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These days there are plenty of websites offering instant quotes for public liability and other forms of business insurance.
This is all good and well if you know exactly what you need, but what if you just need some good old fashioned advice?
Although plenty of people will tell you that public liability insurance is very straight forward (and it is in some ways) there is still something to be said for obtaining proper advice.
So what are your options if you want to get some proper advice on your business insurance needs?
Who can provide advice?
First up it is important to understand exactly who is qualified to provide this type of insurance advice.
To provide advice on public liability insurance a person must not only hold certain qualifications, but they must also be licensed or authorised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Generally a person who is authorised to provide advice on public liability insurance will have one of the following titles:
- Insurance Broker
- Insurance Adviser
- Account Executive
- Authorised Representative
Of course just using the title does not confirm that a person is properly qualified.
There are a number of ways to check whether or not a person or company you are dealing with is authorised to provide insurance advice, and these are covered later in this guide.
It is important not to confuse these job titles with other financial professionals such as accountants and financial planners.
Whilst these professionals will most likely have some level of knowledge on business insurance, they are generally not qualified to provide advice on public liability insurance.
Types of advice
When it comes to insurance and financial services there are two main forms of advice. These are formally known as personal advice and general advice.
Personal advice is any type of advice which takes into account your personal circumstances, needs and objectives.
General advice is information that is more general and factual in nature, and is not tailored to your personal needs and objectives.
So if you wanted someone to review your business and provide recommendations on your insurance needs, then it is personal advice you’d be seeking.
If you just wanted general information on what public liability insurance covers or which business types it is suitable for, then it is general advice you are seeking.
All of the information we provide on our website is general advice, however if you request a quote and speak with one of our insurance advisers then you can obtain personal advice.
Just because you decide to obtain professional advice does not mean that you have to spend time away from your business meeting with an insurance broker.
Whilst traditionally many business owners did meet with their broker face to face, an increasing number of brokers and their clients are communicating via more modern methods.
Many brokers and advisers are happy to provide advice over the phone or via online channels such as email and Skype.
One major benefit of this is that you can obtain the best advice on your insurance no matter what part of Australia you are in.
For example if you wanted to deal with the best trade insurance broker in Australia, who happens to be located in Brisbane, but you are located in Perth, you can still deal with them easily and conveniently.
Can my accountant or financial adviser provide advice?
Generally the answer will be no. However this all depends of what qualifications they have.
If your accountant is only qualified as an accountant, or your financial adviser is only qualified as a financial adviser, then they must not provide advice on public liability insurance.
An accountant, financial adviser or financial planner can only provide public liability advice if they have obtained additional qualifications and have been granted the appropriate license or authority.
Whilst they can give you general advice, such as telling you what it covers and that it’s a good idea to have, they cannot provide personal advice for your business insurance needs.
Many of these professionals will have insurance brokers that they can refer you to, which is the preferred option if you are seeking personal advice.
Checking qualifications and licenses
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of different ways to check whether or not the person you are dealing with is properly licensed or authorised to provide you with advice.
The first thing to check is the person’s business card, stationery or website. It should have listed somewhere their Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) number.
If there is no AFSL number listed you need to ask the person for their number, or better yet ask them for a copy of their Financial Services Guide (FSG) which by law must contain their licence number.
Numbers can be made up of course, so the next step is to check that their licence number matches their name. This can easily be done via the ASIC website.
By following this link you can enter the licence number and view the details. If the person holds their own licence you should search under ‘Australian Financial Services Licensee’.
If the person operates as a representative of another licence holder, you should search under ‘Australian Financial Services Authorised Representative’.
By checking licence details you can be sure that you are dealing with a properly qualified and licensed insurance professional.
Get advice or go it alone?
Many business owners are making the decision to go it alone on their public liability insurance, especially with the increasing popularity of websites offering instant quotes.
If you are prepared to spend the time reading and understanding the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and policy wording for each insurance product, then this isn’t a bad option.
But if you’d prefer to let an expert guide you through the process whilst you get on with running your business, then obtaining professional advice is a very good option.