GUIDE: What are Surety Bonds | Jensten Insurance Brokers
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GUIDE: What are Surety Bonds

Unveiling the Power of Surety Bonds: A Comprehensive Guide

In the dynamic world of business and construction, trust and reliability are paramount. However, verbal agreements alone may not suffice when substantial financial investments and contractual commitments are at stake. Enter surety bonds – an invaluable tool that provides assurance, protection, and peace of mind to parties involved in various endeavours.

Let’s delve deeper into the intricacies of surety bonds with Alan Body, Account Executive within Jensten Transactional Risks team, to explore the types of surety bonds, key players, and the myriad benefits they offer over traditional banking mechanisms.

What is a surety bond?

In simple terms, a surety bond (sometimes referred to as a “guarantee”) is a three-way agreement promising to pay a sum of money upon a set of circumstances having been met.

For example, they are used when a business or individual needs a guarantee that the contractor will complete their contractual obligations. If they fail to do so, the business or individual will be reimbursed by the amount agreed in the bond.

Understanding Surety Bonds:

Surety bonds serve as powerful risk management tools, facilitating agreements between three parties: the principal, the bondsman, and the beneficiary. At its essence, a surety bond is a contractual agreement in which the bondsman guarantees the performance of the principal’s obligations to the beneficiary. In the event of the principal’s default, the bondsman steps in to fulfil the contractual obligations or compensate the beneficiary up to the bond’s agreed-upon amount.

The Key Players in Surety Bonds:

Understanding the roles of the principal, bondsman, and beneficiary is crucial in comprehending the dynamics of surety bonds:

– Principal: The party required to obtain the bond, typically a contractor or business entity tendering for a project or engaging in regulated activities.

– Bondsman: The guarantee provider, often an insurance company with the financial strength and expertise to underwrite surety bonds.

– Beneficiary: The party requesting the bond, such as the project owner, government agency, or entity requiring assurance of the principal’s performance.

Types of Surety Bonds Available:

The versatility of surety bonds is evident in the array of specialized forms tailored to specific needs and industries:

  1. Bid Bonds: Essential in the bidding process for construction projects, bid bonds ensure that contractors submit genuine bids and commit to contract terms if awarded.
  2. Performance Bonds: These bonds guarantee the completion of projects according to contract specifications, protecting project owners from financial losses due to non-performance.
  3. Payment Bonds: Vital for protecting subcontractors, suppliers, and labourers, payment bonds ensure they receive payment for their services or materials, even if the contractor defaults.
  4. Advanced Payment Bond: Protects an amount being advanced to a contractor at the beginning of a project should the contractor defaults.
  5. License and Permit Bonds: Governments and regulatory agencies often require these bonds as a prerequisite for obtaining licenses or permits for certain business activities.
  6. Section Bonds: Bonds written to adhere to certain acts, such as Road, Sewers and Environmental .
  7. Financial Failure Bonds – These are put in place to protect your customers in the unlikely event that you cease trading. For example, think about ABTA Travel Bonds, which help customers get home or their money back should a tour operator cease trading.

Who Buys Surety Bonds?

Surety bonds are purchased by a wide variety of businesses and individuals. Many sectors can take advantage of Surety Bonds, including energy, logistics and commodities but they are more commonly found in the core industries of construction and machinery.

Different sectors need different types of surety bonds at different project stages, with the most common being bid, performance bonds, warranty, and payment bonds.

Real-world Use Cases

Here we need some examples of how Bonds are being applied in the real world.

Performance Bond:

This project was for the installation of duct tracks for cabling for an Electricity Provider.

The power energy company (beneficiary) awarded a £1m contract to the contractor (principal) who required the principal to have a 10% performance bond for practical completion.

In the event that the contractor did not fulfil their obligations, the energy company would receive a payment of up to £100,000 (from the Bondsman).

Advanced Payment Bond:

A contractor (principal) won a contract to refurbish a section of a sports ground. They were advanced a sum of £1m, of which the sports club (beneficiary) requested a 10% bond, the bond had to adhere to JCT section 6.

Once the bond is provided, the contractor is forwarded the £1m (from the Bondsman). If the service isn’t provided and does not adhere to JCT, the sports club can make a claim against the bond.

Insurance Backed Guarantee:

A contractor (principal) was installing a solar system to a flat roof, the local authority (beneficiary) requested that the contractor have a 10 year Insurance Backed Guarantee (IBG) for the value of 10 of the overall project.

In the event that workmanship or products failed within the 10 year period, and the contractor is unable to rectify, insurers (the Bondsman) will honour the original terms of the warranty and settle up to the IBG value.


Why Choose a Surety Provider Over a Bank?

While traditional banking mechanisms offer security, surety providers offer distinct advantages:

  • Enhanced Liquidity: Surety providers offer bonds without requiring 100% cash collateral, freeing up working capital and preserving liquidity for businesses.
  • Reduced Personal Liability: Surety bonds rely on the financial strength of the bonding company, reducing the need for personal guarantees or collateral often demanded by banks.
  • Tailored Risk Management: Insurance companies, as surety providers, are adept at assessing and managing risk, offering more flexible terms and reduced cash deposits compared to banks.

Banks generally take 100% cash collateral as security for the contract duration, hindering cash flow. Therefore, using surety providers could help improve the contractor’s liquidity by freeing up bank lines for working capital needs. When using a surety provider, the bond sits away from the client’s banking facility and does not have the same effect on the cash flow.

In addition, banks can extend overdraft facilities, which are likely to be secured by personal guarantees or a similar mechanism.

Bonds, while offered by Insurance Companies and Banks, are not actually Insurance Products and, as such, do not insure any risk. However, these large financial institutions are deemed suitable guarantors should the contractor fail by default or insolvency to fulfil their contractual obligations.

Insurance Companies, unlike Banks, are more accustomed to the exposure of some risk. Therefore, using an Insurance Company over a bank will often free up cash flow as they will not often require cash deposits or charges, which are common security requests by a bank.

When does a Bond expire?

The expiry of a performance bond is dependent on the beneficiary/employer’s preference. Typically, they expire on the practical completion of the main contract. However, they can also expire on the making good of defects; this is also known as a defect liability bond.

In conclusion

In conclusion, surety bonds represent an indispensable tool for managing risk, ensuring contractual obligations are met, and fostering trust in business relationships.

By partnering with reputable surety providers, individuals and businesses can navigate complex projects and regulatory requirements with confidence, knowing they have a robust financial safety net in place.

Whether securing bid opportunities, fulfilling contractual obligations, or obtaining licenses and permits, surety bonds offer unparalleled assurance and protection in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Need support with Surety Bonds? Talk to our bond specialists today











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