What is Qualifying Insurance for an Accountant?

Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) must buy professional indemnity insurance (PII) which meets certain requirements. The ICAEW stipulates a minimum amount of cover and the insurance must be 'qualifying'—that is, only certain insurers are approved to provide this cover and the policy wording must match the minimum wording requirements. Below we explain how qualified insurance works.

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Qualifying Insurance

Accountants in public practice or subject to audit, local audit, probate, investment business, licensed practice and/or insolvency regulations must buy a special type of insurance called 'qualifying insurance'. Qualifying insurance is only sold by certain participating insurers who agree to provide cover that meets ICAEW's approved minimum wording—although individual policies can include extensions of cover beyond the requirement the approved minimum wording requirements.

Minimum Wording

Qualifying insurance adheres to the minimum approved wording stipulated by the ICAEW. All participating insurers qualified to offer PI insurance in the UK to accountants have agreed to provide cover under terms and conditions that match the ICAEW's approved minimum wording.

Where wording differs from the ICAEW's approved minimum wording, insurers must include a 'difference in conditions' endorsement in their wording for the sake of clarity. And if any dispute arises and the insurer's wording is less favourable, the ICAEW wording takes precedent.

Claims Made Cover

Accountant insurance policies are issued on a 'claims made' basis, which means they cover past acts, even if cover was not in place at the time of the act. A practice must have coverage in place when a claim is notified to an insurer.

Policies with a 'retroactive date' will look back and cover acts from a specific point in time, which essentially limits the period of insurance for past acts. The retroactive date must be at least six years before the start date of the current policy, or the practice start date if the accountancy practice is less than six years old.

Learn more about claims made policies here.

What is run-off coverage on a claims-made policy?

Run-off cover is essentially a form of professional indemnity insurance for businesses whose work once required PI insurance but are no longer actively trading. For accountants, PI insurance covers claims up to six years in the past so an accountant who retires or stops working still needs run-off PI cover for at least six years after they stop trading.

'Run-off' professional indemnity insurance protects against new claims that are made after the professional indemnity insurance for an accountant no longer trading expires or has been cancelled. Since runoff insurance doesn't cover new work, it is usually cheaper than an active professional liability insurance policy.

Who Can Provide PI Insurance for Accountants?

Only 'participating insurers' that have agreed to the conditions of ICAEW's scheme can qualify to insure their accountants.

These insurers agree to subscribe to the assigned risks pool—essentially this temporarily covers accountants who can't get PI insurance until they can secure a policy in the marketplace.

Participating insurers also agree to turn to arbitration in situations where it needs to be decided which of two or more insurers should indemnify an insured firm.

Firms That Provide PII Insurance for Accountants

ICAEW has a list of participating insurers that is updated each year. At the time of writing there is only one direct insurance company providing PII insurance to accountants in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man: Direct Line for Business. In most cases, accountants will approach a qualified insurer through a broker.

Here is the list of ICAEW qualified PII insurers for accountants, which was valid as of July 2020.

Type of InsurerPII Insurers
Direct Line for Business
Antares Managing Agency Limited
Argenta Syndicate Management Limited
Argo Managing Agency Limited
Ascot Underwriting
Aspen Managing Agency Ltd
Axis Specialty Europe SE
Beazley Group Limited
Canopius Managing Agents Ltd
Everest Lloyd’s Syndicate
Accelerant Insurance Limited
Aegis Managing Agency Limited
Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality SE
Allied World Assurance Company Ltd
American International Group (UK) Limited
AmTrust Europe Ltd
Arch Insurance Company (UK) Ltd
Aviva Insurance Limited
AXA Insurance UK Plc
Chubb European Group SE
CNA Insurance Company Ltd
Great Lakes Insurance SE

What if you can't get insurance?

If you cannot obtain PI insurance that meets the regulations you may be able to enter the assigned risks pool for a period of time until cover is obtained in the market. Cover through the assigned risk pool is essentially emergency cover if you can't get cover elsewhere so that you can continue to practice—and is available for up to two years. It's also useful to secure run-off cover. For more information click here.

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