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Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Importance of PCI DSS Compliance

three_credit_cardsThe 2015 Nilson Report, which provides statistics on the payment card industry, found that credit, debit and prepaid card fraud contributed to global losses exceeding USD $16 billion. To help protect customers and to remain compliant, it’s critical that any organization that accepts payment cards understands the PCI DSS.

The PCI DSS is a set of requirements designed to ensure that all entities that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. In essence, the PCI DSS establishes a minimum set of requirements for protecting the account information of cardholders.

Failure to comply with the PCI DSS can result in serious consequences for merchants. If a merchant experiences a data breach and is found to be non-compliant with the PCI DSS, it may be subject to hefty fines.

Other potential fallouts from failed PCI DSS compliance include:

  • Legal action
  • Federal audits
  • Remediation costs
  • Bank fines

To avoid financial penalties and business interruptions, you should make compliance with the PCI DSS a priority. There are three major steps to compliance, as outlined by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC)—assess your risk, remediate any issues and report your compliance to the PCI SSC. If followed closely, these steps can help merchants of any size integrate PCI DSS standards into their businesses.

However, PCI DSS compliance is not something that can be easily addressed on your own—especially if you are a merchant with limited resources. Prior to launching a PCI DSS compliance program, businesses should seek the help of the PCI SSC. The PCI SSC, along with banks, enforce the PCI DSS and are invaluable resources for organizations that are new to compliance.

© 2016 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Protecting Vacant Property

Office Building-iStock_000004100231XSmallIn the event of a mass lay off or foreclosure, your firm may be forced to manage vacant property. The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning unoccupied property can be extensive. To ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know your risks. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant property to reduce risk and liability.

Potential Risks

There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant property. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.

In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage and mould. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues (where someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss).

In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored—the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.

Other Ways to Mitigate Risk

In addition to extending coverage, there are some simple steps that owners of vacant property can take to limit their risk and liability.

  • Prevent vandalism – Notify local authorities of vacated properties so they can watch for criminal behaviour. Maintain an “occupied” appearance to the property—mow the lawn, have mail forwarded or picked up regularly and install light timers and/or a security system.
  • Limit liability – Make sure property is free from significant hazards (broken railings or steps, broken windows, etc.) that could cause injuries to anyone on the property—this could include police officers, maintenance workers, firefighters or even trespassers.
  • Avoid damage – Performing regular maintenance on the property can decrease the odds of damage. Make sure the heating system and chimney are cleaned and inspected regularly. Have the plumbing system winterized to prevent frozen pipes. Periodically inspect the roof, insulation, attic, basement, gutters and other areas of the house for any necessary repairs, mould, damage or other problems. Consider installing smoke detectors that are tied to a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified in case of an alarm. Remove all access material and combustibles from in and around the building.

Insuring Residential Properties

Insurance companies sometimes include a clause that the homeowners insurance will expire if a home is left vacant for more than 30 or 60 days (depending on the policy). This leaves the property owner financially vulnerable for all the risks previously noted. However, many insurance companies do offer vacant property insurance (also known as vacant building insurance or vacant dwelling insurance).

Unoccupied Commercial Building Insurance

Vacant commercial buildings are more difficult to insure because they present greater risks, including increased chance of theft, malicious damage and burst pipes. It is important to disclose all relevant facts when seeking insurance, including the reason for the property’s vacancy and a schedule of any works to be done on the property.

Because of the increased risks and liability associated with a vacant property, these types of insurance tend to be costly—ranging from one and a half to five times the cost of a property insurance policy. It is important, though, to look beyond the price and consider the suitability and comprehensiveness of the coverage being purchased.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


Terrorism Risk Management

RubbleWhile you may think that acts of terrorism will never strike your business, their occurrence can be completely random and their results catastrophic. And, as the frequency of terror-related incidents continues to increase worldwide, you need to be aware of how to protect your business and your employees from potentially devastating losses.

Just one terror attack at or near your business could result in substantial injuries, deaths, business interruptions or reputational damage. However, with a proper understanding of the common types and targets of attacks, and a terrorism management program, you can limit your exposures and protect your business and employees.

Common Types and Targets of Terrorism

Terrorist attacks can occur at any time, and are usually not directed at a single business or individual. Despite this, it’s important to be aware of the general characteristics of terror-related incidents and the most common targets.

According to the latest statistics, the following are the most prevalent types of terrorist attacks that occur worldwide:

  • Bombings and explosions: 57 per cent
  • Armed assaults: 23 per cent
  • Assassinations: 8 per cent

While Canada has a relatively low terrorist attack risk according to the Global Terrorism Index, there was an 80 per cent increase of deaths due to terrorism in 2014 compared to 2013.

And, because the most common types of terrorist attacks have the potential to devastate the infrastructure within a large area, it’s important to take structural vulnerability into consideration when you draft a terrorism management program. An effective program must take the safety of employees, customers and nearby pedestrians into consideration.

Step 1: General Assessment

The first step in creating a terrorism management program is to conduct a general assessment of your business’s facilities. While you may have a good idea of the risks that your business and employees face, you may not recognize how or in which areas they are exposed until you conduct a detailed assessment. And, even if you have a fundamental knowledge of your risks, you also need to recognize the exposures presented by the businesses and buildings around you. Remember, the most common types of terrorist attacks are bombings and armed assaults—incidents that almost always affect a large area.

During your initial assessment, you should determine the standoff distance around the entire perimeter of your facility. This is the distance at which you can prevent an unscreened person or vehicle from approaching your business, and it is determined by the effectiveness of your facilities, employees and security procedures. Knowledge of your business’s ability to respond to threats will help you to assess and respond to terrorism risk exposures.

Step 2: Risk Assessment

Once you have completed your general assessment, you can use the information you gathered to determine the potential impact of a terrorist attack on your business. Then, you can focus your resources on preventing or mitigating the damage from an attack.

You should keep the following topics in mind while performing a terrorism risk assessment:

  • Structural stability: Analyze how various locations around your facility could be damaged by an explosion or bomb. Remember to consider explosions that originate from both inside and outside the building.
  • Personnel vulnerability: Consider where your employees and customers are usually located in and around your business. If they are all centrally located, they will be much more vulnerable during a terrorist attack. Make sure that everyone in the building has easy access to multiple exits in the event of an attack.
  • Operational continuity: Consider the vulnerability of any key equipment or other vital materials. An attack could cripple your operations if important equipment or data is lost.

Risk Management

Your terrorism management program should cover the unique exposures found during your general and risk assessments. Common protective measures can include strengthened window films, employee evacuation procedures, and electronic and physical security systems.

In some ways, covering terrorism exposures is similar to preparing for a natural disaster, such as a severe storm or fire. In fact, you may be able to use an existing emergency plan as the basis for your terrorism management plan.

Terrorism Insurance

Another way to protect your business from a terrorist attack is with terrorism insurance.  Please contact your broker for more information.


© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


The Challenges of Growing a Business

dream team successGrowing a business is no easy feat, especially when you begin from the ground up. Those who seek to expand their investment have to navigate a number of unique risks and challenges.

The following are a few strategies to keep in mind when looking to take your company or organization to the next level:

  • Learn how to say no. Saying no to opportunities may seem counterintuitive to what you are trying to accomplish, but it can save you big in the long run. Businesses that attempt to juggle too many duties and projects at once are often the ones that fail. It’s important to think critically about any opportunities that come your way, choosing only the ones that fit with your business model.
  • Delegate whenever possible. A lot of business owners tend to shoulder the weight of the expansion themselves. This can lead to burnout and failure rather quickly. Part of growing a business is growing as a leader, and assigning tasks to your peers can ensure that no one is overwhelmed and you are on course for success.
  • Develop strong hiring practices. Businesses that don’t take the time to hire the right people often lose time and money trying to fill gaps in talent. To continually grow as an organization, and grow successfully, strong hiring practices are key. Taking the necessary time to vet applicants and choose the right person for the job will set your business up for growth in the long run.
  • Manage your cash flow. It may sound obvious, but managing your cash flow is critical to the health of a business. Many businesses will overspend in times of growth—overextending what they can afford on investments in people, technology, supplies and so on. It’s important for owners to understand that they may not be able to spend what they’d like on certain assets. However, monitoring all transactions and accounts regularly can help identify areas of potential savings and overspending, easing the financial burden of business growth.

When seeking opportunities for growth, many entrepreneurs forget that it is an ongoing process. A major part of successfully expanding an organization is adapting to change both internally and in the industry. To continue to grow, focus on keeping an open mind in terms of strategies, always seek best practices wherever possible and find new ways to innovate.



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