15 Nov - 2018

Ask an Insurance and Risk Management Expert: An Interview with Bill Connolly

A talk with Bill Connolly, owner of William H Connolly & Co, an insurance and risk management company in Montclair, led to reflections on owning a family business, concerns about the impact of climate change for homeowners, the influence of technology on safety and risk issues, and observations about how Montclair has changed over time. Bill Connolly and his family model the importance of community involvement as supporters of local arts organizations and international social service programs as well.

Bill Connolly’s mission of serving his clients with integrity, concern, and professionalism stems from his father’s inspiration as founder of the company 60 years ago. Bill is committed not only to addressing current issues regarding insurance decisions, but to anticipating the effects of environmental change on individuals and the community.

How should we be thinking in practical terms about the effects of climate change?

In our business we are particularly concerned about storm damage and the potential for flooding. The vagaries of nature may be difficult to predict but the impact of climate change on storms and flooding seems clear. Warmer ocean water is fuel for the kinds of storms that have done so much damage in this country over the last two decades.

For people living in flood-prone coastal areas, it is crucial to think about flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) provides maximum coverage of $250,000 for residential properties and $500,000 for commercial properties. For many people and businesses this is insufficient to repair or rebuild after significant flood damage.

Large insurance companies spend significant time and money assessing where and how major storms and the ensuing flooding will take place. Many large insurers are taking a hard look on how to underwrite and price property insurance. Like a number of other issues today, politicizing climate change and its affects on how we live is not an answer. We all need to work together to find real, sustainable solutions.

With sophisticated monitoring systems and driverless cars becoming a reality, how will auto insurance be affected?

It is safe to say that technological advances will only improve automobile safety. The most notable changes we see in our business involve commercial vehicles where fleet operators committed to technology-supported safety programs are seeing an improved performance which will ultimately lead to lower insurance premiums.
Insurance companies like New Jersey Manufacturers have been studying technologies related to “driverless” cars for years. They, and many others, believe that ultimately technology will greatly reduce accidents and therefore the cost of automobile insurance. While the technology is evolving, it is important to remember that a limited number of risk factors are involved in the vast majority of serious automobile and truck accidents: speeding, drug and alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and now texting and driving are the major culprits. Simply put, if we eliminate these risks, we would be dealing with mostly fender benders.

What changes have you noticed in Montclair since living here and raising your family?

I think one of my favorite changes in town involves the number of homes, churches and commercial properties being renovated and repurposed. It is particularly exciting to see people coming to town and making these investments. This “redevelopment” is exciting to me. On the other hand, I remember the excitement I felt as a young boy of 8 or 9 years old when I would bike up Grove Street to Yantacaw Brook and fish around the sites of the new houses going up for scraps of wood, nails, and the like.

What are some of your favorite community involvements?

My family and I are involved at Saint Benedict’s Prep in Newark. Both my dad and father-in-law graduated from the school in the 1930s. Today it is recognized as a model school for inner-city teenage boys. They receive an outstanding education while developing leadership skills and responsibility they will need to succeed in tomorrow’s world. We also support the Montclair Film Festival. With two actors in the family as well as a son in the insurance business, Montclair Film is a particularly personal interest. We enjoy supporting the Fourth of July parade every year; it is an integral part of the history and culture of the town. We also support Lamp for Haiti which provides medical and humanitarian aid to the natural disasters which have impacted the island and its people.

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