Filed Under:Agent Broker, Sales & Marketing

Making It Special

From tattoo studios to musical instrument insurance to cyber liability, three insurance professionals talk about how they transitioned from property-casualty generalists to niche specialization—and are succeeding in one of the toughest insurance markets in memory.

A tale of two tats

Preston studied the market and the field for about 6 months and developed a program for tattoo shops. She approached underwriters in the London market, finding them more responsive and innovative. Because PPIB was the only agency writing a tattoo shop-specific program at the time, her decision coincided with the growth of the tattoo trend in the early 1990s.

One year later, a body piercing shop called her asking her about coverage. Once again, Preston took 6 months to study the industry, learn about piercings, and presenting the London market with a program which even today still sets the standard for the body piercing industry.

The music man

Insured instruments range from those valued at under $1,000 to a violin with an estimated value of $8 million, and everything in between, Anderson said.

One of the more famous cases of musical instrument misplacement happened in 1999, when world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma (not an Anderson insured) left an 18th century $2.5 million cello in a taxi (the instrument was quickly recovered). Although cases like this are rare, Anderson encourages establishing provenance on instruments, as well as use of the SNAGG microchip program, similar to the system used on lost pets, to create an instrument pedigree and ownership trail in case of loss or theft. "Our overall loss experience in the history of our accounts is quite terrific," he said.

The specializing generalist

Cloud computing adds another level of uncertainty, with most businesses figuring that if "it’s not my server, it’s not my problem," Saich said. "This couldn’t be further from the truth. We always ask our insureds to think, ‘Who will be the target of claims?’ Let’s say a major hack occurs and 90 percent of our client’s data is stolen. Even if using cloud computing, the consumers affected aren’t going to go after server farms. They didn’t give their data to a server farm, our insured did."

Thoits’ generalist reputation helps the agency spot trends that could turn into niches. "Being a generalist gives us constant exposure to multiple lines of business that we can evaluate and determine if it is worth investing our resources in creating a niche," Saich said. "As an agency, we work with our partner carriers to see where we could carve out a niche given our existing book of business. We would never go into creating a program/niche without having a partner carrier willing to move forward with us from the start.

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