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I started Chartwell Insurance Services 8 years ago on the premise that the high-net-worth individual was underserved in the personal lines insurance market. I had worked for years in the family agency and because of this insurance background, I often was asked insurance advice by friends and acquaintances, some of whom were affluent. These individuals–all of whom had other insurance agents–were unfailingly appreciative of the advice I gave them. This led to my decision to open an agency that focuses on the high-net-worth individual. The best purchasing experiences are usually those in which the customer service is outstanding. In retail, having the best inventory and the best-designed store might not matter unless there is a high level of service–and however fabulous the store and its products, there is almost certainly no repeat purchase if the customer service experience is unpleasant. The conventional notion of customer service–for example, returning phone calls in a timely manner, and prompt policy and endorsement issuance–is not enough; high-net-worth insurance buyers need, and often demand, education. We educate clients in many ways, including: o Hiring and retaining representatives who are smart and understand insurance o Producing a periodic newsletter on topics of interest to our clients, with material that usually reflects client concerns and questions o Hosting events for our clients and inviting recognized experts to give presentations on subjects such as personal security, protecting fine arts collections and estate planning o Focusing on risk prevention by learning as much as possible about our clients, their lifestyles and possessions so we can identify potential vulnerabilities and make recommendations o Following a loss by being actively involved in the claims process–whether it’s a low-level fender-bender to significant damage to a residence. Insurance is an undifferentiated product, so to be distinct we become advisors, consultants and risk managers rather than mere insurance vendors. Our target market is individuals with a net worth of $5 million and above who are as concerned with value as price. Because many of our clients are either purchasers or collectors of fine art, we have developed a specialty in fine arts. High-net-worth individuals typically have a team of service professionals that might include: financial advisors and money managers, estate planners, trust professionals, family office managers, philanthropic advisors, security consultants, art consultants and interior designers. Our goal with every client is to be seen as an integral member of this team, which requires good communication skills and an understanding of the vocabulary of the various professions. Working with these other professionals has brought us referrals to many new clients. If appropriate, we can make recommendations to our clients from a database of reputable service providers that we have built from our own experiences and that of our clients. The database is fairly extensive, from fine-arts appraisers to drain-clearing contractors, so defining the categories can be challenging. Making helpful recommendations reinforces an existing client relationship and helps promote our agency to the status of trusted advisor. It might be an obvious truism, but high-net-worth individuals are different because they typically have more money and more possessions. This can result in insurance situations that are unique to this group. Here are some examples: o Excess liability. For most Americans, buying excess limits of liability through an umbrella policy can be a good idea; for high-net-worth families it is critical. Moreover, the required limits will often be substantial. o Service on not-for-profit boards. A common characteristic of many high-net-worth individuals is that they often are invited to serve as directors on the boards of nonprofit organizations. This creates a significant liability exposure which must be addressed with special coverage. o Multiple homes. Affluent families often have more than one home, usually in a different state. Aside from obtaining the proper licenses to place this business, the location of these homes can cause additional challenges. Because Florida is a favorite state for second homes–especially near the ocean–the broker must have a understanding of the Florida wind markets. Other states with flood and earthquake risks also are popular. o Young drivers. Most families will eventually have to deal with young drivers, but affluent families are more likely to give their young drivers powerful and expensive cars to drive. o Trusts. By definition, affluent families use trust vehicles as part of their wealth dispersal and tax strategies. As a result, some assets may be titled in the name of a trust, so the insurance broker must be familiar enough with basic trust law to see that insurance polices correctly identify the named insureds and any additional insureds. o Fine arts. High-net-worth individuals typically acquire expensive items and often become collectors. The insurance aspect of collections is very specialized, and something else the insurance broker will need to have expertise in. o Deductible levels. A wealthy individual can afford a higher level of self-insurance, and this is usually encouraged both as means of reducing the premiums and making the policyholder think about when to make a claim. o Boats, planes, horses. Affluent families often buy watercraft and aircraft, and horses. All of these exposures require specialist coverages. o Security issues. These are of special concern to high-net-worth individuals as it involves not just possessions but the safety of their families. Physical security systems are an important part of risk management measures. In addition to the actual system, risk awareness and risk mitigation practices must be taught, and there are experts who can provide these services. In some cases, a kidnap and ransom policy should be considered as well. Another characteristic of high-net-worth individuals is their low tolerance for inertia. The insurance broker must constantly look for ways to do things better. We constantly re-evaluate our in-house systems, written proposals, post-binding process and claims procedures to make them more efficient and effective. The upheaval in the financial markets has focused customer attention on insurer stability. We became more like bond traders as we researched the various credit-rating agencies for their latest pronouncements. Clients posed hard questions about carriers that had been downgraded, and we responded with a daily e-mails containing insurer press releases and the latest credit-rating data. During periods of economic weakness, we expect that our clients will scrutinize their insurance policies as much as their investments, and we encourage clients to view their policies as a form of investing in guaranteeing a solid return in the event of a loss. They want to be sure they are maximizing their insurance dollars and we work with them to provide options for their insurance program. They may want to reduce or eliminate some coverages on their schedules, increase deductibles, and consider alternative carriers, and they may even decide to modify their lifestyles. This creates additional work for us, but our clients appreciate the trouble we take and have confidence in the personal asset protection programs that we structure. Understanding and meeting the needs of high-net-worth clients has resulted in a steady and even increased pace of new business growth for us in this recession. Prospective clients continue to tell us that they are poorly served by their current providers, that they are concerned about being inadequately insured, and are unsure that they are with carriers that understand complex exposures and have a reputation for adjusting claims fairly and quickly. Our agency has benefited from the historically low expectations of high -net-worth purchasers of insurance. As we continue to find solutions to their unique demands, I realize that our decision to dedicate our efforts to serving this group has been amply justified.

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