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Cyber Savvy Broker: Mercy Komar


As technology transforms the economy, businesses of all sizes have to navigate a new kind of risk: digital risk.

The most successful brokers will need to be prepared to help their clients navigate these complex risks. Our "Cyber Savvy Broker" series highlights forward-thinking brokers with the knowledge and skills to help their clients navigate this digital transformation.

We had the pleasure of speaking with insurance industry veteran, Mercy Komar, Cyber Risk Manager, Commercial Lines Manager for L. Calvin Jones & Co. Mercy has been working in insurance for more than 50 years! After being unexpectedly thrown into cyber after years of experience, Mercy explains how she learned to use real breach stories to educate her clients.

How did you become a cyber insurance specialist?

A lot has changed over the decades that I’ve been working in the insurance industry. I sold regular property & casualty insurance for years. I was out doing cold calls and I stopped at the little machine shop in a small town in Ohio and gave them my card. The owner said, "My wife will call you. We've got a problem." 

Later, she called me and said, "The insurance companies denied my claim. Will you tell me why?"

What happened was the company's passwords were stolen and sold by a trusted person. I read their policy, and said, "I'm not really familiar with this coverage. It's new. But from what happened, you needed something called cyber insurance."

She asked if she could purchase cyber insurance, and I said I would get her a quote. When I was back in the office, I filled out my first cyber application, got a quote, and took it back and she didn't buy it. The reason why she didn't buy it — to make a long story short, since they worked with the government, the company was shut down. She couldn't buy insurance for a company that was no longer in business. 

So that's how I got my first taste of what was going on and how cyber risks could impact people. 

After that, I started taking classes at the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) and got my Management Liability Insurance Specialist (MLIS) and my Cyber insurance and Risk Management (CyRM). Now I'm working with the Cyber insurance Academy, and getting another designation. I'm the go-to cyber person, and I'm teaching it to other people.

What skills do you think are essential for selling cyber insurance in today's market landscape?

You have to be flexible. The market is constantly changing. You have to want to read, learn, and keep up because it's not like property policies that only change once every five or six years. You've got to read your policies, study them, and review what has been changed each year. Today's cyber brokers have to be willing to put in the time, and many people are unwilling to put in the time. 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a cyber insurance broker?

I have to get my clients to recognize that they need to spend the extra money on Cyber insurance. Many times it's relatively inexpensive for small- to medium-sized businesses, but it can be a lot for some of the bigger businesses. That makes it difficult. They're so used to sales-y people coming in and saying, ‘You need this, you need this, you need this.’ But they actually do need cyber insurance

I also think education is a challenge for a lot of agents. I think they don't want to keep up with cyber because it changes so much. It frightens people that they might sell something incorrectly. It's just so much easier to write a BOP.

A lot of people prefer something easy and quick instead of having to learn something new and exciting. If you don't want to learn it, you can't sell it. 

How do you get a customer to come around when they're hesitant to purchase cyber insurance?

I’ve found that it helps if you know somebody that they know who had a loss. The best thing you can do is say, 'So-and-so told me I can use his name, and he just lost $141,000. Can you afford to lose $141,000?' And that's the easiest way to do it.

I’m willing to ask my clients, 'Can I use your name? Can I tell people what happened to you?' That's how you sell it, with stories in which clients can see themselves. Sometimes it takes a couple of months, but I don't get turned down too often anymore. People are beginning to realize what's happening out there. 

What aspects from your early days in insurance still help you to this day?

I came right out of high school into a position in insurance. I've seen it go from sitting at a desk with huge books to rate out of to using the very first computers. We used to slip the disks into the computer, and it would rate for you. Technology is helpful, but I think that insurance underwriting still needs a human being to review things. 

Since I learned from the books how to write manually, I know when a quote is wrong. I recognize that it’s wrong because I rated it by hand for years. When somebody's just punching it into a computer, they don't necessarily catch what I do. I think humans with some basic knowledge are required to know when something isn't quite right. 

With that said, I appreciate Coalition's new system, where you continually review my insured's network by looking for endpoints that might be open and other vulnerabilities and alert them when there's a problem. I'm happy to see you and your competitors doing what you do because you're changing things at the right speed and by the right degree. 

Improve your cyber knowledge with Coalition

Cyber insurance is one of the fastest-growing insurance products and a huge opportunity for brokers to grow their book of business. Coalition's Cyber Savvy program equips you with the tools and knowledge you need to deepen your cyber risk expertise and advise (and protect!) your clients. 

You can access more free Cyber Savvy Broker resources to continue your learning journey.