For independent agents and brokers looking to break into the Classic Car niche, one of the best bets is to attend a local event for enthusiasts of the hobby.
“There are thousands of car shows and cruise nights where an enterprising agent can go to find business,” observes McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance.
Agents who land these clients, Hagerty advises, “need to recognize the huge emotional component to owning these cars. If an agent does really right—or wrong—by an insured, it’s going to have a disproportionate impact on the rest of that business relationship—and what the client tells other collectors.”
In lectures he delivers to brokers, Ron Fiamma, vice president/director of private collections for the Private Client Group division of Chartis, tells them that the Classic Car line “lends itself to prospecting. If you’re at a cocktail party and start talking about homeowner’s insurance, people are going to run for the bar. But if you know a guy is a passionate collector, ask him about what he drives and why, and it’s an easy transition to start talking about car insurance.”
Fiamma estimates there are 10,000 car shows every year—everything from the hugely popular “Concours d’Elegance” in Pebble Beach, Calif., “to a handful of guys getting together in a McDonald’s parking lot. People are so passionate about their cars that it’s easy for a broker to stroll around and use an icebreaker like asking how someone got started collecting. With only a limited amount of knowledge, a broker can infiltrate this market pretty easily. You don’t have to be an expert.”
Brent Skiles, an assistant vice president of underwriting at Grundy Worldwide, a division of Philadelphia Insurance, encourages agents to follow the major classic-car auctions (now televised). Agents, he says, also need to be able to educate their insureds about the different types of risk-control services that underwriters make available—and they need to find a carrier that “can track down those very limited, hard-to-find parts to make the client whole in the event of any damage.”
Skiles adds that a lot of Classic Car business can come from identifying incorrectly underwritten vehicles, relaying a story of one broker who saved his client $3,800 by transferring some vehicles that had been improperly covered on the insured’s Business Auto policy.
“Agents need to know Classic Car insurance is like any specialty line—D&O, etc.,” says Jim Fiske, vice president and U.S. marketing manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. “It is more nuanced than a standard policy, and anybody who receives that first call can get that panic. But that’s why we have specialty brokers—or, in our case, a carrier that has been doing the hobby for 40 years—that can bridge the gap and help you feel comfortable.”
Fiske also points out that brokers and agents approached by a classic car collector should also inquire about memorabilia or spare parts the insured might have—“which could be a significant coverage gap beyond the vehicle itself.”
Adds Hagerty: “Our job is to help agents be successful. If they don’t understand how to construct the right coverage for a client with a million-dollar collection of cars, we have experts who do. It’s just a really cool part of the insurance market—and a great way to round out a book of business.”