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VIP Customer Service: High Net Worth Insurers Go the Extra Mile

Bonnie Cavanaugh for PropertyCasualty360

July 12, 2013

When Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans in August 2005, most people were thinking of evacuating to higher ground. Charlotte Edmonston, a high-net-worth producer working in Baton Rouge, La., was thinking about eggs. Faberge eggs, to be exact.

One of her high-net-worth clients living in the path of the oncoming category 5 hurricane happened to own the largest collection of rare Faberge eggs outside of Russia: a collection so vast that it can hardly be valued, let alone insured for any reasonable amount, she says.

“When Katrina came through, I was freaking out about those eggs. It was very, very expensive to insure them,” Edmonston recalls. Losing them would be a huge loss for the client, and even though the collection was not covered under a collector’s policy, the items were also of great historical value. So she did the next best thing she could.

Edmonston, who is the National Niche Managing Director for broker Arthur J. Gallagher, phoned the woman’s insurer. “Even though we don’t insure them for their value, they’re insured as contents,” she says. “Her insurance carrier sent a conservator to her house and had them boxed up and shipped out of Louisiana, and stored until after the storm was over and things got at least reasonably back to normal.”

Martin Hartley, chief underwriting officer and a founding member of Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE), New York, recently fashioned a policy to insure a client’s sneaker collection that includes rarities like prototypes and first-press models, some of which are valued in the tens of thousands of dollars.

That was typical of HNW insurers prior to Katrina, says Richard Kerr, president and CEO of electronic insurance exchange MarketScout and founding member of the Council to Insure Private Clients. HNW carriers “sent in people like Blackwater in helicopters” to help HNW insureds pack and store precious items, he says.

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