if you decide that you want to keep your name as it is, just be aware.

Marketing is always a key to the success of any insurance agency. Don’t let bad marketing be the downfall to your success.

For more information about how words and phrases in your online presence and marketing materials can create serious errors and omissions issues, visit the Big “I” Professional Liability E&O Happens website at www.independentagent.com and look for the “Your Website Says What?” page.

For information about trademarking your agency name, visit https://www.iamagazine.com/strategies/why-your-agency-needs-a-trademark.

This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Swiss Re Group (“Swiss Re”) and/or its subsidiaries and/or management and/or shareholders. 

*Richard F. Lund, JD, is a Vice President and Senior Underwriter of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, underwriting insurance agents errors and omissions coverage. He has also been an insurance agents E&O claims counsel and has written and presented numerous E&O risk management/ loss control seminars, mock trials and articles nationwide since 1992.

Copyright 2021 Swiss Re

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Richard Lund

Richard Lund

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