What is retention insurance

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Retention Insurance

Retention insurance is a cost-saving strategy wherein a company self-insures minor losses up to a certain limit, reducing insurance premiums while retaining control over the claims process. However, suitability varies based on factors such as the company’s risk profile, financial capacity, and risk tolerance. Companies must thus thoroughly assess these elements before considering retention insurance.

What is retention insurance

Retention Insurance Definition

Retention insurance is a risk management strategy where a company assumes financial responsibility for certain types of loss, up to a predetermined limit, which the company can handle financially.

Basic Explanation

In simpler terms, the company acts as its own insurer for minor losses, reserving their insurance coverage for more significant losses that exceed their retention limit. This approach allows the company to reduce its insurance premiums, as the insurer is only responsible for losses beyond the company’s retention limit.

Purpose and Benefits

The primary objective of retention insurance is to mitigate the costs associated with frequent, smaller claims. Companies with a good risk management system in place can benefit from lower insurance premiums and a greater control over the claims process.

Mechanics of Retention Insurance

Understanding how retention insurance works involves grasping two core concepts: self-insured retention and its impact on premiums and risks.

Self-Insured Retention

Self-Insured Retention (SIR) is the amount that a company is willing to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in. The company effectively ‘insures’ this portion themselves. For instance, if a company has a $10,000 SIR, they’ll cover all losses up to this amount.

Impact on Premiums and Risks

The more risk a company retains, the lower the insurance premiums. However, a company must carefully balance its ability to absorb these losses against the potential savings on insurance premiums. There’s a risk that a series of losses could strain the company’s finances.

When to Consider Retention Insurance

Retention insurance is not for every business. The following factors help determine its suitability.

Suitability Factors

Companies with a high risk tolerance and sound financial reserves often find retention insurance beneficial. The size of the business, the nature of its operations, and its financial capacity all play a role in this decision.

Ideal Businesses

Industries with lower risk of substantial losses or businesses that can manage minor losses frequently are prime candidates for retention insurance. This might include professional services firms, retail businesses, or manufacturing companies with stringent safety measures.

Common Misconceptions about Retention Insurance

Many businesses hesitate to consider retention insurance due to common misconceptions.

Misunderstanding of Risk

Retention insurance is sometimes seen as taking on unnecessary risk. However, when managed correctly, it can lead to significant savings without undue exposure to risk.

Misinterpretation of Costs

Some businesses fear the out-of-pocket expenses related to retention insurance. It’s crucial to understand that these costs are often balanced by lower premiums and greater control over claims.

Steps to Acquire Retention Insurance

Taking the plunge into retention insurance involves careful planning and evaluation.

Evaluating the Business Risk Profile

Before considering retention insurance, a business should thoroughly analyze its risk profile. This includes understanding potential sources of loss and the financial implications of those losses.

Working with Insurance Professionals

An experienced insurance broker or advisor can guide a business through the complexities of retention insurance, helping to determine if it’s a fit for the company’s risk management strategy.


In conclusion, retention insurance offers a cost-effective solution for businesses to manage their risk, specifically for frequent minor losses. However, understanding its mechanics and assessing business suitability are crucial steps before considering this option. Companies must balance their risk tolerance and financial capacity against potential savings on insurance premiums.


  1. What is the main advantage of retention insurance?

    The primary advantage is the potential for reduced insurance premiums, as the company takes on some of the risk itself.

  2. Does retention insurance replace traditional insurance?

    No, retention insurance works alongside traditional insurance. The latter comes into play for losses exceeding the retention limit.

  3. Is retention insurance suitable for small businesses?

    It depends on the business’s financial capacity and risk tolerance. Even some small businesses can benefit, provided they have a solid risk management strategy in place.

  4. What’s the difference between a deductible and self-insured retention?

    Both represent the amount a policyholder must pay before insurance coverage applies. However, with a deductible, the insurer pays the claim and the policyholder reimburses the deductible. In contrast, with SIR, the policyholder pays the claim up to the SIR limit.

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