Excess and Surplus: Addressing Misconceptions in the Commercial Line Space


Commercial coverage is an enormous insurance sector, and its complexity means new risks are continually emerging that may extend beyond the traditional confines of insurance policies. Along with these risks, however, come opportunities for agents looking to capitalize on niche markets where they can deliver even greater value to clients. 

The excess and surplus insurance sector is one such niche, yet it’s one that tends to be misunderstood. This article aims to clear up common misconceptions around excess and surplus coverage in an effort to arm our partners with all the information they need to succeed in the ever-changing, highly specialized and competitive excess and surplus lines marketplace. First, let’s take a closer look at this niche sector and the unique benefits of offering E&S coverage.

Understanding Excess and Surplus (E&S) Insurance: A Refresher on the E&S Insurance Landscape

Excess and surplus insurance plays a crucial role in the insurance industry by providing coverage for unique and hard-to-place risks. The need for E&S insurance arises from risks that fall outside the realm of traditional insurance — risks that are often characterized by their unusual nature, high-risk profile, or difficulties in finding coverage through standard insurance channels. Standard insurers, bound by their predetermined underwriting guidelines and risk appetite, may decline to provide coverage for these risks, leaving individuals and businesses exposed and vulnerable.

In such cases, E&S insurance companies step in with the expertise and flexibility needed to evaluate and underwrite unconventional lines of business that fall outside the scope of standard insurance policies. By assuming the responsibility of covering these hard-to-place risks, E&S insurers promote stability and provide opportunities for innovation and growth in various sectors.

Moreover, E&S insurance plays a vital role in supporting niche industries and emerging markets. These sectors often require specialized coverage due to their unique risk profiles, which may not fit neatly into standard insurance products. Examples of risks covered by E&S insurance include hard-to-place property risks, high-hazard liability exposures, professional liability for non-traditional professions, and coverage for new or non-standard construction projects, among others.

Debunking Misconceptions About E&S Insurance

As new industries emerge and commercial lines change, clients need greater versatility in their coverage. Debunking the common misconceptions below is an important step in highlighting the benefits of excess and surplus coverage for clients and ensuring they get the coverage they need.

Misconception: Excess & Surplus Insurance Is Expensive and Inaccessible

Many people believe that E&S is out of their financial reach, but this simply isn’t the case. E&S policies are designed to be flexible by nature, affording clients greater coverage for their unique risks. Managing general agents like Cochrane & Co. help agents make E&S insurance accessible and adaptable to each client’s needs.

For example, a client who owns a contracting business may find that their current coverage is not enough to cover all of their risks. Or they might find that certain construction jobs in niche markets come with risks that are not protected by traditional insurance lines. In such cases, E&S coverage can provide crucial coverage for their equipment and other valuable assets — coverage they simply cannot afford to skip.

Misconception: Excess and Surplus Insurance Is Only for High-Risk Businesses

Many types of businesses can benefit from additional coverage. Enhanced commercial coverage can accommodate new and emerging risks linked to a variety of industries, from cannabis to cybersecurity. E&S insurance can be customized to support hard-to-place risks while also offering higher limits than traditional policies. 

Imagine, for instance, a new business operating in the cannabis industry. Excess and surplus insurers can provide tailored coverage that traditional insurers may be hesitant to offer due to regulatory complexities and the evolving legal landscape surrounding the industry. E&S insurers, however, have more flexibility in underwriting and can adapt to changing regulations. They are often more willing to provide coverage despite the challenges associated with the cannabis industry. By providing coverage options for this emerging industry, E&S insurers encourage competition and foster a more robust insurance market, which ultimately benefits businesses by offering a wider range of choices and potentially more competitive pricing.

Misconception: E&S Insurance Lacks Regulatory Oversight

Contrary to a common misconception, excess and surplus insurance is subject to regulatory oversight and operates within a framework established by surplus line associations and state insurance departments. These regulatory bodies ensure that E&S insurers meet certain eligibility requirements and adhere to specific regulations to protect policyholders’ interests.

Admitted carriers, including E&S insurers, are required to comply with state regulations and demonstrate their financial stability. They must meet stringent criteria, which can include filing rates with the state insurance departments and providing proof of adequate funds to fulfill their claims obligations. These requirements help maintain the financial viability of E&S insurers and ensure that they have the necessary resources to meet their policyholders’ needs.

Moreover, regulatory oversight extends beyond financial requirements. State insurance departments also enforce mandates that safeguard clients’ best interests. These can include privacy policies to protect sensitive information, guidelines for fair claims handling processes, and other consumer protection measures. By imposing these regulations, the regulatory bodies strive to ensure that policyholders are treated fairly and receive the coverage and service they expect.

Additionally, the application and approval process for E&S insurance further contributes to the stability of the market. Insurers seeking to provide surplus coverage undergo a thorough review by surplus line associations and state insurance departments. This scrutiny helps identify insurers that meet the regulatory standards and have a strong financial footing. As a result, insolvency rates for E&S insurers are typically low, providing policyholders with a higher level of confidence and security.


E&S insurance serves as a valuable option for covering unique and hard-to-place risks, backed by a robust regulatory framework that prioritizes policyholders’ interests and promotes market stability. By addressing common misconceptions, it’s easier for insurance brokers to make the best decisions for their clients and bolster the insurance industry as a whole. 

To navigate the E&S insurance landscape effectively, it’s important to seek guidance from reputable providers. Cochrane & Co.’s expertise can help provide more accessible and comprehensive coverage to all of your commercial clients. Contact us today to learn more about our E&S solutions.


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