Published June 26, 2020 • 4 minute read
Essentially, there are two approaches to tracking certificates of insurance (COIs): do it in-house, or outsource the process to a specialist.
The most important thing to know: Naturally, businesses will always seek to reduce expenses where they can, leading many to explore the possibility of tracking their certificates of insurance for free by doing it in-house. What’s important to note, though, is that there is always a cost associated with COI tracking, even when done in-house. Doing so requires the time of one or more team members, which equates to internal resources and possible attention taken away from revenue-driving activities. Such tasks will also only become more time consuming as the business grows and works with more vendors. In other words, no system for tracking COIs is truly free.
That being said, there are a number of free resources and tools businesses can use to support their internal COI tracking operations. Here are some we recommend:
The International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) is a leading source of reputable information on everything related to insurance, risk management, and more. With thousands of free articles, plus a premium subscription option, you’re sure to find an answer to almost any COI-related question you can think of.
BCS University is the latest addition to our learning resources. An ever-expanding library of quick video explainers, it’s aimed at equipping you with the knowledge you need to protect your business and manage risk. And, like the others on the list, it’s free to use.
Resources and information can only take you so far: at some point, you’ll have to start putting that learning to work and actually tracking those COIs. Here’s how you can use common tools as a free solution:
Using Email Tasks to Track Certificates of Insurance
If you only have a few vendors to keep track of, it’s possible to do it by setting tasks or reminders within an email provider. Both Gmail and Outlook, for example, have task features that allow users to set reminders and assign dates, which can be useful for scheduling check-ins as existing insurance documentation approaches expiration.
Pros: Free. Puts everything into one place.
Cons: Manual. Volume of work increases as you add vendors. No easy dashboard access or ability to share data across teams.
If you use Quickbooks for your business finances, it is theoretically possible to use it to track COI status for your vendors as well. For a breakdown on how to approach this, check out this post in Quickbooks’ support section.
Pros: If you’re already using Quickbooks regularly, and have the appropriate type of account, it’s free to do, and can be added to your Quickbooks dashboard.
Cons: As with the email options, this is largely a manual process, and is more of a “workaround” rather than a true “COI solution."
Using a Professionally-Made Spreadsheet to Track Certificates of Insurance
In our experience, the single best way to track certificates of insurance in-house is by building out a spreadsheet. So much so, in fact, that we went ahead and produced a free template that anyone can use. Simply click the following link to download the template and get started!
Pros: The template above is free and comes with a built-in reports dashboard. Also, it was designed by BCS’s COI tracking experts.
Cons: While the template will work well for smaller businesses, it is not recommended for larger companies with over 100 vendors. Also: the spreadsheet can’t provide any special knowledge of how well your vendors’ insurance protects you.
Factors To Be Aware Of When Tracking Certificates of Insurance
Company Size & Number of Vendors
While in-house tracking can reduce the need for working with third party companies and solutions, it can also be time-consuming, and increases in complexity with every new contractor or supplier you work with. As such, in-house tracking tends to be most practical for smaller companies with a handful of vendors.
As your business grows, the ability to manage certificate of insurance tracking in-house becomes more difficult; eventually it requires dedicated personnel with sufficient insurance expertise to be able to not just track but review and correct documents to ensure that your company is properly protected.
As both size and the need for expertise increase, most in-house COI tracking solutions struggle to scale with a company’s growth. At that point, it may make sense--and often even be more cost-efficient--to switch to a certificate of insurance tracking solution supported by a dedicated team of professionals.
If you’ve reviewed the options above and aren’t sure which path is right for you, feel free to take a look at this article on what to look for and what questions to ask when thinking about choosing an outsourced COI tracking solution.