Insurance is a highly regulated industry. Consumers need to know who they’re dealing with, so your business needs to have a name that is sufficiently unique to avoid confusion. Additionally, some states have strict rules for the naming of insurance and other financial services entities.
Failing to recognize the implications of your choice of name can result in you going to the expense of filing Articles of Incorporation or Formation only to find you can’t use that preferred name elsewhere. This can make marketing and insurance contracts much more complicated.
A small number of states require insurance businesses to secure a name approval before starting the licensing process. It’s best practice, however, to check with both the insurance departments and the Secretary of State’s Offices in all jurisdictions where you plan to do business any time you are forming a new entity or re-naming an existing one. Optimally, you should complete this task before registering the entity in its domicile state.
If your choice does not meet a jurisdiction’s requirements or is not available for use, regulators can require you to use a “doing business as” name or DBA.
Doing Business As (DBA) Name Registrations
A DBA (also known as a fictitious, assumed, or trade name) is anything that an insurance business operates under other than its legal name as recorded on its Articles of Incorporation/Formation. Some states do not allow the voluntary use of DBAs. Additionally, these assumed names still must comply with regulators’ naming conventions and be available for use.
Doing business as names need to be registered with both the insurance department and the Secretary of State’s Office. Specific forms or notices and registration fees may apply. In some jurisdictions, you may also need to file DBAs at the county level.
Rules for entity naming protect more than consumers. Name and DBA registrations secure certain legal protections and rights for your business and prevent competitors from hijacking the good reputation you’ve worked to build. What many business owners fail to realize, however, is that DBA registrations may require periodic renewal.
The timeframe between renewals can be from 2 to 10 years, depending on the state. With such a long interval, it can be all to easy to overlook an approaching deadline and risk losing your right to use a DBA name.