Your Guide to COI Tracking
Nearly every business works with third-party contractors.
As each of those vendors bring their own unique risks, tracking the details of their insurance coverage is a critical piece of your risk management strategy.
To maintain compliance and mitigate liabilities, businesses track certificates of insurance (COIs) in-house, or by outsourcing the process to a specialist.
To help you enforce diligent COI tracking practices, this explainer covers everything you need to know: how to track, FAQs, differences between manual and software tracking, and so much more.
What Is Certificate of Insurance (COI) Tracking?
A certificate of insurance document contains all the pertinent details of a third party’s policy, such as policyholder name, effective and end dates, coverage type, limits, and carrier.
This abridged version is often used to prove insurance status in business dealings.
Certificate of insurance (COI) tracking, then, involves collecting, reviewing, and updating these documents to maintain compliance and mitigate liabilities.
Why Is COI Tracking Important?
COIs help confirm a vendor is compliant with contractual insurance requirements, and make it easier to complete claims adjustment processes in the event of damage or loss.
It also minimizes your own insurance cost during audits, and helps protect you against potentially millions of dollars in damage claims filed each year.
How to Track Certificates of Insurance
Maintaining a well-defined COI tracking process that is transparent, updated as needed, and supported by COI tracking software helps set you up for success.
Here is what that should entail:
1. Collection & Storage
First, collect COIs from every vendor, contractor, subcontractor, and third party, and store them in a secure location or software system for easy maintenance.
Each company should have their own collection process in place to outline the guidelines for compilation and continuous review.
Ensure the vendor’s policy meets your insurance requirements, and monitor its information for any changes.
If any information is inconsistent with your requirements, contact the company and/or insurer to update policies.
Usually, seven out of 10 collected COIs are noncompliant, and it requires about three follow-ups to make a certificate fully compliant.
4. Follow Up
As policies may expire and vendors may switch insurers, always follow up with vendors to have correct information on file, limit liability, and maintain compliance.
It’s also a good idea to reach out to the vendor for insurance renewals, to prevent a lapse in coverage.
COI Tracking FAQs to Consider
When Should I Ask for COIs?
Request COIs once the parties have agreed to the contract or lease. If there is no contract in place or one is already in place, then request certificates immediately.
How Long Do I Keep Certificates?
It depends on the nature of your organization and where you are located, but a general rule of thumb is to keep your certificates for at least five years.
Who Should Collect Certificates?
Designate an individual already involved in compliance and/or insurance management to collect COIs. This enables you to leverage their expertise to review contracts, understand insurance language, and translate that information.
Or, you might also choose to outsource to a COI tracking company.
How Do I Manage This Documentation?
Managing certificates of insurance can be done in-house, or by outsourcing to COI tracking solutions.
Tracking certificates of insurance in-house is a manageable job when a company is small and working with a limited number of vendors, but it can quickly become overwhelming or fraught with error as a company grows.
To determine the best solution for your business, consider the differences between manual versus software COI tracking options.
Manual COI Tracking Processes
Some companies dedicate a single person or a team to manage certificates of insurance. This usually includes making multiple calls to collect COIs, ensuring they meet the contract and company requirements, and filing documentation for easy access.
There are several free resources and tools businesses can use to support internal COI tracking operations. Here are several we recommend:
- IRMI: The International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) is a leading source of information on insurance, risk management, and more.
- bcs university: bcs university is an ever-expanding library of quick video explainers, equipping you with the knowledge to protect your business and manage risk.
- Use Email Tasks to Track Certificates of Insurance: If you only have a few vendors to keep track of, it’s possible to do so by setting tasks or reminders within an email provider. Both Gmail and Outlook, for example, have task features that enable users to set reminders and assign dates, which can be useful for scheduling check-ins as insurance documents approach expiration.
- Pro: Free, and puts everything in one place.
- Con: Manual, and the volume of work increases as you add vendors. No easy dashboard access or ability to share data across teams.
- Quickbooks: If you use Quickbooks for your business finances, it’s possible to track COI status for your vendors, as well.
- Pros: If you’re already using Quickbooks regularly, this can be added to your dashboard.
- Cons: As with the email options, this is largely a manual process, and more of a “workaround” rather than a true “COI solution."
- Spreadsheets: The best way to track certificates of insurance in-house is by building out a spreadsheet.
- Pros: Our free template comes with a built-in reports dashboard, and was designed by our COI tracking experts.
- Cons: While this will work well for smaller businesses, it is not recommended for larger companies with more than 100 vendors. It also can’t provide any special knowledge of how well your vendors’ insurance protects you.
Software COI Tracking Solutions
While some businesses leverage designated staff for COI tracking, this can be overwhelming on those individuals, and leave ample room for human error.
Specialized tools and technology help track and manage COIs efficiently and accurately, in full- and self-service software solutions.
Full-Service COI Tracking
Full-service COI tracking solutions combine specially designed software with human expertise—outsourcing the majority of labor associated with document review and management.
- Minimal Time Commitment: Full-service solutions combine software and expert support, requiring very little time or effort from your end. A dedicated team supports you throughout collection, review, and correction.
- Expertise: These solutions employ COI experts who know how to ensure documents are legitimate and compliant.
- Enhanced Third-Party Risk Mitigation: Experienced review and correction detects noncompliant or forged documents, and improves third-party risk mitigation by successfully transferring liability.
- Cost: As full-service solutions include human support, they typically cost more than self-service options. However, the total expense is likely less than hiring in-house staff to collect, review, and correct COIs.
Self-Service COI Tracking
Self-service COI tracking solutions equip you with software to simplify document management. While your team still controls the process, they have a dedicated platform to support them.
- Saves Time: Self-service platforms are a welcome alternative to spreadsheets or other manual methods, which tend to cost more than they save. This simplifies vendor onboarding, document retrieval, vendor communication, and more otherwise manual processes.
- Enhanced Document Organization: Self-service tracking automatically organizes your documents on one platform.
- Easy Access: Cloud-based self-service solutions enable easy document access—eliminating the need to sort through pages to find what you need.
- Staffing Requirements: Although self-service tracking reduces the time it takes to review COIs, you will still need staff on hand to track and correct them.
Choosing the Right Solution for You
Just as each vendor comes with its own unique risk posture, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for businesses when it comes to COI tracking.
Ultimately, you should choose an option that works best for your business.
If you do decide a full- or self-service software solution is right for you, bcs is the leader in certificate of insurance tracking.
Our full- and self-service solutions integrate onboarding, hiring, messaging, and tracking capabilities—all in one, streamlined platform.
The full-service option includes a team of compliance analysts to review documents and correct deficiencies—saving time while ensuring the highest standard of third-party risk mitigation.
Our new freemium model enables you to test our user-friendly COI tracking and vendor compliance software for free today, including:
- Certificate of Insurance Data Extractor
- Automated COI Requests
- Automated Deficiency Notices
- Mobile App for Your Vendors
- Unlimited Document Storage
With all your vendor communications, documents, and more all in one place, you can save, mitigate risks, and experience the unique peace of mind that comes with both.
bcs is a leading vendor management solution with full- and self-service tracking options that streamline hiring, onboarding, COI tracking, and several other vendor management processes. To learn more about optimizing your COI tracking process, contact us today or schedule a demo.
Learn from the pros about risk-mitigation, document tracking, and more, with expert articles from bcs.