September 13, 2021

Harnessing the power of AI to streamline insurance compliance

Insurance compliance is an essential element of the contract between a property owner and a tenant. It’s also an incredibly detailed and tedious procedure to review certificates of insurance, review them against contract terms, and verify compliance. But this year we’ve begun working with Jones, a new technology partner, to use artificial intelligence (AI) to make this entire process more efficient and help ensure our clients are better protected.

Like you, we’re always looking for ways to increase efficiency – to improve performance through new technology, partnerships, data analysis… if it can make us better, we’re interested. And anyone who’s had to deal with insurance compliance should be ecstatic to know there’s a better way.

Insurance compliance work is definitely not glamorous, but it’s critical to have the proper requirements and coverages in place – for owners, tenants and vendors alike. In the past, our Real Estate Managers (REMs), Lease Administrator and Operations Assistant were responsible for gathering certificates of insurance (COIs) from every entity involved with the properties, and then reviewing them against the insurance terms and requirements built into leases and contracts. Important, yes. A time-suck and a pain in the neck for everyone? Also yes.

Enter Jones, a New York-based firm that uses software with built-in AI to bring organization, precision and efficiency to the insurance compliance process. When we started talking to them in 2020, it took us about 5 minutes to realize we wanted what they had to offer.

I’m going to let Omri Stern, the founder and CEO of Jones, explain what they do.

“Compliance was a fragmented, manual process for decades; it was a nightmare for everyone. There was no standardized process. Every property manager has their own little world of properties, clients, vendors… so if we could create a common standard that worked for any ‘world,’ it would be so much better for everyone.”

He’s right. Previously, our team was requesting and collecting COIs from every tenant and vendor, and then reviewing them to compare coverage to requirements. We had built standardized systems for this, but there was room for improvement, and the promise of a better way to do this looked good to us.

And it wasn’t just about making our jobs easier. Case in point: In the past our team had to interpret each tenant’s coverage requirements, compare them to the tenant’s COI, determine any apparent gaps, and then try to explain to the tenant what changes were needed and why. This process was extremely time-consuming for us, and it was no fun for the tenant, either.

Now it will be simple: The Jones software analyzes compliance, comparing the requirements in the lease or vendor contract to the COI and identifying any discrepancies or gaps; if the software finds an issue, a human also reviews it. Jones either verifies that everything matches up just fine, or provides us, the owner and the tenant a reliable, succinct report of what needs to be changed.

Let’s say we hear back from Jones that a tenant’s coverage doesn’t match the lease requirements. We simply work with the tenant to add or modify the specific coverage; there’s no ambiguity about what’s needed. And in instances where tenants don’t actually need certain coverages that are required in the lease and identified in the Jones report, we can assess the situation and potentially waive those coverage requirements.

Beyond providing rock-solid verification of compliance, there are additional ways Jones helps us out. For example, their system is designed to identify when COIs are absent or expiring, and automatically notify us while simultaneously requesting a COI from the tenant or vendor. Taking this task off the plate of our team gives them more time to attend to the day-to-day needs of owners and tenants.

As Omri says, “It’s a productivity tool; it gives you back a lot of time, along with the confidence that COIs are competent.”

And the impact of streamlining is also positively impacting our work with vendors. Consider our smaller vendors: When we set up the standards we expect of all vendors, our standardized contract has a baseline for the insurance requirements. The Jones protocol assesses all vendors’ COIs against that standard, even the smaller vendors whose work doesn’t require a formal contract. As an unexpected result, many of our smaller, non-contract vendors have chosen to adjust their insurance coverage to meet our standards, even without a formal contract. Having a reasonable, identifiable standard has been a win for everyone.

In cases where a vendor doesn’t meet the contract standards, the Jones analysis highlights any gaps in coverage. Then we can decide that the vendor’s coverage is sufficient for the work they do, or reach out to the vendor regarding any gaps, or decide that another vendor might be a better fit.

Omri says vendor logistics are a big part of how Jones is evolving to meet their clients’ needs.

“We partner with clients to provide a better experience for tenants. For example, if a tenant needs a vendor, they often ask the property manager for a recommendation. Instead of maintaining a spreadsheet or a PDF, we could give clients the ability to tap into instant, current and useful information from a database of vendors who already meet the insurance requirements.”

And there’s room for Jones to grow in how they help partners like NAI Elliott.

“We’re the only platform that is solely focused on commercial real estate,” he says, “and we plan to digitize compliance and procurement in a way that’s specific to CRE needs.”

Our ongoing partnership with Jones is changing the way we work, and that brings changes for owners, tenants and vendors. But by taking an active role in adopting this system into their own practices, it will cut down on time, uncertainty and potential liability or expenses related to insurance claims, for everyone involved.

And that’s some truly beneficial efficiency.

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