When the Monument Sports Group and its insurance partner, The Specialty Insurance Group (SIG), began managing the insurance program of the Climbing Wall Association (CWA) three years ago, some CWA member gyms were left without any coverage whatsoever, according to CWA CEO Bill Zimmerman. “Now I am confident that all of our members have acquired coverage, or at least been afforded the opportunity to acquire quality insurance through our program,” says Zimmerman.
Monument offers General Liability, Umbrella/Excess, and Property insurance which provide excellent coverage, competitive premiums and easy payment options to help climbing gyms, wall builders, flooring companies, hold companies, and any CWA members better manage their businesses. After working hard with insurance companies to expand options for CWA members, here are a few new options Monument recently rolled out.
Affordable Worker’s Compensation
To non-climbers – especially insurance companies – climbing gyms are inherently risky environments, considering routesetters spend multiple hours per day with power tools and buckets of holds at significant heights. All climbing gyms should acquire general liability coverage, but worker’s compensation is mandatory for businesses and regulated by each state based mainly on number of full-time employees. Gym owners must understand that regardless of cost, this insurance is necessary to running their businesses. Luckily, Monument is decreasing the cost of Worker’s Compensation while also providing additional options.
“Climbing scares insurance underwriters because most of them don’t understand the sport,” says Mark Grossman, president of Monument. “Climbing at height is a scary proposition to them, both for employees and patrons, so the biggest part of the process from day one – and the biggest part of the success of our program – was and continues to be explaining the procedures to create a greater understanding of all the risks associated with climbing”.
Just as a climbing gym will differentiate itself in order to offer better prices to a specific climbing clientele, so too does specialization in insurance offer lower prices to qualifying members. That is why Monument fought and won the battle among underwriters to classify climbing gyms as sports facilities – like indoor soccer arenas – rather than places of amusement, often much riskier activities like trampoline palaces. As a result, Monument is now offering an affordable Worker’s Compensation program for the climbing industry. While prices vary by state, all climbing gyms can expect lower prices with Monument than most alternatives.
“When you concentrate in a niche, you are going to be a lot better at it,” says Grossman. “That specialization built on a foundation of better risk management allows for lower pricing in the short and long term.”
Monument was not alone in the battle to solidify climbing as sport in the eyes of the insurance industry. Grossman cites the CWA, as well, as being influential in the early stages. “The CWA staff was instrumental in advocating for the interests of the industry, educating the underwriters, and working with loss control to make sure climbing gyms had a sound insurance program,” says Grossman. Thanks to the CWA and Monument, they now do.
Incentives to Improve Risk Management
In addition to offering a better Worker’s Compensation program, Monument is also pushing forward risk management standards of the climbing industry. By working with insurance carriers to secure credits – or discounts – on key precautionary features, Monument is making it easier for climbing gyms to justify investing into gym risk management.
“Just by the nature of the sport, climbers tend to be very conscious of risk,” says Monument staff member Will Jorgensen. “Gyms are already amenable to changes which increase risk management at their facilities, and we are enabling gyms to make these changes.”
The CWA Climbing Wall Instruction certification program (CWI) which standardizes climbing wall instruction is not old, and already both courses offered by the CWA each year are sold out on a regular basis. Surveillance is becoming the norm at larger commercial facilities, and while Jorgensen estimates about only 30% of gyms they currently work with use defibrillators, he says that number is growing too. Heart attacks are not common in climbing gyms, but Jorgensen says they have happened before and that a defibrillator may have been helpful for such. Fortunately, Monument is negotiating credits on all of these options for members.
Installing precautionary features has a financial benefit as well. If enough gyms raise their standards and underwriters identify a significant decrease in risk, then insurance premiums may decrease across the board for all members. In this way, Monument is transforming the pricing landscape for climbing gym insurance.
“We want to be able to justify the cost of gym owners spending money to better manage risk at their facilities,” says Grossman.”The total cost may not be justified in one or two years, but over time this investment will help lower premiums for the specific gym, and for the industry as a whole. Achieving better claim results by helping our members manage risk now – and into the future – will make everyone’s insurance rates go down.”
Balancing Tradition with Innovation
The goal with development is to add something new without compromising what is already working well. Despite offering new insurance and risk management options, Monument continues its strong tradition of personalized risk management which caters to the specific needs of each gym.
One gym that has certainly benefited from such is Summit Climbing Yoga and Fitness. According to Stan Borodyansky, co-owner of Summit, Monument performed a comprehensive risk assessment of Summit which included a list of possible improvements and personal testing by Monument staff acting as “secret shoppers.” While customer waivers are the norm at commercial climbing gyms, Borodyansky says Monument helped them decrease their liability further by advising introductory orientations be provided and documented as well.
“It seems nowadays the waiver is not enough,” says Borodyansky. “Otherwise people can say, ‘I signed a waiver, but you didn’t teach me right.’” Now, Summit requires customers to complete the orientation every year, and they require employees to review the orientation process and perform such for a manager every quarter so that errors do not slip through the cracks.
Summit also selected attention-grabbing vocabulary for their orientations, removing the word “safe” and reminding new climbers upfront that climbing is always dangerous, despite instruction. “From a liability standpoint, they definitely helped us back ourselves up,” says Borodyansky.
As for innovations, Summit already has surveillance cameras at every angle to capture both climbing and non-climbing related incidents, but Borodyansky does recognize the need for defibrillators and Worker’s Compensation too. Should he pull the trigger on acquiring credits for such, he knows Monument will be ready. “They gave us a good rate, and it also seems like Mark Grossman – despite Monument being a huge company – is always available,” says Borodyansky. “Anytime we need anything they are always there for us.”
Summit is not alone in their appreciation of Monument. Bill Zimmerman, CEO of the CWA, states the following:
“I am very happy we found The Monument Sports Group; moving the program forward has been a huge success and a great benefit to the members. It is great to work with a company that specializes in sports facilities and takes underwriting seriously. I believe the program will thrive with the Monument Sports Group and SIG as CWA partners. The program is in the best position it has been in in a decade.”
This story was paid for and produced by Monument Sports Group with support by the Climbing Business Journal advertising department. The Climbing Business Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.
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